The following letter was distributed to the Mayor and Councillors of Brockville on March 9, 2016.
Mayor and Councillors,
On December 8, 2015, “Report 2015-129-12 – Brockville Cycling Network: Phase I Plan” was adopted by unanimous vote of City Council. This followed five years of steady effort by the City’s cycling advisory committee, working with city staff and many stakeholder groups, including emergency service providers. That effort patiently collected and reviewed case studies, research and other communities’ best practices, all of which was shared with Council.
Council’s adoption of the plan aligns with the Official Plan and endorsement of the Healthy Community Vision.
The uprising of a small number of Laurier residents quickly revealed a lack of City-wide communication or education capability, in this case specifically with respect to the Active Transportation portion of the Official Plan, and Council’s support of the Phase I plan.
In that void, “Active Brockville” was launched, the seed of an education effort to make readily available: relevant and current research, design documents and guidelines, and best practices from other municipalities in Ontario and from across North America. The delivery vehicles are a website at www.ActiveBrockville.ca and a page at www.Facebook.com/ActiveBrockville.
The Active Brockville website comprises 35 articles to date, with 18 focused on answering frequently asked questions about Brockville’s cycling plan. As of March 9, over 1,250 pages have been viewed since the first article was posted on February 20, an average of 75 per day. The website also supports comments, providing the opportunity to explore topics more deeply.
The FAQs page hosts the following topics:
- Why a cycling network, and why now?
- What has Brockville done to date?
- What do Ontarians say?
- How was the cycling network designed?
- What are the benefits of cycling, or active transportation generally?
- What are the benefits for those who choose not to cycle?
- How do protected bike lanes improve safety for all?
- Do cycling facilities impact emergency response?
- What’s the impact on parking?
- What happens in the winter?
- What about bike lanes and intersections?
- What about cities removing bike lanes? What’s up with that?
- Whose road is it?
- Are cities caving to special interest groups? Let’s listen to the mayors
- What’s the impact of cycling facilities on property values?
- Whatever happened to “vehicular cycling”?
- What’s the planned link through the 401 corridor?
- What’s the plan for King St W (and County Rd 2)?
The companion Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/ActiveBrockville aims to use social media to share articles from the website and provide a forum for informed, productive dialogue. In less than three weeks, the Facebook page has garnered over 200 “likes” with a total reach of 14,300 and an engagement of just under 4,000 (click to see more, like, or click through to website).
By providing a foundation and platform for productive discussion, this helps to elevate the level of discourse above bullying, fearmongering and dogmatic misinformation. In a short period of time, Active Brockville has become a community resource for those interested in active mobility’s promise to deliver for Brockville the same benefits being realized by communities across Ontario that are home to over 60% of Ontarians.
I would encourage our Mayor and Councillors to use this resource to full advantage, and to offer suggestions, questions and comments to help build richer content. This is a resource for all.
Should those opposed to the cycling plan offer any thoughtful questions, there is more than sufficient educational material to provide the foundation for a response and a productive discussion. Should they continue to offer misinformation and assumptions, I would hope Council uses the evidence presented to challenge those assertions.
Active Brockville started as a personal project, and is the seed for an education, information, and outreach resource to support those building a healthier and more prosperous community. This effort is informed by, yet independent from, the cycling advisory and Brock Trail committees.