Pedal Power

Nestled within a dogwood thicket on Toronto Island lives this small, curved bicycle shed; a year-round shelter for pedal-powered vehicles. These “bike buses” are used to transport the very youngest children attending Waterfront Montessori Child Centre from the ferry dock to the school, and back at the end of the day. When not in service the Pedal Power shed protects the bike buses from the elements for safe keeping.

The city-children start their journey to the school with a 15-minute ferry ride landing on (automobile-free) Toronto Island. Once landed, they gather with the island-children at the Pedal Power shelter and together ride to school a mile or so down the path.

Economy of the structure was of paramount importance as the budget was modest and the materials had to be imported by boat, pulled by manpower on a communal island “train trolley” to site. The portability and ease of construction was important. All elements were prefabricated in the city and then erected over a few days by a group of skilled, and committed volunteers.

The design of the shelter was driven by the desire to minimize the visual and environmental impact of the shelter at its parkland site. The material palette is simply comprised of 16-gauge (untreated) cold-rolled sheet steel with exposed raw cedar end walls.  Its frame is fashioned from marine-grade structural timber to ensure a long lifespan with a need of minimal maintenance. The native underbrush is encouraged to grow right to the shelters edges to nestle the shed into its site. The steel and cedar surfaces are left to naturally weather allowing over time to merge with the surrounding red dogwoods silver willow trees.   

Photos: Steven Evans

The curved arch profile of the shelter allows for the structure to shed the snow and rain in a simple manner, and keep the material and construction technology elemental and easy to maintain. The vehicles fit neatly into this shape – keeping the scale of the shed to a minimum.

The Waterfront Child Centre was a pioneer in switching its transportation system to a natural one. In lieu of a gas-powered school bus, they chose two Dutch-made pedal-power buses for the teachers to operate. Making this choice, they reduced long-term costs and improved the health of all.