Skip to content

Net zero Sudbury: More cycling is good for people and the environment

Minimizing the cities carbon footprint — and living healthier lives — is just a pedal away

Olathe MacIntyre chose a family home within walking distance of work, school, downtown and greenspaces.  

“We walk, bus, bike, take cabs, and rent an appropriate vehicle when needed,” MacIntyre said. “Active transportation gives our kids a sense of pride in taking climate action as well as contributing to their physical fitness.” 

Mental wellness, family time, and financial savings are other benefits. 

“The challenges we faced, such as a lack of crosswalks, sidewalks, and bike lanes are still there, but definitely improving,” she said. 

Lynn Despatie didn’t think bicycling could be a primary mode of transportation until she became a mother.  

“I was craving a different way to travel that would be more fun and would get me moving,” she said.  

After the birth of her second child, Despatie sold her car and bought a Dutch bakfiet cargo bike. 

“I’ve carried absolutely everything in it — from a case of beer, to bags of soil and flowers, a full box of groceries, and my two kids are also usually loaded in there too. I’ve never looked back,” Despatie said.  

Under Greater Sudbury’s Community Energy and Emissions Plan, by 2050, 35 per cent of our trips will be by active transportation, and 25 per cent by bus. This is essential to achieving net zero, because 42 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, mostly from our private vehicles.  

Nationally, in 2016, nearly one‑third (31.4 per cent) of Canadians already got to work with sustainable transportation, up from 19 per cent in 2011

The numbers are lower in Greater Sudbury. Based on 2016 census data, to achieve our net zero target, roughly 10 times more of us will be getting around by transit and active transportation in the next 30 years. This is an achievable goal. The numbers tell the story.

According to Greater Sudbury’s Transportation Demand Management Plan, almost half of work commutes are less than 10 km, and 25 per cent are less than five km, easy distances to walk, bike or bus.  

Greater Sudbury’s Transportation Master Plan shows the highest number of travel trips occur within Sudbury proper, many to main transit destinations. Twenty-one thousand people (13 per cent of the population) live along the Paris-Notre Dame corridor alone, served by high frequency transit, and a bikeway in progress. 

Much of our daily travel would be possible, and more fun and healthy, without getting into a private vehicle.

“Thanks to the support of our past and current councils, we are becoming a more bicycle friendly community,” said Rachelle Niemela, chair of Bike Sudbury.

Sixty percent of the population are interested in cycling, but do not because they do not feel safe doing so.  

“Safe, connected, convenient, and accessible cycling infrastructure is key to getting more people on bikes,” Niemela said.

A recent survey showed that 90 per cent of Greater Sudbury residents support adding bike lanes on major roads.

Cities that take action are successful in increasing  the number of people using sustainable transportation. 

When Calgary rolled out a downtown network of safe cycling infrastructure in 2015, they saw the largest recorded single-year increase of bike trips into downtown (up 40 per cent). The percentage of cyclists who continue to ride during the winter in downtown Montreal more than doubled between 2009 and 2018 with increased snow clearance of bike paths. 

After service improvements, the number of people getting to work by bus in Kingston increased by more than 33 per cent between 2011 and 2016, a result many hope will be replicated here as the Transit Action Plan is fully implemented, with a  first round of improvements already resulting in a 7 per cent increase in ridership.

“Transit will always be an essential service,” said Lilly Noble, of Friends of Sudbury Transit.

Every person needs to access work, school, family, medical appointments, and basic needs. The Sustainable Mobility Plan found that one-third of Greater Sudbury residents do not drive, something we will all experience sometime in our life. 

In addition to reducing carbon emissions, Niemela reminds us that sustainable transportation benefits physical and mental health, social equity, road safety for all users, and our local economy.

“Streets by far take up the largest amount of publicly owned space in a city, and we can reuse our public realm in a more equitable manner for all residents,” Niemela said. 

Naomi Grant co-chairs Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury, a grassroots group of citizens and community groups who share a vision of Sudbury as a green, healthy and engaged community. For more local stories and additional information on a net zero future for Greater Sudbury, see  


Verified reader

If you would like to apply to become a verified commenter, please fill out this form.

About the Author: Naomi Grant

Naomi Grant co-chairs Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury, a grassroots group of citizens and community groups who share a vision of Sudbury as a green, healthy and engaged community.
Read more