Design the New Normal: Active travel and healthy living during COVID-19 and beyond

In partnership with York Region, Smart Commute Central York, and Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill, we’re offering a series of webinars and a contest to help those who live or work in York Region explore active travel.

Give yourself and your family the tools to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic and tell us how you would improve York Region’s active transportation network for a chance to win one of five $20 Amazon e-gift cards.


Productivity While Working From Home

In this new normal, it can be difficult to find a balance between work and home life. Join our webinar to learn the best practices for remote work including tips on setting up a workspace, maintaining a schedule with children and staying productive.

Getting Set up for Cycling

If you are thinking about taking up cycling but don’t know where to start, this is the course for you! We’ll talk about how to choose and fit a bike (including how to find a bike on a budget), the gear that you will need to get started, and how to ensure that your bike is safe to ride. We’ll also give you additional resources to help you start cycling.

Cycling Safety and Basic Maintenance

You have a bike and you’d like to go for a ride – what’s next? This course builds on part one to get you ready to hit the road. We cover cycling safety, the rules of the road, tips for riding in traffic and also also basic maintenance such as how to pump your tires and oil your chain. We also have suggestions for some great places to cycle in York Region and how to cycle safely during the pandemic.

Tips for Everyday Biking

This course is for experienced casual cyclists or enthusiastic new cyclists who would like to learn more. We cover the best options for carrying things on your bike, how to plan your route, and how to securely lock up your bike when you arrive at your destination. We’ll give you tips for cycling with children, riding through any type of weather, and will also show you how to fix a flat tire.

Stay Active by Walking

Walking is a safe and healthy way to run errands or travel to work. Join our webinar to learn about health benefits of walking, rules of the road and get started with route planning.

Design Contest

As our daily commutes have been transformed, now is the time to consider what improvements you would like to see in York Region and Vaughan’s transportation network. Work with your family, friends and community to design the future of traveling around the region. Map out the trips you make and consider what new modes are available to you. Can you cycle to get groceries? How long does it take to walk to the park? Draw, paint or write in with your vision of how you hope to travel across the region!

Check out these designs for inspiration.

Design contest rules:

  • Your design must depict an improvement you would like to see to transportation within York Region. 
  • To win, you must be a resident of York Region. 
  • Entries must be submitted to with subject line ‘Design Contest
  • Entries must include your full name and the first three digits of your postal code
  • Entries will have a chance to win one of five $20 Amazon e-gift cards.
  • By submitting a design, you give Smart Commute permission to post your design on social media channels and include in campaign emails.

Contest closes on Friday, August 28 at midnight.

Design Contest Examples

Take a look at this CityLab article to see how others have mapped out what they’ve discovered and liked since COVID-19 lockdown. 

If you have plenty of toys on hand at home, can you replicate this Lego cycling scene

Click here to see more examples from our team

Example 1: Adding bike infrastructure around Maple GO station

Example 2: Extending HOV lanes on Highway 404 and new HOV lanes on Highway 400

Example 3 – Improving the multi-use pathway over Highway 400 in Vaughan

My travel experience in Vaughan has mostly been around the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre area and I was excited to see the newly built, raised multi-use pathway just west of the VMC over Highway 400. There are bike lanes on either side of the multi-use path which connect to local destinations such as the movie theatre, grocery stores and parks. I hope to use the active transportation pathway to travel to and from the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and here are my ideas to make the path more enjoyable:  

  • Greenery and art:  

It is great that the multi-use path has physical barriers to separate cyclists and walkers from car traffic. To add to the separation from the busy traffic and noise on either side of the barriers, plants could be placed along the path. A fun community activity could be to bring local residents together to decorate the barriers. 

  • Bike repair stations:  

This active transportation pathway starts with bike lanes at Bruce Street and ends at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre subway station. For cyclists to travel safely along the pathway, it would be useful to have bike repair stations along the whole distance. Perhaps one for the first stretch of the bike lanes, another within the multi-use path and a final repair station along the last stretch of bike lanes to the subway. 

  • Community cycling group:  

To celebrate the active transportation pathway, a group ride would be a great way to introduce residents to the key elements of the path and ensure people get comfortable cycling along it.  

Example 4: More Multimodal infrastructure on Major Mackenzie from Dufferin to Warden

This includes widening sidewalks, more bike lanes and planters/ green infrastructure to protect and separate cycling lanes from the roads. 

Creating more multimodal transportation infrastructure allows for greater accessibility and opportunity for the residents of York Region to rely less on vehicles. Promoting multimodal infrastructure allows for more sidewalk space for physical distancing, safe cycling infrastructure and more active lifestyles. Additionally, it not only benefits York Region residents but reduces vehicle emissions, benefiting the environment as well. 

Who can participate? 

Individuals can submit their own designs, or families, friends, communities or colleagues can work together to create and submit a design. 

How can I create a design? 

Designs can be in any form that you want. They can be drawn, written, filmed, photographed, painted or even built from Lego!

What type of designs is Smart Commute looking for? 

We are looking for designs and ideas that focus on increasing or improving sustainable transportation in York Region based on your needs and challenges. Are there changes that you’d like to see which would help you get around both now and in future?  

Do you want to see more cycling in York Region? If so, you could sketch how cycling infrastructure could be improved. How would those bicycle lanes help you – would they make it easier to get to work, or would they make you more willing to cycle to the grocery store or to visit friends? 

Do you think that transit information could be displayed in a different way at your local bus stop? If so, sketch it out or describe it to us. 

Is your neighbourhood missing a walking connection that would make your life easier – if so, draw us a map or write it down! 

Have you discovered a new way of getting around during COVID-19 that you want to share, and think would work elsewhere? Why not submit photographs or a short video that walks us through your discovery? 

Do your children enjoy cycling? Can they build they street in Lego or Playmobil to show how they would like to cycle on it now and in the future? 

How many designs can I submit? 

You can enter as many designs as you would like. 

How will designs be judged? 

Priority will be given to designs that focus on sustainable and innovative modes of transportation, such as cycling, walking, scooters, public transit, carpooling, electric vehicles, carshare and remote work. 

We will be looking for designs and ideas which are either original, creative or innovative.  

How can designs be submitted? 

Submissions should be emailed to using the subject line ‘Design Contest’, and the email should include the participant’s full name and the first three characters of their postal code. 

Participants can submit a design send an image of their design, whether it is a photo, scan or computer-designed graphic, or submit a written response.  

Transportation Options

There are so many ways to travel across the region. Use this guide to safely try a new one today!  


Sharing the ride can be a convenient and enjoyable way to get to work. You can save on gas, reduce wear and tear of your vehicle, and do your part in cutting back on emissions. 

Tips for safe carpooling: 

  • Wash and sanitize your hands 
  • Disinfect commonly used surfaces  
  • Open windows 
  • Wear a face covering or mask 
  • Maintain physical distancing by having your carpool partner sit in the back seat 

Please visit York Region’s website for up to date information on health recommendations for safe carpooling. 


You can stay safe on transit by following the public health guidelines below. Travelling by transit takes the stress out of commuting by letting someone else do the driving. Plan your trip with the Triplinx app or website.  

Tips for safe travel on transit: 

  • Masks or face coverings are mandatory on public transit  
  • Avoid travelling during rush hours as much as possible 
  • Maintain appropriate physically distancing as much as possible when on board transit vehicles  
  • Reduce conversations, since COVID-19 can be spread by talking in close contact with others  

Please check the following websites for up to date information on health recommendations for transit riders: 

Walking and Cycling

Walking and cycling are healthy and sustainable commute options. Even if you live too far to walk or cycle all the way to your destination, incorporating active transportation into your commute can be easier than you think. Consider combining cycling or walking with taking transit. Your bike can even ride with you on the bus. Alternatively, there are electric bicycles available that can allow you to travel longer distances with ease and comfort. You can ride an electric bike on the same roads where you can take a conventional bike. Visit the Ministry of Transportation’s website for more information on e-bikes.  

Tips for safe walking and cycling: 

  • Step aside or pass others quickly and courteously  
  • Maintain physical distancing by planning your route to avoid crowded areas 
  • When possible, try to use less busy side streets  

Please visit York Region’s website for up to date information on COVID-19 health recommendations.  

Electric Vehicles  

If you require a car, electric and hybrid vehicles are a good option to meet your needs while reducing emissions. Going electric can also cut costs by avoiding paying for gas and reduced wear and tear. You can find electric vehicle charging stations across Ontario; see a map here. There are four varieties of electric vehicles available in Canada:  

  • Battery: Powered 100% by electricity and have zero tailpipe emissions. Battery Electric Cars are equipped with large battery packs that are charged by plugging into the electricity grid. 
  • Plug-in Hybrid: Charged by plugging into the electricity grid but have smaller battery packs for shorter all-electric driving distances before a gasoline engine or generator turns on for longer trips. 
  • Hybrid: Have two complementary drive systems: a gasoline engine and fuel tank and an electric motor, battery and controls. The engine and the motor can simultaneously turn the transmission, which powers the wheels. HEVs cannot be recharged from the power grid. Their energy comes entirely from gasoline and regenerative braking. 
  • Fuel-cell: Creates electricity from hydrogen and oxygen, instead of storing and releasing energy like a battery. Because of these vehicles’ efficiency and water-only emissions, some experts consider these cars to be the best electric vehicles, even though they are still in development phases. 

For more information on electric vehicles, visit the Canadian Automobile Association website

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