Andre Riopel pedals to change people's perspective

Andre Riopel pedals to change people’s perspective

He hopes to get them out of cars and into human-powered transportation to see the world differently

As a teenager, Andre Riopel followed his father’s advice to use his excess energy to be productive, and for the past 50 years or so he’s been doing just that.

Riopel, a local proponent of human-powered transportation, was involved in the creation of the John Rowswell Hub Trail as a glimmer in the eye of the Sault Trails Advocacy Committee, the Sault Cycling Club and other supporters.

In 2006, specifically on Saturday September 30 at 11:45, the Hub Trail was officially opened for the first time. It is now a 25 km trail network and work is still ongoing.

“Now our goal is to look for microtrails,” Riopel said.

These would be “shortcuts,” as he called them, leading from residential neighborhoods to nearby places frequented by people in those neighborhoods, such as schools.

Riopel says kids would rather bike to school if it was easier than taking the bus, and parents would be fine with it if they were assured it would be safe for their kids, and that’s the key to positive change.

“Parents are more likely to get into cycling (or get back into it) because their kids ask them to ride with them than if they were told to,” he added.

That’s his goal. More traffic powered by people, less motor vehicles.

Why would anyone want that?

Riopel is cautious. There are many advantages for him. Reducing carbon emissions, reducing costs to the city and taxpayers, increasing the mental and physical health of individuals and communities, and mediating the effects of climate change are major areas of potential impact, but he knows that not everyone will be willing to adopt a car. a free lifestyle or even a reduced dependence on motorized transport.

Rather than trying to change the mindset of people who are set in their ways, he prefers to devote his time and energy to the younger generation, who he says tend to be more open to a healthier lifestyle, mitigating climate change and enjoying the outdoors with their friends and families .

To this end, he participated in the Sault Cycling projects, which aimed to build pump tracks and make cycling safer and more convenient for the people of the Sault. The pump track at Esposito Park opened in 2016, and work continues on a year-round gravity park at Finn Hill.

These and other projects in the Sault aim to give young people in particular more opportunities to get on their bikes and ride in hopes of developing a lifelong love of human-powered transportation.

That would go a long way toward reversing traditional car-centric urban landscape design, he said.

At the very least, Riopel says, he’d like to see the playing field leveled and cycling incentivized by being more comfortable, he said.

“Right now, 30 to 40 percent of people don’t drive,” he said. “But everyone pays for parking.

Big stores like Walmart and building owners build the costs of building and maintaining parking lots into their product prices, rents and leases. Riopel would like to see these separated so people can see the true cost of running a motor vehicle.

The recently retired physical therapist also says the cost of motor vehicle collisions to communities cannot be ignored. He says most of the people he has helped in his practice have been recovering from injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents that have caused them to miss work and require medical attention.

He is also working with the city to look at parking reforms that would support and encourage more human and public transport, putting fewer motor vehicles on the road.

This would be done through parking reform, such as changing the ordinance from dictating the minimum number of parking spaces required for a new building to dictating the maximum number of spaces allowed and requiring sheltered and secure parking for a minimum number of bicycles.

However, for him, cycling is an almost exclusive and year-round mode of transport, because of its mental, physical and emotional benefits.

“It changes your whole perspective,” he said. “You see so much.

He talks about seeing animals, smelling the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful scenery on his drives between his Case Road home and work in every season.

“I can still do it (at 64) because I’ve been doing it my whole life. It keeps me slim and healthy.”

Riopel also serves on a number of local boards and commissions with the intention of supporting non-motorized transport, healthier people, communities and the climate.

He is the Director of Advocacy for the Sault Cycling Club, a member of the Sault Trails Advocacy Committee (STAC) representing the Sault Cycling Club, the local Environmental Sustainability Committee and has been appointed to the Environmental Sustainability Committee by City Council.

He is also the recipient of Algoma’s inaugural 2018 Public Health Champion Award.

To help convince people to spend less money on gas, exercise more, be healthier, socialize more and get where they need to go by bike, he opened Vélorution in 2006 and has been unwavering in his commitment to reducing the area of ​​asphalt around him. bicycle and ski shop.

He succeeded in reducing the number of required parking spaces at the business, and the City Council began to take a closer look at green zoning ordinances.

City staff also got involved and created the Sault’s Active Transportation Master Plan, approved by City Council, and Riopel says there are more than a few city staff who are actively advocating for safe and convenient people-powered transportation and how it can be incorporated into the official plan. He says there are some potential changes to the way people are taxed to watch.

The most important thing for any activist to remember, he says, is to try to stay positive.

“Anyone can see my passion all the time, but the self-preservation instinct comes from staying positive,” he said.

Activists burn out because they try to fight every fight, but he chooses to educate, promote positively, focus on his successes instead of his failures, and not take things personally.

It’s important to remember that opposition is about an idea, not a person, he adds.

“You have to remember that they are sitting in a different place than you are,” he said. “If I can get them to change their perspective, get them out of the car and go for a bike ride, then they see things differently.”

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