If you’ve ever attempted cycling in Brampton, where bike lanes are sparse and motorists are plenty, you’ve likely experienced the frustrations that generally come with taking on such a task. Incomplete bike lanes and unsafe route options are just a couple of the issues making Brampton less cycle friendly.
Carfree, a webapp designed by Kevin Montgomery, a Bramptonian and avid cyclist, is making biking easier, safer and more accessible. Kevin’s inspiration for Carfree came from barriers he encountered using Google Maps for cycling directions. “It’s an interpretation of Google Maps that favours cycling, and transit. It’s goal is to challenge the notion, particularly in Brampton, that getting everywhere needs a car. That’s not always true,” says Kevin.
Kevin figured he could use the information about bike paths, multi-use pathways and trails that Google Maps has readily available and utilize it to build a resource specifically for cyclists. Because the google maps interface is designed first and foremost for motorists, it throws cyclists to the bottom of the totem pole, making it more difficult to get direct routes and access information easily. With Carfree, you simply enter where you want to go on your computer, tablet or phone and you’ll get the best cycling directions easily and quickly, taking out all the added nonsense generally encountered in Google Maps. The map display shows roads to generally avoid in red, and to be cautious of in yellow. Bike friendly routes like pathways, bike lanes, and roads preferable for cycling are green. The app is open source and can be accessed anywhere, anytime through the web browser in any device.
One of the most useful features of Carfree is it’s “What’s Near Me?” option. Select this from the menu and the app retrieves restaurants, stores, shopping malls and other destinations within a 7km radius from your location. That equates to about a 20 minute bike ride at most. This is great for viewing all of the places nearby that are easy to get to by bike, or even on foot. As Suburbanites we often reach for the car keys first and don’t even consider what’s nearby and accessible by other means. Carfree is great for getting into the habit of leaving the car at home now and again and taking your bike or walking.
With talks of LRT and the need for transit expansion in the city, it’s becoming more evident that suburbanites in Brampton particularly require different modes of transportation that are out of the realm of the traditional. Not everyone wants a car, or can afford one. So why not cycle? Carfree will certainly make it easier. For those avid cyclists, or those considering making the transition, and even for those who dust off the old bike now and again for recreational purposes, this app is a complete lifesaver and is undoubtedly making Brampton, or any city for that matter, (The app can be used anywhere) more cycle friendly. The benefits of a cycle and pedestrian friendly city are indisputable, as Brampton roads continue to get more congested. If we as a city can make cycling and public transit more reasonable options for getting around, it’ll mean less congestion, less pollution and money saved. Furthermore, if more people continue to step out of their cars and choose to cycle, even recreationally, it means more interaction with the local economy and thus, stronger support for local businesses, among other benefits.
Kevin is continuously working to make Carfree better, if you’d like to follow the project and offer suggestions for making the app better, you can do so on GitHub. Would you use Carfree? Tell us what you think!