Support for a country where bikes are booming and where the transport options have shifted dramatically… A special emphasis on quickly building the bike paths people need to feel safe, healthy and connected…. A call to embrace and incentivize innovative solutions for unprecedented times, including making electric-assisted mobility more affordable to make the most of existing infrastructure we have… A call to use COVID-19 as a chance to be ready for the next crisis – the climate one… READ our 2021 budget submission for some great ideas for a better Canada.
Like millions of Canadians, Vélo Canada Bikes knows both the pure joy of riding a bicycle and the barriers and fears we face in a world full of traffic.
During COVID, record numbers of new people got to experience neighbourhoods in a new way. Suddenly an 8 year old was the only one on the street. Even younger children learned to cycle in a world much more like the one of their grandparents. People flocked to their local trail as a way to get healthy and safely social. And they didn’t stop.
As people began working from home or looking for active transport to work, bicycle numbers began to rise. Bicycle stores began to run out of stock.
The bicycle has turned out to be one of the pandemic’s only silver linings.
As we head back to school, we know that Canada’s kids are itching to bike even more than usual. We know that their parents’ thoughts will be on safer streets for them. We know we need solutions.
We’ve seen community after community react in innovative ways. Cities and small towns are turning curb lanes into real bike lanes at record rates – or trying to. They are doing it with help from the community, and with everything from orange pylons to flower pots to sawhorses.
It’s time to scale up. The new wave of engineering and planning starts at home. Roads are just the space between the houses, and they belong to us all. We have found new and innovative ways to share. Communities are forging new partnerships with small NGOs coast to coast as everyone searches for answers. The bicycle is one of the answers. Creating safe spaces to ride is how we get there.
As we approach winter, it is important to remind everyone that cycling in winter is quite normal around the world. Those places will be better prepared for the pandemic. And just as face years of uncertainty ahead, we need to start planning now for an even bigger bike boom next spring.
This time we will be ready.
It’s time to turn the plans you have into action. If you don’t have plans, make them now. You’ll found help everywhere. It’s easier than you think.
We are urging all levels of government, all communities and all families to follow the lead of the federal government. Make sure you make the most of the $3.3B made available for cycling infrastructure. Meanwhile, build on the power of the community to setup a network of free, fun and easy transportation, as fast as you can. With the announcement today of The Canada Healthy Communities Initiative, you have a bigger opportunity to get involved at the ground level.
Vélo Canada Bikes is here to help.
Canadians of the future will thank you.
COVID 19 has raised awareness and need for cycling infrastructure in our communities. The need has always been there, but the follow through has been lacking. After March 2020, it suddenly became critical everywhere. Bicycle networks has become one of the world’s next big public works project. Those who already had them thanked the foresight of the past. Those without, scrambled.
In early April 2020, we reviewed our older infrastructure proposal designed to scale up bike networks across the country. This was used as the basis for a national level COVID emergency mobility and investment recommendation. We checked the numbers and added post-pandemic urgency to help roll it out quickly. We shared it with Canada’s lead on active transportation planning, Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Communities Andy Fillmore.
This plan is without a discernible downside. It is something that should excite every Canadian of every age. It offers us all a glimpse of hope in a difficult time and builds on the community responses we are already seeing.
“It is the least destructive investment Canada can make. Anywhere. You can go to the mountains in BC. You can go to the La Cloche mountains that I see almost everyday when I am out on my ride. You can go to The Plains…. It is the least detrimental to the environment and leaves it to the next generation to follow and use.”-Josh Shaw, Wikwemikong Unceded Territory, speaking at the 2017 National Bike Summit about seven generations thinking and cycling infrastructure investment.
Never underestimate the power of the bicycle to change the future of a country.
The Oil Shocks of the 1970’s presented countries with a choice. Countries becoming more dependent on oil were offered two distinct paths forward. One based substantially on healthy local trips and communities built at a personal and human scale. The other based on burning fossil fuels, heralding grand visions of modernity but would ultimately usher in a congestion-prone future for cities.
Some countries, the Netherlands being the most well-known example, redoubled efforts to support healthy modes. Bolstered by growing distaste for traffic injury and impacts on children’s freedom of mobility, the chose to embrace the bicycle. It’s paid off.
Their choice led to a diversified, efficient, and resilient multi-modal transport landscape with low traffic injury rates, low levels of chronic disease, and mobility rankings that are the envy of economists, planners, health practitioners everywhere.
The US had a plan to build 100,000 miles of bikeways. But it chose not to. Canada followed their lead. This ultimately contributed to drastic changes in our cities and many of the biggest health and environmental challenges we now face.
But people’s thinking has evolved on how cities ought to be built. The shine is off car culture. Road users of all kinds want change. They want options and choice. Vélo Canada Bikes led a joint effort with partners at the CAA and the Heart and Stroke Foundation and other national organizations to refresh and expand a proposal seeking major investments in active transportation infrastructure.
We proposed a $2.1 Billion active transportation investment over 3 years, spearheaded by the Government of Canada and matched by all other orders of government. The goal was to provide momentum to existing plans and scale up the best examples in every province and territory. Communities large and small had networks in the plans to build and most still remain to be built. Our joint 2016 proposal would have led to a leap forward in independent mobility, on a national scale. Despite initial enthusiasm, shifting political landscapes at home affected decisions, and programs fell short of being the catalyst needed.
Now in 2020, Canada finds itself facing a challenge even bigger than the 50 year old energy crisis. The coronavirus crisis and it’s impact on mobility of such a global magnitude was not imagined just 4 years ago. Now, the need for multi-pronged solutions with high return on investment and clearly supports mental and physical health has never been greater.
Warmer weather means more and more people are looking to get outside for fresh air and exercise. On top of that, COVID-19 cabin fever is setting in. With more people out walking and cycling, physical distancing is increasingly a challenge.
In response, cities across Canada are re-balancing their streets. A decrease in car traffic and the increase in active transportation has opened up a great opportunity to dedicate more space for people, rather than cars.
The response so far has been disabling beg buttons (crosswalk request buttons), closing some driving and parking lanes, and in some cases, full street closures. This will continue to be adjusted as the spring progresses.
Vélo Canada Bikes is tracking the responses across Canada. If your community is opening up streets for people, let us know!
Check out the updated data here: BikePed COVID Response