A National Active Transportation Strategy Can Reduce Chronic Diseases and Health Care Costs

Eight national health organizations have sent a letter to the Federal Minister of Health asking her to invest in the development of a National Active Transportation Strategy.  Signatories to the joint letter include Heart & Stroke, Diabetes Canada, Canadian Cancer Society, The Canadian Lung Association, Asthma Canada, the Alzheimer Society of Canada, Upstream, and CAPE.

The joint letter outlines a powerful public health and financial case for active transportation. Chronic diseases consume 67 per cent of the health care budget in Canada. These diseases cost Canadians $190 billion annually: about $65 billion in treatment and $135 billion in lost productivity.  Further, chronic disease rates are increasing rapidly, by about 14 per cent a year.  As a result, health care costs threaten to overwhelm provincial budgets across the country.

Fortunately, active transportation can help stem the tide. Physical activity reduces the risk of over 25 chronic health conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, breast cancer, colon cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.  It also benefits mental health and arthritis.  Unfortunately, fewer than one in five Canadian adults get the 150 minutes of physical activity needed to achieve health benefits and fewer than one in 10 Canadian children get the 60 minutes a day of physical activity needed for healthy growth and development.  Changes to the built environment and other measures can increase physical activity, significantly reducing chronic diseases and their costs. One study found that the risk of premature death from all causes can be decreased by 28 per cent among people who cycle three hours per week and by 22 per cent among people who walk 29 minutes per day, seven days a week.

Increased walking and cycling can also reduce air pollution and its associated health impacts by replacing short car trips.  Investments in active transportation and public transit can also increase access to jobs, services, and recreational opportunities among those who are unable to drive or cannot afford a car.  Changes such as speed reductions, separated bike lanes, and improved pedestrian crossings can also significantly reduce vehicle-related injuries and deaths among pedestrians and cyclists while also encouraging greater levels of physical activity.

A national alliance of active transportation organizations, including Green Communities Canada (Canada Walks), Canada Bikes, and the National ASRTS Working Group, have offered to lead the development of a National Active Transportation Strategy. This coalition would identify infrastructure funding and policies, design standards to be implemented, and support on-going partnerships and community action.

While the Federal Government has announced significant investments in public transit, green infrastructure, and transportation systems, without a National Active Transportation Strategy, we fear that we will miss the opportunity to maximize the health benefits that could result from these federal investments.

Let your Federal Member of Parliament know that you support the development of a National Active Transportation Strategy by emailing your MP today (Federal MP contact list).

Link to English and French versions of the Letter.

Prepared by Kim Perrotta, Executive Director, CAPE

Canada Bikes Pre 2018 Budget Submission

Vélo Canada Bikes Pre-Budget Submission 2018 

Cycling: Supporting Economic Growth in Canada

Recommendations for the Government of Canada In collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Assembly of First Nations and additional stakeholders, implement the following recommendations:

Recommendation #1: Develop a funding stream designed to rapidly increase the development and improvement of active transportation infrastructure and related traffic calming in all Canadian municipalities and in rural areas.

Recommendation #2: Establish a national-level forum to consult, share, and develop a plan for moving more people and goods by bicycle in a wide variety of Canadian settings including urban, rural and remote communities.

Recommendation #3: Direct Statistics Canada to collect data that will ensure the adequate and appropriate monitoring and reporting of the prevalence, potential and safety of cycling in Canadian municipalities. Use this data to set achievable evidence-based five- and ten-year transportation mode share targets for cycling


Canada Bikes Pre budget submission 2017

The​ ​Way​ ​Forward​ ​is​ ​Paved​ ​with​ ​Bike​ ​Lanes:  How investing in cycling infrastructure will make Canadian cities more efficient, our businesses more competitive and lead to billions in reduced health and environmental costs for all of Canada

Executive​ ​Summary Cycling for transportation has enormous unmet potential to contribute to the societal transformation needed to combat climate change and achieve sustained economic growth – no small feat for a century-old invention already found in garages and apartments and basements across the country. One of the most intelligent business moves a government can make on behalf of businesses and individuals of all ages, is to help meet the demand for cycling. Canada Bikes challenges the federal government to send a signal to thousands of municipalities across Canada that it intends to directly support cycling and walking infrastructure, invest in research and capacity to further develop this too-often ignored transportation sector and to commit to developing a national active transportation policy. We believe the tremendous benefits of a developed cycling culture in Canada can help reset health and infrastructure system deficits and have spinoff benefits for generations..

Preamble Our transportation sector generates 25% of our GHG emissions with 12% overall coming from personal vehicles. ​A mode shift to cycling lowers GHG emissions, and each 10% increase in cycling mode share removes about 1% of national emissions. We know that a majority of Canadians (66-80%) want greater access to cycling, yet our cycling mode share is only 2%. To shift this to 10%, Canada needs a plan supported by citizens and funded by government. Cycling is very efficient, not just as a means of transportation, but as a means of structuring a city or a family budget​. No one requires proof that trading a car for bicycle – even for a few trips a week – puts money directly back into your wallet. Cycling also makes individuals more productive at work and, and when countries move by bicycle at a large scale, makes for an extremely efficient way to move people around. In Canada, it is already the most time efficient form of transport for the most common type of trip distance in an urban area. Try it: race someone on a bicycle to a destination 4 or 5 kilometers away in a city during rush hour. The impracticality of navigating a large and heavy piece of machinery through the landscape will be clear. Now consider the time and energy spent using the car instead of the bicycle.

More productive workers will give Canada a competitive advantage. ​The UK has done significant research to understand this. Their National Institute of Health & Clinical Excellence found that “employees who cycle to work are fitter, healthier, happier, and less likely to take sick days.” When national active transportation research organization Sustrans surveyed people who cycled on the National Cycle Network in the UK, they found that “they take nearly half as many sick days as the average UK worker.” Business-oriented programs have been shown to be directly effective:  “Employers involved in the Bikes for Business scheme estimated the average savings to the organisation at £25-80 per month per bike.” Additionally GlaxoSmithKline found that investing in those willing to give up their cars enabled them to make an annual saving of £2,000 per car parking space reduced. Transport for London has estimated that “removing one car parking space could save a business up to £2,000 per year in high-density urban areas.” People want to ride and it is critically important that we attract and retain talent. Simply put, skilled workers want the good life, and that, increasingly, means less car dependence, a more vibrant urban experience, and a chance to be healthy, active and independently mobile. Bosses who do not recognize this risk losing the best workforce to companies that do. Cities that don’t recognize this lose an important competitive edge.

Millennials increasingly see having a car as a burden. As Sustrans also found, “[t]he ‘millennials’ (those born after 1983) will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. They think that their employer should be doing more to reduce their impact on the environment, particularly in terms of reducing resource scarcity and combatting climate change. Wasting time stuck in traffic? ​The Canadian Chamber of Commerce raised the issue of traffic congestion and productivity in a recently-released report called “Stuck in Traffic for 10,000 years: Canadian Problems that Infrastructure Investment Can Solve ”. The report bemoans the fact that congestion in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal alone “is responsible for adding nearly 88 million hours annually to Canadians’ commutes”. The report highlights just how much of a waste of time an inefficient transportation system that leaves out cycling can be. The report puts the problem in context thusly: “Inconsistent public infrastructure investment over extended periods of double-digit population growth rates in these cities has put pressure on their basic systems of infrastructure. Transportation systems have especially struggled to keep pace with growth, creating challenges with how people and goods move around these regions. Gridlock and crowded public transit have become an everyday reality for businesses and their employees. This reality . . . lowers employee productivity, increases the time to move goods and services to customers and lowers the quality of life of those experiencing it. It affects everyone from large manufacturers . . . to a self-employed handyman trying to get to another job. It makes dynamic cities less livable and more frustrating. “

Canada isn’t the only one with this problem of course. According to their department of Transport, congestion in the UK “cost the economy over £10 billion a year in urban areas alone in 2009 and could rise to £22 billion by 2025” . Build for what you want. ​What we want and what we need are smarter transportation systems that put the movement of people first. It means cities that are designed for walking and lingering. It means comprehensive, protected bicycle networks designed to move vast numbers of healthy and content people over short and medium distances, between denser more land-use efficient neighbourhoods, at less cost to our bodies, to our workplace and country’s healthcare system, and to our soul. The environmental impact of ignoring cycling is costly. The total cost of the carbon emissions for car trips made in the UK each year, for example, is £3.98 billion. As Sustrans further explains, if the journeys made on the National Cycle Network during 2012 had been by car, the potential CO2 emitted during the year would have been 883,904 tonnes, at a cost of £51.2 million. As one StatsCan report on cycling notes, “commuting by bicycle helps to alleviate road congestion and noise pollution and reduces emissions.”

Cycling profoundly affects provincial and federal bottom lines in many ways, but perhaps none so powerful as the chronic disease prevention power inherent in fighting sedentary behaviour. As noted in a report released by Statistics Canada in April 2017, “[t]he health benefits of physical activity, including cycling, are widely recognized. In an era when nearly a third of children and youth and just under two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, cycling for leisure or transport is a valuable form of moderate exercise. That translates directly into dollars. The cost of doing nothing is high. “The estimated direct, indirect, and total healthcare costs of physical inactivity in Canada annually (in 2009 numbers) were $2.4 billion, $4.3 billion, and $6.8 billion, respectively. These values represented 3.8%, 3.6%, and 3.7% of the overall health care costs” in Canada or a total of $13.5 Billion.

Canadians already love bikes and want to ride far more.​. Statistics Canada found that Canadians are overwhelmingly familiar with cycling with ”an estimated 12 million Canadians (41%) aged 12 or older report[ing[ that they had cycled in the previous year (Table 1). In 2011, 201,800 of Canadian adults report cycling as their primary method of commuting to work ).

The near market for cycling is far larger and offers almost unlimited growth potential for the next few decades. Consider one Canadian city already vaunted for bikeability: assuming the installation of a protected cycling infrastructure network to make it safe and convenient, a detailed study covering Metro Vancouver alone projected that 500,000 people would be willing to make a shift.

Young people want and need to ride bicycles. ​It is good for their brain, for their sense of well-being, self-confidence and for their long term education. It is important to recognize that young people are very familiar with cycling (82% among 12- to 14-year-olds reported cycling in the same year) yet are unrepresented among the ranks of decision makers at all levels of government. Making it safe to cycle to school requires special effort and it is incumbent upon us to give this particular issue consideration in the development of something as important to their future as the federal budget. Young people overwhelmingly want to be able to cycle to school, yet it is estimated that only 2% of Canadian school children (and their guardians) feel comfortable doing so.

Cycling meets government priorities. ​Phase II of the federal government’s infrastructure spending plans will inject an additional $81.2 billion into the economy over 11 years and will focus on public transit, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation projects, and transportation and infrastructure in rural and northern communities. Cycling has an integral role to play in ALL of these categories.

We need a large investment and dedicated funding. ​We fear that cycling and walking projects, by virtue of being simple, less invasive, and easy to plan and complete, will lack the attention they require simply by the nature of the funding programs designed to support them. Funding needed for municipalities should not be buried within eligibility for other funding programs or expected to compete with big projects like subways or wastewater treatment plants. It has been estimated that Canada’s cycling infrastructure deficit alone amounts to more than $64Billion dollars (based on current build costs of protected cycling infrastructure and the amount of existing investment in the leading cycling jurisdiction).

Cycling makes the most of transit. Cycling in particular offers the potential of expanding the reach of a given transit stop or station (which is usually designed for first mile and last mile walking) by 9X. Current federal government funding plans only make cycling eligible, and often target transit agencies whose mandate and project scopes do not extend to the creation of the neighbourhood-wide cycling networks that would be of most benefit. We need specific, targeted funding to help provinces and municipalities make the choice to invest in walking and cycling as solutions in their own right.


1. The budget of the Government of Canada should explicitly mention walking and cycling in the budget itself ​in the context of their importance to Canada’s economy, the health of individual Canadians, the efficiency of our transport systems and our commitments to addressing climate change, and our obligations under the National Transportation Policy declaration of the Canada Transport Act, specifically the need to ensure that “the transportation system is accessible without undue obstacle to the mobility of persons, including persons with disabilities”.

2. The Government of Canada should establish a dedicated fund to match walking and cycling infrastructure investments made by provinces and municipalities across Canada in the amount of $2.1B over 3 years above and beyond that which is already eligible or likely to be included as part of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund or Green Infrastructure Fund (See our infrastructure proposal and appendix for details).

3. Including the specific words cycling and walking in the context of the Pan Canadian Framework on Climate Change​ as a key strategy.

4. Continue to allow​ ​cycling​ ​and​ ​walking​ ​projects​ ​to​ ​be​ ​eligible​ ​under​ ​Public​ ​Transit​ ​Infrastructure​ ​Fund.

5. Allocate funding for the development of a national active transportation strategy (which will simultaneously address cycling, walking and children’s mobility policy at a national level).

6. Invest in research, evaluation and programming capacity ​so that funding is available for non-governmental organizations and governments to do the ongoing work required to support, implement and measure the effect of investment in infrastructure.

Policy and Pavement: What it Will Take to Move Canadians

A cycling lens on the 2017 Federal Budget

Canada Bikes has two main priorities –  a dedicated cycling infrastructure funding program and a national cycling strategy. Both priorities hinge in part on what is contained in the annual federal budget.

Every year, we carefully scrutinize the budget, and along with our partners and allies, try to determine what it means for both the future of sustainable transportation in Canada as a whole, and single out the specific effects on cycling. Each year, we hope to see the federal government of Canada, like so many bike friendly nations around the world, fully embrace cycling. We work hard to be both useful to the federal government agencies that we see as partners and constructively critical when needed. We offer leading-edge policy advice and channel the passion, vision and expertise of our members and membership organizations across the country.

Our reaction to the federal budget this year can be characterized as cautious overall optimism, eagerness to support the leadership of the Environment and Climate Change Minister and a mix of disappointment, hopefulness and increasing sense of urgency for our need to see federal money flow directly towards bicycle infrastructure.  

Cycling is Ready to Go, Say the Word

Overall, the wording in the budget contains promising language and the direction it outlines dovetails with what we need. The themes expressed all point to a government that should/would/does see cycling as having a profound positive impact in achieving its priorities. We know that many MPs feel strongly and share our vision. In fact, one could read the budget itself as a preamble to a national cycling plan. Almost everything in it would benefit from a lot more people in Canada cycling.

In many cases, the budget seems to be talking directly about cycling. Whether it is “shortening commute times”, becoming “clean and green” or keeping more money into the pocketbooks of the middle class Canadians, there are few things more powerful than free, clean, green transportation offering sustainability and independence to growing families, independent university students and downtown office workers.

  • A busy suburban family with two young children who need to cycle safely to school for exercise, health and good grades (and so mom can go to work) is the epitome of middle-class Canada trying to make ends meet.
  • A young adult on a bicycle riding to a part-time job between university classes is the typical “person working hard to join it”.

The budget repeatedly mentions removing the barriers that keep people from achieving their dreams. As an organization, we represent millions of Canadians with one simple dream: to be able to ride a bicycle wherever we need to go. An Ipsos Reid poll indicates that 81% of Canadians want more bike lanes. We know just how good that is for our city, province, country and planet. However, while the budget does mention certain specifics, like electric vehicles or the Trans Canada Trail, it misses the opportunity to single out the word “bicycle” itself. For something so powerful, we think it should be mentioned.

Potential Good News on A National Strategy and The Hard Work That Goes into it

We are extremely excited to see funding flowing to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop robust national-level policies and coordinated, whole of government actions that will lead to critical results for Canada. We hope the Minister will join us again on Parliament Hill, for the 6th annual Bike Day on the Hill. On that day, June 1st, 2017, Canada Bikes is proud to be hosting the first National Bike Summit with support from Mountain Equipment Coop. and The Co-operators.

For our environment, cycling is, of course, all upside. We see cycling playing a prominent role, therefore, in any environmental strategy. Cycling, as a mode, has tremendous potential for modal shift away from the most energy intensive modes like automobiles to something cleaner, faster and more efficient like a bicycle. In a city, a bicycle is already the fastest way to travel. When you build the right cycle tracks, intersection treatments and pathways, cycling becomes safe and connected enough to get a lot of people to try it.

We’ve seen Norway, a country of 5 million, commit to $1.2 Billion in infrastructure alone as part of their climate change action plan. And when it comes to the policy work, a national cycling strategy has been a proven way for countries to marshall all of the actors to play their roles. This is a step forward. The importance of reducing things like greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing our resilience in the face of environmental changes cannot be understated.

The Minister herself has repeatedly underscored her commitment to cycling and we firmly believe her. We will be working closely with her – and MPs from all sides of the house who have agreed – to make good on her pledge to see Canada develop a national cycling strategy. We see this wholistically, which is why we are choosing to move forward on distinct strategies that address walking, cycling and safe routes to school.  

We are proud to be founding a partnership with Canada Walks/Green Communities Canada and the National Active and Safe Routes to School Working Group and to be working with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to make it happen.

Still Missing the Chance to Inspire Communities Coast to Coast via a Dedicated Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Fund

In May of 2016, along with a broad coalition of respected voices including the CAA, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Lung Association, Green Communities Canada, VeloQuebec, Share the Road and the BC Cycling Coalition, we submitted a $2.1Billion proposal over the next 3 years urging the federal government to create a dedicated cycling and walking infrastructure fund.

We see tremendous value in a robustly designed, inspiring fund that will support the cities already making moves on cycling. And we know it will not just allow those cities to do more, but that it will catalyse the rest to follow. We have a huge backlog of cycling projects spanning decades. We are ready. Since cycling meets all of the priorities laid out in the federal budget and so many communities know exactly what they need, the time to start building is now.

Unfortunately, we have seen no mention in the budget and we have yet to see the details.  While policy is critical to mapping progress, shaping priorities and setting targets, it is ultimately concrete and paint,  circuits and signals, tunnels and the bridges – the hardware that make up a first-class bicycle infrastructure network – that truly count. That is what will get more people riding, and there is no reason to wait. We are decades behind in implementation, with a backlog of quick to build, always popular projects already planned.  

Just like a dedicated Public Transit Fund, we believe Canada would benefit from something similar for cycling and walking. We see it as key to build the kind of cycling networks that get people to work downtown, that make crosswalks safer for our elders to cross busy streets and that make adjustments to neighbourhoods to make sure they encourage not discourage walking or biking to school.

We do want to see transit agencies plan more bike projects, and are glad to have seen these become clearly eligible in early 2016. Cycling is, by virtue of its powerful ability to expand the reach of existing bus stops, rapid transit and train stations, transit’s best friend. In fact, cycling is arguably a mass transit system of its own, and is already one of the most cost-effective mass transit investments any city can make. But our transit agencies aren’t always set up to be able to take advantage of this nor should they need to. Just as importantly, many small and medium sized cities are too small to have a large or any transit system, but are perfect for cycling. And of course, there is the fact that most cycle tracks are built by public works departments. But active transportation is also slightly different. We can learn lessons from places like Scandinavia, the UK where dedicated funding exists. What we do not want to see is terrific massive transit projects and cost-effective but relatively inexpensive cycling competing for the same funding.

We think the next few months will be critical. It will be important that the federal government clearly signal its needs to municipal and provincial governments. We firmly believe that the appetite exists and that, just like transit, governments across the country will welcome federal support for something so profoundly positive.

The Road to Equality is Paved with Cycle Tracks

We are also excited to see the gender analysis being undertaken to ensure that the federal budget starts to address endemic biases that have tended to exist within power structures historically dominated by men. Cycling is a great emancipator. For women who choose to ride a bicycle to get where they want to go, this may be one of the most promising aspects of the budget process.

We already know when it comes to everyday cycling, Canada’s roads are shamefully overly adult male. For too long, the typical transportation system user has been characterized as the male household member heading to work in the morning alone in a car (which has, historically, matched the profile of the typical person making the decisions). The impact of this on the very structure of Canadian communities cannot be understated. The federal government’s investment in transit is a good start, but more needs to be done.

While men on bikes is a great thing, women equally seek the freedom to ride, but tend, statistically, to be underrepresented. Women want to ride as much as men, but as the gender split is 70/30 in Canada it means we have a roadway network that is inherently sexist. We find this to be unacceptable.

Our Call to Action

We have offered a clear, clean and healthy way forward. It is up to governments at all levels and us to work together to build a Bike Friendly Canada. This is a reminder that it always helps when the tens of millions of Canadians who support this issue make their voices heard: If you think cycling is a solution to the issues we face, tell someone.

As was the case with transit, highlighting the need for and the benefits of cycling networks to communities will help make the case for federal investment in cycling. Dream big. Be inclusive. Envision what your community will be like when cycling is safer and attractive for everyone young and old.

  • Call your MP.
  • Take your MP with your local mayor or councillor for a ride. Encourage them to ask the Federal Government for dedicated cycling funding.
  • Donate to your local advocacy organization or join Canada Bikes.

Right now, it is essential that we work together to make sure our government seizes the opportunity to act.

For more information please contact us.