With many of our favourite summer activities on hold for the foreseeable future, being healthy and active is going to be more challenging than ever this year.
If you’re looking for a safe option when it comes to both exercise and family activities, now is the perfect time to grab your helmet and go for a bike ride as a family, as a couple, or even solo.
There are many trails in York Region, perfect for riding or walking, where beginners and enthusiasts alike can explore while staying fit. Nestled in greenspace areas and traffic-free settings, these trails also feature access to many neighbourhood parks, perfect for a picnic or a break to play on the swings.
“Markham has a diverse collection of on-road cycling routes and off-road trails for all kinds of riders,” says Keenan Mosdell, the lead mechanic for York Region’s first community biking hub, Markham Cycles.
Markham Cycles is a charitable group dedicated to cycling in Markham.
“Markham Cycles’ goal is to increase everyday cycling in Markham,” says Project Manager, Yvonne Verlinden. “We do this by removing barriers and building cycling culture.
To achieve this, they provide free programs and workshops to anyone interested in cycling. These programs include access to bikes and tools at DIY drop-in bike repair sessions, workshops on cycling topics, cycling mentorship and loans, community bike rides, a carbon count, build-a-bike and youth-focused programs.
“It’s important because over a quarter of the trips that take place every day in Markham are less than 5-km long,” Verlinden says. “If we can shift those trips to walking or cycling, Markham will be a less congested, healthier and more sustainable place.”
Of course, the group also works to enhance the recreational experience of cycling in Markham too.
“Those who want to get from A to B can pick from bike lanes on major roads to cycling routes on quiet residential roads to get to their destination,” says Mosdell. “Recreational cyclists and families alike would enjoy cycling on off-road gravel trails surrounded by parks and green spaces in the city.”
The City of Markham has released their 2020 cycling map of all the different routes and paths, you can find it by searching their website, but those that know local cycling best have their favourites.
“A good trail for beginners is in Bob Hunter Memorial Park near 14th Ave and Reesor Rd.,” Mosdell says. “This trail consists of gravel and paved sections and is a part of Rouge National Urban Park. It offers spectacular scenery weaving through wetlands, forests and valleys. This trail is also less popular for pedestrians and other trail users; perfect for those practicing how to cycle.”
Those looking for a more challenging ride should look toward the Rouge Valley Trail.
“The great trail for experienced riders takes you behind Main Street Unionville into Milne Park,” Mosdell continues. “The trail starts just north of Toogood Pond on 16th Ave to just east of Rouge River Community Centre at 14th Ave and Ninth Line, making a 22-km roundtrip. It has an abundance of turns, steep sections and climbs for those looking for an adventure.”
Those looking to spend time outside their homes this summer have extra concerns this year.
“Health officials are recommending walking and cycling, both as a safe way to travel during the pandemic, and as a way to get exercise and relieve stress,” Verlinden says. “The risk of catching COVID from a stranger while walking or cycling past them is very low.”
Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to maintain a two-metre distance whenever possible and avoid popular areas that might get crowded. It’s also possible to find yourself in an area where social distancing isn’t possible. In this case, having a cloth face covering or a mask ready to put on is a very good idea.
“We are currently working with the Markham Cycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee on summer cycling programming for July, August and September,” Verlinden adds.
In the meantime, Mosdell is happy to offer his top five trails to ride in Markham:
1.Rouge Valley Trail
2. Lake to Lake trail form Don Valley trail in Toronto up to Richmond Hill
3. Rouge National Urban Park
4. Highway 7 bike lane and cycle tracks
5. Birchmount Rd bike lane to cross 407
Markham Cycles’ Bike Hub is located the southwestern parking lot of Milliken Mills Community Centre by the basketball courts. Visit www.markhamcycles.ca for more details.
Photo: Hitting the road on the Rouge Valley Trail (inset: Keenan Mosdell ready to tune up local bikes)