Vélo Canada Bikes has had an amazing year, and Covid19 has reinvigorated the use of the bicycle while reminding Canadians that streets can be quiet. Join us for a wrap up of the year’s events, including EPIC, the announcement of a National Active Transportation Strategy, the COVID19 Resiliency Fund and the latest on the Healthy Communities Fund plus much much more.
Membership is not required to attend, but of course we encourage you to become a member if you aren’t already. You may also vote in our upcoming board elections, but must be a paid member or designated by your organization to do so. Please check your membership status here or become a member prior to September 25th, 2020.
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!
We hope that, during this period of significant change and far-ranging impacts to personal and professional life, you, your colleagues and each of your families are coping with these challenging times and keeping well, mentally and physically.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many bike retailers wondering what to do. The purpose of this post is to offer some helpful information. Below you will find information on what we are doing, as well as some helpful resources from others.
In response to COVID-19, Vélo Canada Bikes is:
First and foremost, like most national organizations, we are supporting and sharing the key messages from the Public Health Agency of Canada. That includes urging everyone to stay tuned to the latest information from their relevant local public health authorities and act accordingly.
The initial message from our government (as of the writing o the article on March 25th) has been clear: stay home; avoid unnecessary movement in your community.
We are also reminding everyone that cycling is typically among the healthiest and most efficient forms of independent transportation and that 100000s of Canadians rely on bicycles every day. There are significant public health considerations to consider among the other alternatives available to us, especially driving a car. Therefore, for those who must move within their community, whether it is a doctor or airline pilot, or a non-symptomatic person making a weekly trip to the grocery store for their family, we share the view that cycling is a healthy way for Canadians and their community to move that should be supported and promoted.
In preparation for challenging times ahead, we are also working on other short and long term solutions by:
We are working with partners to share the message that bike shops are essential workplaces, and should be designated as such by health authorities/provincial governments, thereby allowing those shops who wish to be open do so. We feel that bike shops should be viewed similarly to gas stations, car mechanics, grocery stores, airlines, pharmacies, and other businesses that provide an important and valuable public service and whose operations are often exempted from government recommendations to shut down completely. This position aligns with the European Cyclists Federation , the Confederation of European Bicycle Industry, People for Bikes in the US, the Province of Ontario and many of our members
For IBDs in other provinces. Local health authorities may be giving consideration to further lockdowns and closures, if you feel bike shops should be include in the list of essential workplaces near you, it may be worth a proactive step of making a note to your local MLA or MPP to avoid confusion in the future.
Please note: being designated an essential workplace does NOT mean you must stay open. We support the right of workers and businesses to choose carefully and to decide what is best and to take what they feel are the necessary precautions. We speak for Canadians everywhere by saying we deeply appreciate you in these difficult times.
urging for the rapid deployment temporary/permanent protected bike lane networks to fill gaps in Canada cities and allow for safe social distancing while cycling. We believe the public has a right to safely navigate their community at all times. In times of emergency, the bicycle has an extra benefit of offering a reliable foundation of independent mobility when other forms become disrupted. We feel that this strategy could be a cost effective and healthy way of offering safe transport alternatives to people whose public transport systems are operating at reduced capacity, for example. We feel cycling offers a chance to take pressure off of families, and better connectivity means better access to parks and open spaces and room for children to play. Fostering mode shift is also a long term opportunity to reduce the air pollution that contributes to chronic lung diseases which are known risk factors for COVID-19
offering opportunities for bicycle retailers to come together as a community to discuss the challenges they are facing and share strategies and ideas. Watch this space for information about the next facilitated, online gathering of independent bicycle dealers and industry allies.
finding and sharing resources and news you may find of use. See below
SOME GOOD NEWS! On March 11, 2020 the Government of Canada announced a rare bit of very good news. After years of advocacy on our part, Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure, Andy Fillmore, announced that he has been tasked with leading the development of a national active transportation strategy on behalf of his Minister. Now more than ever people need bicycles and we will continue to support the development of a national cycling strategy in Canada.
ABOUT CANADA BIKES As your national cycling advocacy organization, Vélo Canada Bikes, we are doing everything we can to support the growth and health of both cycling in Canada and the Canadian bicycle industry. We have been pushing the government for a bike-friendly Canada since 2012. Our tune hasn’t and won’t change. Bicycles offer a form of resiliency both personal and societal that other forms of transportation do not.
Bicycle power matters. In the eyes of our members, and in the eyes of millions of Canadians who ride already and would like to more often, there is no question that bicycle policy deserves a leading role in any nation’s plans for transportation, health and climate change.
Honourable mention goes to the Green Party. Although it was not explicit in supporting a national cycling strategy in its platform yet, its inclusion of a $100M annual fund for active transportation infrastructure is enough to help it garner 16 out of the 100 available points.
Unfortunately for the remaining four parties we assessed, their party platforms were either too vague or indeterminate on the subject of cycling to warrant points being awarded. Of course, we will continue to work with everyone to move cycling issues forward. Meanwhile, we urge all voters to make up their own minds and dive into the party platforms and decide for yourself. Individual candidates matter, as do local issues, take your MP or you candidate for a bike ride, write them an email, ask them for yourself!
HOW OUR ANALYSIS WORKS
Vélo Canada Bikes is non-partisan and believes strongly in the power of the bicycle to make a difference in everyone’s lives. On October 15th, we completed an analysis of all of the party platforms that had been shared publicly. Our goal was to see whether not our key messages had been sinking in, and offer our members and partners useful information when deciding who to vote for.
Our key messages have been clear. Vélo Canada Bikes, together with our member organizations and like-minded organizations across Canada, have long had two foundational and specific asks from the federal government: a national cycling strategy and a fund dedicated to active transportation infrastructure. To make sure Canada does both, we develop policy, we organize major events, we run programs, we build partnerships and we hold meetings with elected officials at all levels. We do that in Ottawa and in locales across the country, for you and with you.
The simple scoring system is designed to reflect whether or not each party has listened to these two important requests and incorporated them formally into their platform as we head into the election. Bonus points are awarded for using the words bicycle or active transportation anywhere in their platform – an important signal that their party is aware of how crucial our work is.
All parties were given a brief period to review the assessment and offer a rebuttal or any missing information.
The results of our analysis and an explanation of the simple scoring system are below.
*a specific fund, for active transportation projects available to communities of any size, regardless of their level of mass transit infrastructure, designed to hasten the development of cycling path networks and other facilities across Canada (see full proposal) developed by VCB, Heart and Stroke, CAA, Share the Road, Canadian Cancer Society, Velo Quebec, et al (100/694*40)
Champions of active transportation across the country have issued a fresh call for federal leadership in making Canada a great place for everyday walking, cycling, and other forms of active transportation. (See the letter, signed by 23 prominent organizations.)
The call for federal action is prompted by two exciting developments:
publication of an October 2018 report by a committee of the Council of Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety. (See COMT report.)
a call for federal leadership on active transportation in a near-unanimous resolution by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, June 2018. (See FCM resolution.)
Supporters are asked to join our call by taking a moment to write to the federal transport minister Hon. Marc Garneau asking for action. Tell him why it is important to you. We encourage you to cc your provincial transport minister, your MP, your MLA and your local municipal/band council member. To keep us in the loop, cc Clifford Maynes [email protected]and Anders Swanson [email protected].
COMT is a national level body that coordinates research and policy development among federal and provincial transportation authorities. The council includes every provincial minister, deputy minister and their colleagues at Transport Canada.
The October report was informed by a questionnaire answered by “44 respondents, representing one federal government department, 14 municipalities, 6 non-government organizations (NGO), 20 provincial and territorial government departments, and three transit service providers.”
It identifies common barriers to active transportation and describes the patchwork of programs and policies enacted across the country. In its “Observations and Conclusions”, the report looks at each government level and notes that “consideration could be given to whether there is a role for the federal government to provide additional leadership, policy, programming and/or financial support to provincial and territorial jurisdictions in support of active transportation initiatives.”
We certainly think so.
Knowing what a coordinated approach to active transportation will do for Canada, we know there is an important role.
What is and what could be the federal role in active transportation?
The extent of the federal government’s involvement in active transportation is something it is free to define. For example, local governments implement local infrastructure but often with funding support from other levels, with provincial and federal agencies involved in projects and areas that fall within their mandate and interest. Examples of federal government involvement in active transportation over the last few decades can be found across Canada in everything from services and programs to bridges with bike lanes.
However, while the federal role in motor vehicle is quite clearly understood by most people, the lack of coordinated effort and oversight of active transportation is clear.
The stakes are high.
Currently, the Government of Canada sets major infrastructure funding priorities (see P.T.I.F. for example) and signs international agreements (see the Paris Agreement) whose outcomes and effectiveness are directly affected by how well we manage active transportation.
The mandates of numerous departments and agencies within the federal government clearly show that we could/would benefit immensely from increased active transportation focus.
We are just getting started. Consider this: as the largest single employer in Canada, the federal government itself would greatly benefit from a strategy intended to get its own employees safely to work using bicycles or other modes of sustainable transportation. Making it happen requires a multi-billion dollar investment in safe infrastructure and collaboration with all levels of government. But it would be worth it. That investment has a return. he productivity benefits – based on abundant research about the impact on sick days, mental health and personal finances – mean that an internal active transportation strategy alone would have an impact on every thing the federal government does.
And yet we lack clear direction at the federal level. Canada does not have a ministerial mandate letters that clearly state who is responsible for active transportation. Canada does not have a coordinated national effort to advance active transportation or national targets for biking or walking mode share. We do not even clearly know how many children bike to school – nor are we capable of coordinated policies and programs to do something about it. As a result, we lag far behind peer countries in the number of people who walk to school, ride bicycles for transportation and the level of death and injury they face per km of travel.
On November 30, Canada lost a passionate bike advocate. One of our founding members, Arno was involved in many organisations including Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition (now HUB), the BC Cycling Coalition and even dipped his toes in politics as a Green Party candidate.
Known for his gentle nature even when pushing for change, Arno dedicated countless hours volunteering for a National Cycling Strategy with Vélo Canada Bikes. Van Bikes recently updated a blog detailing Arno’s advocacy history, and a ride celebrating his life and legacy was held on December 8th. Several articles have come out in the weeks since his death, each one highlighting what a national treasure Arno was.
Our thoughts are with his family, friends and his extended and extensive bike family. If you would like to honour his legacy, please strike up a reasoned conversation with a non-bike rider, volunteer for your local bike advocacy group, or become a member of Vélo Canada Bikes. Nothing would celebrate his life more than a Bike Friendly Canada.
I will always remember him as a timeless advocate for cycling and as a gentle and elder statesman of the bike movement.