FAQ: Are cities caving to special interest groups? Let’s listen to the mayors.

Around Ontario and further afield, mayors are responding to widespread residents’ calls for trails and safer roads for active mobility.  They’re also acknowledging the economic competitive necessity. The result has been an increasing groundswell of activity in trails, cycling facilities, education and encouragement. As of May 2015, there were 28 Bicycle Friendly Communities that 60% of Ontarians call home.

In forwarding-thinking cities there is political will to act, backed with budgets. The mayors all speak strongly in favour of active mobility as a way of creating better community, and reaping the health and economic benefits. Here are some mayors’ comments from Active Brockville’s collection of articles.

Brockville

Mayor David Henderson spoke to the benefits of trails and cycling in this article in the Recorder & Times in Sept 2014 as city council adopted a ten year capital plan for funding Brock Trail and cycling network development.

“It makes it better for people here, makes it healthier, and it makes it easier to attract people,” the mayor said.

The article goes on to say,

The Brock Trail, cycling and active living in general have figured prominently in the public’s response to strategic planning and official plan meetings in recent years, added the mayor.

Henderson, who last year went to Western Ontario to take part in the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure cycling event, said that experience reminded him of the importance of cycling in making a community attractive to prospective residents.

“They really highlight what every community along the way is doing,” added the mayor.

Belleville

Heading upstream from Brockville, Belleville’s city council approved their cycling network plan last Fall, as reported in this article.  The plan included a $750,000 budget for the first five or six projects in the first of three phases, with the first phase expected to take five years. Instead, Mayor Taso Christopher proposed a three-year plan, based on the longer timeframe not being fast enough.

“Council wanted to get the project done quicker because of the demand. Coun. (Egerton) Boyce has become an advocate for cycling and voiced his concerns that we were being too slow on our implementation of our cycling plan. And a few other councillors echoed these concerns,” O’Leary [the project manager] explained.

Ajax

Upstream from Belleville, but before Toronto, one finds Ajax and long-serving Mayor Steve Parish. If you ever get a chance to meet and talk with Mayor Parish, it’s almost guaranteed your next stop will be a bike shop, and you’ll walk out with a new bike!

The cover notes on a video featuring Mayor Parish, produced for the “It’s Your Move” series by the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation tell us:

The longest serving Mayor in the town’s history, Steve Parish wants to see Ajax have the finest quality of life of any municipality in the GTA and in the entire Province of Ontario. Being an avid, life-long cyclist has allowed him to experience his community at a human pace and has built his belief in the necessity of smart growth that fosters health and wellbeing among residents.

Mayor Parish recognized early on the importance of a safe, strong and diverse transportation system that meets the needs of all users; whether young or old, motorist or cyclists, or walker or bus rider. To educate and raise awareness, he introduced the Mayor’s Cycling Event for residents. Today, it has evolved into a cycling and walking festival with hundreds of participants from across the Durham Region. On the infrastructure side, Ajax boasts 90 km of trails and 28 km of on-road facilities and was recognized as one of the first Bicycle Friendly Communities in Ontario.

The Town of Ajax is also a partner with the Region of Durham on the Welcome Cyclists Network, a not-for-profit organization that aims to create a network of businesses to enhance cycle tourism together in the Region and Province. Active transportation can be utilized to leverage tourism opportunities. With infrastructure in place, Ajax is capitalizing on this emerging industry and has more than 21 businesses in the Welcome Cyclists Network.

By being progressive and having the foresight, Ajax is now seeing the dividends of their active transportation investments. It’s time for the region as a whole to follow their lead and invest in healthy transportation options that pay off in the long run.

Watch Mayor Steve Parish’s video clip here.

Burlington 

Skipping Toronto and landing upstream in Burlington, Mayor Rick Goldring’s blog article of Feb 17, 2016 reflects perhaps the most compelling and recent mayoral view of how bike lanes help to build great cities. He wrote this in advance of Burlington council discussing  updates to the city’s cycling plan – which will include protected bike lanes on some major routes.

Mayor Goldring understands the evidence for better health, citing Halton Region’s recently released  Active Transportation Health report, calling for using active transportation, including cycling, to provide opportunities for improved health.

Mayor Golding goes on to cite “an article written by Vancouver-based city planner Brent Toderian – who spent the last week working with council, staff and the community on great city-building – he points out University of British Columbia Public Health research that shows painted bike-lanes reduce the risk of accidents by 50%, and separated bike-lanes reduce the risk by 90%.” This is part of the body of knowledge cited elsewhere in this website.

And you know Mayor Golding really gets it when he writes, “Brent Toderian also notes: ‘We need a more sophisticated discussion about how we get around in cities, and it starts with this — it’s not about loving your bike. It’s about loving what biking does for cities. If more cars make cities worse, the opposite is true for bikes. Expanding urban biking through separated bike-lanes is about making better, fiscally smarter, healthier, more flexible and resilient cities. Bikes are hardly a silver bullet, but they can be a big part of better city-making.'”

 

Kingsville 

Traveling further upstream we find this small community on the shores of Lake Erie, one the same size as Brockville. Kingsville is experiencing rapid growth primarily because, as Mayor Nelson Santos says, “We’re creating quality of life.” That includes investment in trails and cycling facilities, as this article in the Windsor Star elaborates.

The mayor is also a real estate agent in this small city that grew by 99 households last year alone. Clearly, the mayor as Realtor understands the positive correlation between lifestyle attractors, including safe active mobility, and property values.

Calgary

Skipping cross country now, it would be easy to pick Vancouver to hold up as a model for active mobility.  Instead, let’s look at the fossil fuel capital of Canada – Calgary, and its young articulate Mayor Naheed Nenshi. In  May 2015, Mayor Nenshi addressed the Canadian Clug as the city was about to embark on a massive project to install protected bike lanes across the busier parts of the city.  Mayor Nenshi addressed comments oft heard about cycling infrastructure projects before they’re implemented.

“I notice that people aren’t getting the point because a lot of folks are saying, ‘well nobody cycles, and why are we serving folks when nobody cycles?’ The whole point is the research very clearly shows if you make it safer, people will cycle,” the mayor said. “For every person who is able to do that, that means one less person on a crowded CTrain or one less car in a crowded artery … and by the way, every simulation shows if you move bikes and cars out of one another’s lanes, everybody moves faster.”

The article, including a video clip of his comments, is here.

“The whole point is the research very clearly shows if you make it safer, people will cycle.” Well, how did that work out for Mayor Nenshi?  Fast forward to December 2015 and this report.

City of Calgary, 2015
City of Calgary, 2015

 

 

“It’s essentially a doubling of the cycling trips on these corridors,” said Thivener (Calgary’s cycling co-ordinator) 
“We’ve now got some basic accommodation for the cyclists and we’re confident that it made it safe and comfortable for a lot more people to ride,”
“We’ve seen women riding here, and that’s a great sign because if women are using the facility it’s an indication that it’s safe for everybody, and there’s a lot of research that points to that.”  
Thivener says the data shows 27 per cent of cyclists who use the tracks are women.

In the USA

Let’s go south of the border to the USA, and let’s skip bike friendly cities like Portland, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and oh so many more. Let’s read this recent article reporting that, according to the 2015 Menino Survey of Mayors, 70% of mayors “support making roads more accessible to cyclists, even at the expense of driving lanes and parking.” Further, one in five mayors also listed “bicycle friendliness” as a top three area for new infrastructure spending.

GreatCitiesUS Mayors: Great Biking Means Great Cities
Finally, let’s wrap this long post by presenting a video clip in which US mayors speak to the importance of safe cycling infrastructure. Listen to their comments on health and lifestyle attractors for talent and businesses.

Author: Alan Medcalf

Alan is a post-corporate, volunteer, community builder living in Brockville, Ontario. He seeks to create sustainable lifestyle advantage for the community by creating opportunities for more people to choose to walk and to ride bikes. He promotes the health, social, environmental and economic benefits of active mobility.

2 thoughts on “FAQ: Are cities caving to special interest groups? Let’s listen to the mayors.”

  1. Thank you Alan Medcalf for your unending dedication to the active life cause.
    And always Ride it like you stole it Alan.

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