Celebrating community and building bike infrastructure: Ontario Bike Summit roundup

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Jamie Stuckless, executive director of Share the Road, speaks at the Ontario Bike Summit. Photo by Bryen Dunn

By Bryen Dunn

Support for cycling infrastructure continued to grow at this year's Ontario Bike Summit. The City of Toronto and the Ontario government promoted initiatives to make roads safer and easier for cyclists, while municipalities across the province were recognized for their bike-friendly work.

Province allocates infrastructure funds

One of the key announcements made at the summit was the Province of Ontario's allocation of $10 million in funding (promised last year) to promote local infrastructure that will expand cycling and improve safety. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) funding will be used by 37 municipalities to install or improve on-road cycling lanes, off-road cycling and walking paths, cycling-specific traffic signals and signs, active transportation bridges and bike racks. The Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program is helping implement the government's 20-year vision to encourage the growth of cycling and improve safety for cyclists across the province.

(Editor's note: While welcomed by many groups, this funding was announced in 2014. The Share the Road Coalition called for $200 million in funding over the next four years at the summit. dandyhorse will follow up on how cycling advocates are reacting to the details about the provincial funding.)

City hosts cycling tour

The summit began with a guided cycling tour through the streets of Toronto. The City of Toronto and Bike Share Toronto led the way by offering free Bike Share bikes, along with commentary on the existing infrastructure and updates on what’s being planned. Riders got to experience a variety of cycling developments, including the Wellesley and Sherbourne Street Cycle Tracks, the Martin Goodman Trail, the Simcoe contraflow bike lane and the separated Richmond and Adelaide bike lanes.

City representatives pointed out the new improved and more detailed wayfinder signage. They also announced rubber bollards that will be piloted this year along Wellesley and that a new bi-direction separated bike lane would be installed this summer along the south side of Lakeshore Boulevard in Etobicoke. This will provide a missing trail connection from the Humber Bay area to Mimico. After the ride, the afternoon was filled with presentations from various communities sharing their victories and challenges around cycling.

Building bike-friendly communities

Another highlight of the Summit was the recognition of Bicycle Friendly Communities, and this year there were three awards given out. Both Mississippi Mills and Niagara Falls received Bronze status, while Burlington walked away with Silver. The Bicycle Friendly Community Award (BFC) Program was launched in 2010 and provides incentives, hands-on assistance, and award recognition for communities that actively support bicycling. The 2017 application deadline is October 14, 2016.

The Wheels of Change Awards were also given out, which are determined by peers for the recognition of work in advancing bike advocacy and infrastructure. Toronto’s Culture Link won as Organization, while Adam Krupper, Thunder Bay's mobility coordinator, won under the Professional category and the Community Champion Award went to Councillor Bob Bell from Guelph.

Celebrating complete streets and cycling heritage

Nancy Smith Lea, director of Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, announced the May 5 book launch of Complete Street Transformations in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region. The event is being held at Ryerson University starting at 6pm, and will feature opening remarks from Smith Lea, a presentation by researchers Neil Loewen and Brandon Quigley, as well as panel discussion.

Thomas Hassan, founder of Heritage Rides, announced big plans for continued group outings leading up to Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017. The organization involves historians, cycling advocates, and community activists, who organize rides that offer a historical background into various neighbourhoods throughout the GTA and beyond.

Several breakout sessions were also offered, allowing attendees to choose topics best suited to their needs. Overall it was about building partnerships, enhancing cycling infrastructure, and ensuring safety for cyclists of all levels. Topics included public health, cycling accessibility, winter riding, technology, best practices and data collection.

Among the keynote speeches, Nicole Freedman's stood out for its somewhat provocative conclusion. Seattle's chief of active transportation partnerships ended her talk by declaring, “Making driving expensive is the new frontier.”

Overall, it was a wonderful event, perfect for networking and sharing ideas – as well as the road!

The 411 on the OBS

The 8th Annual Ontario Bike Summit (#OBS16) was held on April 19th and 20th, 2016 at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto, under the theme will be "What's Next for Cycling". The event attracted over 200 attendees from municipalities across the province, including municipal leaders, planners, engineers, law enforcement and public health professionals together with cycling enthusiasts and advocates. dandyhorse was the official media sponsor.

Eleanor McMahon, founder and CEO of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, started the initiative after her husband was killed in a cycling collision. Since then she has worked for legislative change in Ontario and has led the development of this provincial, grassroots cycling policy and advocacy organization in Ontario.

Related on the dandyBLOG

A bright future for cycling: Report back from Ontario By Bike’s Cycle Tourism Conference

Quick tips for a smooth transition from winter to spring trail riding

From the Horse’s Mouth: Councillor Janet Davis on improving cycling in Ward 31


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