For a while, walking and cycling seem to have lain in wait as the secret weapons of sustainable transportation. What other transportation sector with such enormous potential on so many levels has been kept in check by underfunding and lack of focus? The results have piled up: cycling rates in Canada are low compared to our peers; spread out communities face big road repair bills; low rates of walking and cycling have created conditions for poor air quality and chronic disease and children bike to school a lot less than they used to. It has gotten to the point where young adults in car-focused cities who get old enough to see the benefits of having options are inclined to simply move away.
Luckily, over the last decade or so, something has begun to happen.
We have become a nation ready to move smarter.
As towns, as cities and as a country, there has been no better time to scale up the construction of the kind of safe and reliable cycling infrastructure that gets everyone moving. That’s why we are joining voices with the Federal Active Transportation Coalition and organizations across the country in proposing that our federal government begin to invest significantly in walking and cycling networks for communities across Canada.
The good news is that Canada is now poised to join the ranks of countries with a national cycling strategy. The demand for better transportation options has been surging to all-time highs everywhere. Next to clean air or reliable drinking water, there simply aren’t many needs that are as strong as our need to move within our communities and connect with each other as human beings. Likewise, there are few targets for investment that are more popular, safer, healthier, more efficient, more financially sound or simply bursting with so many policy reasons to put shovels in the ground.
Cycling networks are what truly set a bike-friendly nation apart. It is, after all, the ubiquitous pathways, the blinking bike signals, the comforting concrete buffers, the safe and humane traffic speeds, and the utter lack of need to worry about arriving alive that will ultimately get a fledgling bike-friendly community’s heart to start beating.
That’s why governments at every level, including and inspired by significant pledges of investment from the top, have a real opportunity to help communities of all sizes ramp up their bike plans. You don’t need to look far away to places like Seville or Norway for inspiration on what can happen when you make big plans for investment. Look no farther than Calgary or Winnipeg, Victoria or provinces like Ontario for Canadian rising stars.
With roadways across the country run down and ready for rehabilitation in a nation with critical climate change targets to meet, helping provinces and municipalities invest billions in sustainable, fun, convenient infrastructure is only natural. It works in Scandinavia, it works in the Netherlands, it works for our American neighbours and, when we’ve dabbled, it has even worked here.
Success is guaranteed. We know that millions in just a single city will start to ride often if we do. Its time to make a real impact and show the world what Canada can do when we truly care. With 120 Billion dollars planned for “social” and “green” infrastructure (what kind of infrastructure is more green or more social than a matrix of bikeways and walkways?), there has been no better time.
To join the discussion on this $2.1B 3-year infrastructure investment, join us on social media or have a discussion with your councillor, MLA or MP. Tell us about the impact it would have on you and your community. We are grateful for the support, leadership and shared vision of partners at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Share the Road, Canadian Cancer Society, The Lung Association, BCCC, CAA, VeloQuebec, CIBRA and Green Communities Canada as well as the many other organizations who see cycling as central to Canada’s future.
Written by Anders Swanson
Chair, Canada Bikes