On Wednesday, January 25, I joined my last BikeBrampton Zoom meeting. I said my goodbyes to colleagues and friends that I’ve spent many hours within the trenches of City Hall, trying to make the city experience a little better outside the automobile. Many of them were supportive when Toby was diagnosed with cancer. I’m going to miss them dearly.
I’ll try to make it back to Brampton when I’m able. But it could be a while before the twins are big enough to hold themselves upright and can sit in a bicycle trailer or cargo bike.
“Different Spokes” is the results of years of work, some of which I was a part of early on in it’s conception. It’s where I was hoping to take The Bikeport before life pulled me in a different direction.
The bicycles in this photo represent the end of an era for my family. The cruiser-style bicycle was my wife’s, before we committed to living car-free in Brampton for what ended up being 10 years. It was later passed on to my daughter. The orange mountain bike was Toby’s, and his older brother before him. Had Toby not become ill with cancer, he would probably be at the age now where we would consider sizing him up to another bicycle. A coming of age moment.
Instead, it’s the end of an era.
This photo carries a lot of weight with me: Joy and sorrow at the same time. A composition that reflects the bizarro state of my life.
I’m beyond thrilled that BikeBrampton and Punjabi Health Community Services in Brampton were able to make this happen. This is so awesome and I’m so sorry I can’t be a stronger participant in it. The people that made this happen are amazing. I’ve no doubt that Different Spokes is going to offer an amazing space for people using bicycles in Brampton.
It’s also a bittersweet moment to donate these bicycles. I still remember my last ride with #TheLegendaryToby, before his liver failed. We rode to A&W for burgers together. It’s an experience I’ve become used to in grief where I don’t want to separate from the things that belong to Toby, knowing full well that as we prepare to move, there isn’t space or purpose for keeping it. It’s better that it “live on” in another child’s possession.
1 year. 12 months. 365 days. 8,760 hours, since I last told Toby that I love him. Since I heard him say he loves me. Since I’ve heard anything come from his voice at all.
It still weighs on me, clearly. I understand from other parents that have also lost their children that this is normal. It could take years to feel “normal” again, if it happens at all — which brings me to the point of this post.
I’m making, and have made, some changes.
Brampton Cycling Advisory Committee
In September of 2021, I formally resigned from the Brampton Cycling Advisory Committee. I think the letter I submitted with my resignation explains my reasons best.
“The death of my son Toby to cancer has forced me into a position where I have been re-evaluating everything in my life. One of those things is a greater emphasis on spending time with my family. … I don’t feel that I have the same energy or mental fortitude that I did when I applied for the committee. I’m not the same person that I was — the person that was appointed to serve this committee and the City of Brampton.”
Don’t get me wrong: I still think bicycles are awesome. But my style of advocacy, for better or worse, was confrontational. This was intentional. The reason was not just to be a pain in the ass (though that was kind of fun for a while), but because growth takes time in politics, undoing growth happens quickly. Transparently challenging ideas is a fast way to evaluate whether they hold any water, even though, generally, people don’t like being challenged.
The reason why I mention this is that I’m actually an introvert. Any speaking engagement I’ve ever been to has relied on careful preparation, anticipation, and attention, which left me feeling exhausted at the end every single time. I simply do not have the energy for that anymore — or at least for now. While advocacy was something I certainly cared (and still care) about, perhaps because I’ve already invested so much time in it, I don’t know that it’s something that brings me joy. It feels like an obligation, somehow. An obligation that feels misaligned with my priority of spending time with my family.
Because of the often confrontational nature of my advocacy, and observing a phenomenon called “doxing”, there were certain things I kept mostly private — or at least wasn’t very vocal about — including my full-time employment because of instances I observed where friends were reported to their employers over disagreements on Twitter.
I want to start changing that up a little bit. My work has been an important part of my life too.
For the last 11 years, I’ve been a full-time employee, in some capacity or another, for the AIR MILES Reward Program. Most recently, my role was “Sr. Content Specialist, Publishing” for Marketing Shared Services. For many years, I was able to put some of my design, and a lot of my development skills, to work within this role. But not full-time.
I recently accepted a new role, starting in January 2022, within the AIR MILES Program of “Developer, Productivity Tools”. With this move, I hope to get myself back into a headspace of designing and developing useful products for the AIR MILES marketing team, full-time.
My family has decided that it’s time for a change of scenery. We’re co-purchasing land in Northern Ontario, and will be documenting the process of creating new dwellings there — ultimately with the intent of monetizing the content to help pay for “nice to haves”. We’re calling this project Papineau Homes. We’ve already released a few videos, mostly introductory stuff. We don’t really have a release schedule yet, but I encourage anyone who is interested to subscribe to the Papineau Homes YouTube channel for updates.
The pandemic has continued to take its toll on cycle training lessons for The Bikeport. I’ve been continuing to offer a service agreement for data aggregation with BikeBrampton, and starting to prototype other services that could be offered province-wide as I prepare to move to Northern Ontario. I’m also looking for ways to make it easier to manage an online shop using affiliate marketing and drop shipping services.
Other Development Stuff
Gradually, I’ve been getting back into web development. I’ve released a WordPress theme on GitHub that I use as the parent theme on all of my websites. However, I feel that the pièce de résistance of my recent development effort is converting a proof of concept I had for web typography framework, and producing a WordPress typography plug-in with it. In my mind, if you feel inclined to check out these projects, these should be considered perpetual alpha versions. I update and support them as I need to, they’re not intended for general use on WordPress sites. If they were, I would have submitted them to the official WordPress repository. 🙂
I’ll try to remember to write more on these projects later.
In the meantime, a fair amount of personal development time is going into creating my own personal finance software, using custom WordPress post types. *LOL* I’m just not happy with solutions on the market right now. Especially when it comes to creating reports on my finances that I want to see but cannot have, but could create myself for free. I might share some screen captures of that work later, but it’s definitely intended to run on personal web servers on local computers only!
The following is a letter I sent to Brampton 311, Councillor Gael Miles, and Councillor Sandra Hames.
Hello. I’m Kevin Montgomery, a car-free resident of Brampton.
I suggest a pilot project to install bike traffic signals and a bi-directional bike lane to connect the Don Doan Trail to Bramalea GO Station. The specific locations I suggest for bike traffic signals are at the intersections of Bramalea Rd. at Avondale/Dearbourne Blvds. on the north and west sides, and at the intersection of Bramalea Rd. at Steeles Ave. on the west side, with a bi-directional bike lane connecting the two intersections on the west side of Bramalea Rd. Please see the map image with illustration for reference.
My commute usually sees me taking my bike to and from Brampton GO Station downtown. If it’s early enough (before traffic picks up), I’ll sometimes take my bike to Bramalea GO Station in the morning by way of Birchbank Rd. and Avondale Blvd. Unlike Brampton GO Station, taking a bicycle for multi-modal connectivity to Bramalea GO Station is not easily done, and especially not for the faint of heart as traffic increases. This is particularly true for northbound trips trying to leave the station during rush hour, which puts someone on a bicycle in the awkward position of trying to get to the north-east side of Steeles/Bramalea and merging with heavy, impatient, and fast-moving automotive traffic. A bi-directional bike lane on Bramalea Rd. would solve this problem for cyclists by removing the need to merge with automotive traffic at all. It would need only one road crossing on the same side as the pedestrian exit on the south-west corner of the intersection, and cut construction costs by only building one lane instead of two.
The problem of parking and the traffic it creates in that area could be easily reduced by encouraging people in the Bramalea area to make a healthier lifestyle choice, leave their cars at home, and take their bikes to the Bramalea GO Station by way of the Don Doan trail and nearby north-south Pathways. Installing bike traffic signals and a bi-directional bike lane would allow for easier, meaningful, and most importantly safe, bicycle travel and multi-modal connectivity to existing Pathways into Bramalea and onwards.
I feel like I owe everyone a thank you, and an apology. A thank you because the Carfree webapp started seeing steady use earlier than I expected. This resulted in one of the APIs I was using, specifically one to do an approximate geolocation based on IP address, to reach a request limit. This in turn, caused the Carfree webapp to fail. So, I thank you, and apologize for that.
I’ve switched to a new IP geolocate provider, and the webapp *should* see more stability for a while. At least, where geolocation is concerned.
It’s taken me a few months, but I finally have a Carfree app that I’m ready to share with everyone.
What is Carfree?
Whether you’re trying to go “car light”, or remove your dependency on a car altogether, this app should help you decide the best way to get to where you want to go, without using a car. It has a few features that I hope you’ll find neat.
The Blue Circle
When the map first loads, you’ll see a blue circle located where you are, as best the app can tell. Any place in the circle is within a 7km ride, or about 30 minutes. Most of the time, you can cycle to these locations faster than taking transit. The map itself also colour codes bike-friendly infrastructure, and roads labelled as highway or arterial, to help you choose the route you want to take.
Your Preference of Cycling or Transit
Whether you prefer to take your bike or take your local transit, the app will give you the ideal route to take to where you’re going. When you search for destinations, the ones closest to you are favoured.
Looking for places to visit? The app can show you places nearby and give you the best route to get there. Step-by-step instructions are available for both cycling and transit options.
Whether you’re trying to go car light, or car free altogether, give this app a try. Your feedback is welcome!
I recently read a report published by The Conference Board of Canada, titled “Where The Rubber Meets The Road: How Much Motorists Pay For Road Infrastructure”. While I recall seeing this report in October 2013, for whatever reason it failed to adequately capture my attention until 3 months later. The synopsis of the document is that motorists largely already pay a sufficient amount back towards the cost of maintaining the road network in Ontario, and do not receive significant subsidization. By the calculations presented in this report, if you add the taxes and fees people pay to drive, and compare them to the estimated costs of maintaining the road network in Ontario, drivers pay something like 70-90% of recovery costs.
While drafting this post, I discovered an article that refuted these points. Written 3 months earlier in July 2013, the article called “News flash for drivers: Cyclists are helping subsidize your ride” includes examples of how taxes actually work, and is worth a read. The post I’ve written largely mirrors these points: Fuel taxes and fees that motorists pay are not direct sources of revenue for road infrastructure. For people who drive to say that they (alone) pay for the roads is a fallacy.
The Determination of Revenue and Expenses
The detailed calculations carefully put together in The Conference Board of Canada report do not seem to show how revenue is actually collected, used, and how transportation expenses are paid for, in the service of our Ontario roadways. It is true that drivers pay taxes that are unique to them for the privilege to drive, such as Fuel and Gasoline taxes. The error lies in suggesting that they in any way supply direct revenue for the building and maintenance of the roads that cars drive on. The coffers that fund all provincial programs, including health and education, also fund highway expenditures. Calculating a ratio against the fuel taxes is no more relevant than comparing to revenue generated by cigarette, or LCBO tax collection. In Brampton, where I live, The provincial “Gas Tax” revenue is used as a grant to the municipality. Instead of paying for roads, it helps to subsidize Brampton Transit. The federal gas tax on the other hand, which must spent on capital expenses, gets split between road resurfacing and transit bus replacements.
The publication includes costs of municipal roads and associated policing into the overall provincial cost. This is also erroneus: Municipal roads are paid for by property taxes in that municipality. If you drive in any municipality in which you do not live, then you are not paying for those roads. Unless you are evaluating the budget for the municipality you live in, the cost of maintaining and policing roads is irrelevant to Ontarians. The publication notes that the “estimate does not allow for any allocation of costs to non-users. Moreover, the results mask the issue of the imbalance of revenues and expenditures by level of government. The federal government collects a significant portion of the revenues but owns and maintains a relatively small portion of the road network, whereas local governments find themselves in the opposite situation.”
So, what does this all mean? Are road users subsidized? Or do they mostly pay their own way? Municipal property owners, inclusive of those who prefer to take transit or bicycle, pay for their municipal road networks—everyone who drives into a municipality they do not live in, are driving on roads they did not pay for. Every highway in Ontario is paid for by Ontarians through taxation, whether they drive or not. When you consider how many Ontarians outside the GTA are not using the highways within the GTA, you have to ask yourself: Who’s subsiding who?
This section is more of an aside, but something that I nonetheless found annoying interesting.
At the opening of the report, it states under Acknowledgements that “The authors thank Teresa Di Felice and Christine Allum of the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAASCO) for initiating and defining the research and research questions…The Conference Board also acknowledges the CAASCO for financially supporting this research. In keeping with Conference Board guidelines for financed research, the design and method of research, as well as the content of this report, were determined solely by the Conference Board. The Conference Board of Canada alone is responsible for the report’s methodology, scope, and findings.” While The Conference Board of Canada claims to be “Objective and non-partisan.” They are “Funded exclusively through the fees we charge for services to the private and public sectors.”
This doesn’t quite pass the sniff test for me. The Conference Board developed “the design and method of research, as well as the content of this report”. But the first thing you have to ask is, what are they designing for? What are the questions? Who’s asking them? The CAASCO is asking the questions, and funding the project.
Actually, perhaps that is not entirely accurate. After all, who or what is the CSSASO? “CAA South Central Ontario has a long-standing history as an innovative leader committed to meeting and exceeding the needs of Canada’s motoring and travelling public” (emphasis added). CAA is funded by many, many people who are light-duty vehicle owners. That the report concludes that “Light-duty vehicle users cover a significant portion of road infrastructure costs” is likely not a coincidence.