Commuting By Bike – Sure Fire Rx For Better Health

British researchers concluded a detailed investigation of the commuting choices, lifestyle behaviours and medical information of 260,000 adults and reported that cycling to work was associated with a 45 per cent lower risk of developing cancer, a 46 per cent lower risk of heart disease, and a 41 per cent lower risk of premature death from any cause, compared to those who drove or took public transport.

The link between moderate levels of activity integrated into daily routines and improved health outcomes has been shown before in many studies, although not usually with this large a population sample. Other studies have monetized the improved health outcomes, reporting that $1 invested in cycling infrastructure returns $10 to $20 annually in reduced future health care costs.

The bottom line?  Cities that don’t invest in becoming bike friendly can expect reduced levels of population health and ever-escalating requests for health care spending, in addition to all the other foregone economic benefits.

The study in the British Medical Journal can be found here. The CBC article is here, along with other reports here and here.

 

Designing For Everyday Cycling

 

Herkimer bike lane
Barry Gray,The Hamilton Spectator

It’s most evident at public meetings, where typically only the polarized show up. On one end of the spectrum are the few who are “confident cyclists”, content to tackle any street anytime. While no more than 1% of even a bike friendly community, their voices are generally ignored as those of a fringe element.

On the other end of the spectrum, public meetings are often overwhelmed with those opposed who come with strident arguments and misinformation showing their street is better left untouched, as unsafe as they might claim it is. Intimidation tactics are often used to push people to sign petitions. Municipal councillors are deluged with phone calls and email that’s downright nasty in tone and content. Sometimes, outright deceit is used, for example, meeting with the fire chief and learning that bike lanes pose no problem for emergency response, and then running ads and soliciting petition signatures based on the assertion that bike lanes will slow emergency response and cost lives.

The risk of course is that municipal councils be swayed by these vocal minorities, avoiding conflict, under-serving the majority of residents, and leaving the community languishing in the rearguard of economic progress.

Categorization of cyclists

In between those poles, however, lie the majority of the population who are “interested, but concerned”. Research repeatedly shows that this group will rarely attend a public meeting, wants to have the choice to ride a bike more for everyday getting around, or for recreation, and will shy away from having to mix with motorized traffic.

Being informed by this evidence from many municipal studies, the Brockville cycling advisory committee adopted as one of its design principle:

Everyday Cycling – The segment of the population targeted by the network is first and foremost the “everyday” cyclist – those people who would like to bike recreationally to start, perhaps with friends and family, and then venture to use their bike for everyday trips around town for appointments, work, school, shopping and visiting.  Research shows this group is eager yet cautious – reluctant to mix with motorized traffic – and holds the greatest latent demand.  Safety for all ages, all abilities is considered. The network will also serve, but is not specifically designed for, those comfortable with and skilled at mixing with traffic on Brockville’s busier roads.

Following the research and case studies, is an article posted on Planetizen by public engagement strategist Dave Biggs of MetroQuest, “The Wisdom of Engaging Nervous Cyclists“.  He outlines the extensive outreach that Toronto did to engage people in that largely silent and less heard middle group. The results were outstanding and unequivocal, leading to design and plans much further reaching than might otherwise have happened.

“It was clear to the City of Toronto that engaging less confident cyclists that make up 60% of the population, yet seldom come to community meetings, might be the key to dramatic mode shifts in the city.”

And summarizing the results, “It’s useful to note that without careful consideration to the voices of the less confident cyclists, the results of the community engagement would have pointed to infrastructure suited to the 1% of the population who are already confident cyclists since they are highly engaged. Naturally it’s important to meet the needs of confident cyclists. By also accommodating those on the fence, planners can open up a massive opportunity for change.”

And an analogy worth keeping in mind, “A city without separated bike lanes and off-street cycling paths may be like a swimming pool with no shallow end. It’s fine for confident swimmers but intimidating for novices.”

 

Ontario Launches Cycling Tourism Strategy

At the recent 9th annual Ontario Bike Summit in Toronto, both Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Eleanor McMahon, made announcements about province-wide cycling initiatives.

Minister McMahon unveiled Tour by Bike, a tourism strategy that will develop and market Ontario as a cycling destination. The Minister emphasized the positive economic impact of cycling tourism, an industry drawing 1.7 million visitors per year, who spend $428 million. Cycling visitors tend to spend more per trip than the average visitor, and tend to stay longer. In cycling tourism research studies last year in Halton, Prince Edward County and Windsor-Essex, 50% of Ontario by Bike registered businesses surveyed said that cyclists were either a core or regular part of their customer base, and 1,594 cyclist nights were recorded at registered accommodation locations.

Learn more about Ontario’s Cycling Tourism Strategy in the comprehensive website here.

Provincial Cycling Network Draft Posted For Comment

At the recent 9th annual Ontario Bike Summit in Toronto, both Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Eleanor McMahon, made announcements about province-wide cycling initiatives.

Minister Del Duca announced the release of Ontario’s provincial cycling network. The draft network, with a map of existing and proposed routes, is open for comment on the Ministry’s website. He noted that over 8,000 km of trails and bike lanes already exist in Ontario. This plan, which has gone through an initial design and round of public workshops, will combine existing and new routes into one network spanning the province, linking municipalities and points of interest, and bolstering the rapidly growing cycle-tourism sector.

This initiative stems from Action Plan 1.0 of #CycleON, the provincial cycle strategy.  The draft plan is open for comments on the Environmental Registry until May 12, 2017.

Kingston Achieves Walk-Friendly Designation

(April 19) In regional news, Kingston has achieved yet another milestone in its vision to build “A Smart and Livable 21st Century City”, with an emphasis on active transportation as the guiding theme for all municipal projects. Kingston adds a Bronze designation as a Walk-Friendly Community to its previously awarded Bronze designation as as Bicycle Friendly Community. Kingston is cited for its engagement and encouragement of residents, province-leading participation rates in the annual commuter challenge, and an evidence-based approach to upgrading public facilities.
Read more about Kingston’s achievement here.

Ontario 150 – Celebrate By Bike

“Ontario’s 150th anniversary is an opportunity for people to come together and to experience the incredible resources our province offers,” says Eleanor McMahon, Ontario Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “Ontario 150: Celebrate by Bike will showcase incredible cycling opportunities and enable people of all ages to connect with their
communities by bike.”

There are three parts to this celebration, including signature events in 15 communities, new online guides to routes, events and resources, and a new cycling education program for 4,000 10 year olds, in partnership with the Canadian Tire Jumpstart Foundation. See the media release below.

Media Release - April 12 - Ontario 150 Celebrate By Bike

Benefits Of Cycling Are Far Reaching

Much has been studied and published on the individual and population-wide health benefits of cycling, as well as the myriad economic benefits. The consensus among politicians and professionals is deep and broad. Now, a new book elevates those findings to a global view, showing how small trips by millions can contribute to a healthier planet.

“The big changes–and they can be huge–happen when a nation doesn’t see cycling as a hobby, a sport, a mission, let alone a way of life. They happen when it becomes nothing more than a convenient, quick, cheap way of getting about, with the unintended bonus being the fact that you get some exercise in the process.” Read more here.

Walkable Neighbourhoods Good Rx For The Brain

“At Kansas University, assistant professor of psychology Amber Watts is gearing up for a large study on how the walkability of neighborhoods impacts cognition–and maybe even dementia. An initial pilot study on 25 people she conducted with a fellow Alzheimer’s researcher and two architects found that the sample of older adults who lived in more “walkable” neighborhoods performed much better on cognition tests.”

Research and case studies have clearly shown that being immersed in a natural setting is beneficial for mental health. (See here.)  Now, new research is uncovering the cognitive health benefits of navigating and interacting in walkable neighbourhoods. Read more here.

Belleville Gains Bicycle Friendly Community Designation

Belleville – 2017 Cycling Projects

Belleville is among the latest Ontario municipalities to gain a Bicycle Friendly Community accreditation. Belleville, along with Ingersoll, Brampton, and St. Thomas join recent recipients Cornwall, Cambridge, Collingwood, Temiskaming Shores and Whitby in this latest tranche of awards. To date, 10% of municipalities in Ontario have achieved this designation, and are home to over 2/3 of Ontarians. Read more about Belleville in the Intelligencer article here.

Continue reading “Belleville Gains Bicycle Friendly Community Designation”

2017 School Mountain Bike Challenge On May 19

This year’s ‘School Mountain Bike Challenge’ will be held Friday May 19th. Over the 12 years of this annual event, it has demonstrated to be safe and fun for students as well as an inspiration for many.  Why should a student attend this particular event?  The Mountain Bike Challenge offers kids a chance to try a new activity – or challenge friends to try it with them.  It is perfect for a fun or first mountain biking experience.   It is not about results or winning, it is about doing the challenge.  The event has both individual events as well as an optional team event.

The event is held at Limerick Forest, north of Prescott on a course thta’s beginner-friendly and fun for all, yet has challenge for more seasoned riders.  Students as young as 5 have participated.

Since the event has independent insurance a student does not require official school participation to attend.  Many teachers who bring students do not ride themselves, yet they do enjoy introducing their students to this healthy activity.  The volunteers who run the event do not profit from it.

Check out this video from the 2015 event!

Waterloo Region To Pilot Network Of Protected Bike Lanes

 

Herkimer bike lane – Barry Gray, The Hamilton Spectator

(April 5, 2017) Waterloo Region is set to follow the lead of Calgary and Edmonton, giving a big boost to transportation by bike by implementing, all at once, a network of separated/protected bike lanes.  The article in The Record does a nice job of summarizing the pilot project. The report shown in the extract below does a great job of laying out the project rationale and objectives, as well as providing a summary of similar networks in other Canadian cities.

RegionOfWaterlooAgenda20170404

Leeds-Grenville Moves Ahead With Paved Shoulders

(April 4, 2017) In a unanimous vote today, the Committee of the Whole of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville passed the following motion:

THAT the Committee of the Whole recommends consideration of paved shoulders in its award of the 2017 County Road 2 contract for the reconstruction of part of the road between Johnstown and Cardinal; and

THAT staff prepare a full financial analysis of paved shoulders in the upcoming update of the Counties’ Asset Management Plan. 

If followed through, this would bring Leeds Grenville on par with jurisdictions regionally and further afield who have recognized the cost savings and myriad other benefits of paving shoulders on rural roads.

The report that CAO Andy Brown prepared for the Committee lays out the full rationale for the recommendation. An extract of the agenda package, with that report, is attached.

LeedsGrenvilleCmteWhole20170404

In a related motion, the Committee endorsed a call on the province to commit further funding to the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program. Details are in the agenda package above.