E-cargo cycle rides offer closer look at sustainability at Congress 2023

Trishaw at Downsview Park

By Elaine Smith

Those coming to Congress will have a chance to experience a special group trishaw ride through York University between May 29 to June 1. Rolling Toward Collective Change: Our Greenway’s E-Cargo Cycle Ride invites participants to consider how current social and ecological events have impacted northwest Toronto and how Greenway e-cargo cycles can be used to bring sustainable change to their communities.

Darnel Harris, a York University alumnus (BA ’12, MES ’15), visiting scholar at York’s CITY Institute and founder of Our Greenway, believes that cycling can serve both practical and recreational purposes, especially through electric cycles.

A trishaw at Orchard Pavilion
Our Greenway’s trishaw

Its two-seater, three-wheel vehicles are powered by an electricity-assisted cycle and driven by a pilot who pedals and steers from behind. Passengers and pilots are both fully able to experience the benefits of being outdoors together – from the sights and sounds to sunshine.  

The e-assist trishaws are essential features of Our Greenway’s Cycling Without Age program – an initiative that offers outdoor experiences to seniors, individuals with various physical abilities and the general public.

While the program is found in 37 countries, the North Toronto Chapter operates in Toronto’s Downsview Park. For Congress 2023, the local chapter will bring four of its trishaws to York. Registration will be required due to limited seats, but anyone with a bike is welcome to ride along.

“It is meant to be a slow experience that allows the riders to chat with the driver,” says Harris. “You can only do that at a slow speed. Usually, people picture cycling being all about young men and speed. It’s an entirely different reality than what we see in action here. We’re trying to show what is possible.”

Harris notes that Europe is far ahead of North America in lowering greenhouse gas emissions through the use of cargo cycles. “If you move goods and people by cargo cycle, a lot of training and education is required and there may be cycle and part supply issues, but, fundamentally, there’s a lot of potential here,” he says.

A trishaw at Downsview Park in Toronto
A trishaw at Downsview Park in Toronto

Harris works with researchers, including Assistant Professor Kevin Gingerich from York’s Lassonde School of Engineering and uses an action-based research approach to examining future opportunities for the use of e-cycles.

Harris is open to new research partnerships from across all disciplines. “We’re trying to plant a seed,” Harris says. “Cycling supports 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), providing fertile ground for transdisciplinary research.”

York University and the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences will host Congress 2023 from May 27 to June 2. Register here to attend and as a reminder, term dates have been adjusted to align with timelines for this year’s event.