Ontario Cycling Strategy announced: Public input needed by Jan. 29

Ontario Cycling Strategy announced: Public asked for input by January 29, 2013

by dandyhorse staff

You know what politicians are like – they won’t do anything unless they think it’s going to get them a vote.

Finally, Ontarians, after 20 years, it is your chance to tell your province:

I bike, I vote.

Of course, I’m borrowing the phrase from the Share the Road (image above) coalition. The Share the Road Cycling Coalition is led by Eleanor McMahon, an indefatigable advocate for safe cycling. She has been been working with numerous stakeholders across the province since 2008 to bring this cycling strategy document to fruition. (Read our dandyARCHIVE from issue 2 on Eleanor’s work.)

On Friday, November 30, 2012, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Bob Chiarelli announced the Ontario government is moving forward (finally) on improving road safety for all users. “We need your input to ensure Ontario has the right strategy in place to support and encourage safe cycling in the province. We will continue consultations on a made-in-Ontario strategy so that our roads remain the safest in North America,” Chiarelli said. Public input will be accepted here until Jan. 29, 2013.

You can read the full 17-page Cycling Strategy document here.

You can provide input directly to the Ministry of Transportation by Jan. 29, 2013, here.

More information on the public consultation can be found here.

It’s the first cycling strategy update that is meant to lead to new policy since 1992. Twenty years is a long time to wait; in the meantime, provinces like Quebec have developed bike-friendly policies along with over 4,000 kilometres of bike trails, not only reducing strain on health care systems and reducing traffic congestion, but also creating over $100-million per year in tourism dollars.

That’s right - it is (conservatively) estimated that  La Route Verte in Quebec generates over $100-million dollars annually in tourism. It’s also used regularly by Quebecers to get from region to region, town to town, to visit friends and family, and to get to work or simply explore their own province. B.C. has similar legislation and a robust provincial cycling culture that embraces both recreational and urban cycling.

“We applaud the government for launching the strategy and for providing Ontarians with an important opportunity to shape a comprehensive cycling vision and strategy for our province. Both the Quebec and B.C. governments have strong cycling cultures and a critical component of that has been the role that governments there have played. Both have bicycle strategies that include investments in infrastructure, legislation that enhances clarity for road users and recognizes the vulnerability of cyclists, and education and awareness programs for cyclists and motorists,” McMahon noted.

Overall, it is just fantastic to see the many benefits of cycling summarized so neatly in an official government report.

The emphasis on public health is crucial, but we must also look at the economic benefits that reducing congestion and promoting healthy living brings – not to mention all those tourism dollars. When we take cycling as a mode of transportation seriously, everyone will prosper.

McMahon noted that in recognition of the many benefits of cycling, governments around the world have developed policy frameworks that enable them to embrace the opportunities that cycling provides to lower congestion, provide citizens with a choice of healthy transportation, and enhance economic development by fostering bicycle travel and tourism networks. In 2010, Share the Road’s  When Ontario Bikes, Ontario Benefits -- A Green Paper on Bicycling in Ontario  included the results of a comprehensive survey of 1,200 stakeholders and provided clear advice and priorities to the Ontario government as to how it can and should play a role in making Ontario more bicycle-friendly.

McMahon founded Share the Road when her husband OPP Sgt. Greg Stobbart was killed while cycling in 2006.

For cyclists, safety remains the number one concern.

In 2012, the Coalition sat on the panel for the Coroner’s review of cycling deaths in the province, which further reinforced the need for cycling infrastructure and education investments in Ontario

“The Ontario Coroner’s Review called for the development of an Ontario Cycling Plan in order to establish an overarching vision for cycling in Ontario,” McMahon said on Friday. “Today’s announcement outlining improvements to infrastructure, public education and legislation is a welcome step in that direction ...

We look forward to working with Minister Chiarelli … as together we reflect the aspirations and priorities of Ontarians for safe places to ride now and for the generations that follow,” McMahon said, noting that Chiarelli -- a former Mayor -- has a good understanding of what cities want and what they need. He also has a personal understanding of what making our streets and roadways safer for cyclists mean, as his children and grandchildren are cyclists.

“Twenty years has been far too long to wait for new approaches that address what is in reality an ancient form of transportation, one that predates the car. Bicycling is a wonderful, magical way to get around. You see things and people in ways, which cars don’t allow. You get your heart pumping, and your hair blowing in the wind. It’s invigorating, it’s efficient, it’s cheap -- parking is free – and it’s a great way to spend the day with friends. What’s there not to like?,” she said.

McMahon applauded the Ontario government for taking an important step forward: Progressive thinking is that which understands the particular vulnerability cyclists face every day, appreciates the need for motorists to have a degree of predictability so that they know where they should be – and where cyclists are – so that we can all avoid the kind of tragic consequences that come from collisions between vehicles that are so vastly different in terms of their size and scope.”

With allies on all sides of the legislature and polls showing that 58 per cent of Ontarians would like to cycle more often, and 70 per cent saying they believe the government should actively support cycling – the time is now to have your say. (View a YouTube video of NDP Urban Transportation Critic Rosario Marchese questioning the Minister in May 2011 here.)

Let the Ontario government know that you bike and you vote and tell them today.

dandyhorse applauds the provincial government for recognizing that supporting cycling means making a commitment to public health and a better economy. Thank you to Eleanor McMahon and everyone who made this important next step towards a safer and more prosperous Ontario a reality.

More background information:

Link to the Province of Ontario's news page which includes quick facts, quotes from the announcement, and cycling strategy documents here.

-       630,000 Ontarians cycle on a daily basis

-       2 million Ontarians ride at least once a week in fair weather

MPP Rosario Marchese's question to Transportation Minister on cycling infrastructure

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Related on the dandyBLOG:

TCAT’s Active Transportation Award

dandyARCHIVE: Share The Road Taking It To Queen's Park

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