A dozen weeks ago Brockville City Council voted to turn a long history of unfulfilled promises into a commitment to develop an active transportation plan. That initiated a contract with MTO to receive $183,000 of funding for cycling projects on the condition that the city develop and approve an active transportation plan. The city also entered into a $60,000 contract with an engineering consulting firm to lead the development of that plan, with $48,000 of the cost coming from the provincial grant and $12,000 of city capital earmarked for the cycling advisory committee’s projects.
There were many good reasons for undertaking this approach, all discussed at that council meeting. One of the factors was the opportunity to tap a subsequent three years of provincial cycling funding, an opportunity killed by the incoming provincial government. At a recent meeting of the Finance, Administration & Operations standing committee, committee members overrode Council’s decision by asking that a hold be put on the process of developing the active transportation plan.
As a reminder to council candidates for the upcoming municipal election, there are many good reasons for developing and implementing an active transportation plan. While the benefits of becoming more bike and walk friendly are widely understood, accepted and in evidence everywhere, the benefits of going through the process of developing the plan are often overlooked. With that in mind, here’s a brief summary of “A Dozen Good Reasons For Developing An Active Transportation Plan”.
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A recent article in treehugger.com describes and links to two recently published massive studies that once again confirm and add to the body of evidence that cycling is the healthiest way to get around and that investing in ways to encourage and allow more people to make the choice to ride a bike more often yields a large payback to society.
While we’ve posted several articles on walkability and its benefits (most recently for example here, here, and here), it remains difficult for many to describe just what a more walk-friendly community would look like and feel like. Here’s an article that describes walkability in terms of safety/risk, distances, convenience, and comfort. In addition to obvious risk mitigation measures like additional formal pedestrian crossings in Brockville, the article reasonably describes the sort of consideration that would go into the formulation of an active transportation plan for our city.
Just as homeowners in residential areas benefit from quieter, family-friendlier streets and improved property values when streets are upgraded with bike lanes, the evidence is clear in case studies from across the continent that when streets through business districts are upgraded with bike lanes, then retail benefits big time, even though parking patterns may change.
“When faced with the prospect of losing some on-street parking outside a local business, it completely makes sense for business owners to be concerned about the impact on their customer base. But the on-the-ground evidence as well as nationwide data paints a very different picture. Rest assured that, if bike lanes are coming to your street and some parking spaces are disappearing in the process, local businesses shouldn’t see losses in profit. In fact, they’re likely to see gains.”
Think how downtown Brockville could benefit from wider sidewalks, bike lanes, more people traffic and more foot traffic through stores.
For those who like to follow what’s happening in the leading, larger cities for practices that can be applied in places that are smaller and/or lagging way behind, there’s always lots to learn from Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montréal. Vancouver’s journey has perhaps been the most successful across a broad set of measures. Fully 50% of trips in the City of Vancouver are made by bike, on foot, or by transit. A few notable highlights are captured in the images and you can read more here.
In his paper, “Mobility and Innovation: the New Transportation Paradigm”, Todd Litman, founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, explores the economic, social and health imperatives behind the radical shifts in transportation policy and practices sweeping the developed world.
Recognizing that the major transportation innovations of the last few decades don’t help us get to places faster but instead more cheaply, more conveniently, and more safely, the author then notes that, “The human experience is increasingly urban. Cities are, by definition, places where many people and activities locate close together. This proximity facilitates positive interactions, both planned (accessing shops, services, jobs and entertainment) and unplanned (encountering old friends while walking on the street or riding in a bus, or seeing interesting products in a store window). As a result, urban living tends to increase our productivity and creativity, a phenomenon known as economies of agglomeration.”
That very process of agglomeration however, traditionally built around the automobile, spawns challenges of congestion, cost, pollution and declining health. The author then fully explores the dynamics of the new transportation and planning paradigms that have taken hold over the last decade, more focused on putting people first, and allowing people to move and interact conveniently, comfortably, and safely.
It’s a fascinating “big picture” read which you can find here.
“The evidence for why we should actively transport ourselves in the city is mounting, but there are some technicalities to work out. You want to get yourself around under your own steam, but where do you start? It can seem a bit daunting to change habits and possibly routes. Thankfully, we live in an era with lots of tools at our fingertips that can help us out.” And with that, a blogger from Calgary explains how she adopted more active ways of getting around the city with her kids and integrated that activity into everyday life. Read more here.
For a more complete how-to as you plan your transition to having more fun every day by walking and biking, check out Vélo Québec’s “ABC’s of Active Transportation“.
As more cities try to improve walkability–from car-free “superblocks” in Barcelona to heat-protected walkways in Dubai–a new report outlines the reasons behind the shift, the actions that cities can take to move away from a car-centric world, and why walkability matters. Read more here.
It’s Spring, and with Spring comes the annual round of Bike Summits to rejuvenate and re-stoke our interest in working for public roads that better serve the needs of the general public.
All of the summits draw elected representatives, professionals, advocates and other interested parties from public works, transportation, planning, consulting, economic development, education, tourism, recreation and other disciplines together.
Another great article from Strong Towns highlighting the clear economic benefits of streets that are walkable — that feel safe, encourage people to walk and mingle, and provide retailers and other businesses with walk-in traffic. Read more here.
The linked article nicely summarizes the individual and population health benefits accruing from introducing even moderate amounts of cycling into everyday travel. On a population basis, it’s no surprise that every $1 invested in cycling facilities that encourage more people to ride more often results in health care cost reductions of $3 – $20 per annum down the road. Read more here.
Here’s a great article from AARP exploring all the ways that communities benefit from becoming more bike friendly – for those who don’t ride (yet). Not surprisingly, the benefits go well beyond, “the bike beside you is a car that isn’t”. Read article here.
Amidst the myriad benefits from active transportation projects, the job creation benefit to the local economy is often overlooked. Two major grants for Brockville, both arising from the cycling advisory committee, illustrate this.
In 2016, Brockville was awarded $325,000 in the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program. Those funds, matched by an equal amount from the City, other grants, donations and in-kind, are being used to complete the Laurier-Centennial and “401 corridor” extensions of the Brock Trail.
The OMCCP grant is the first in a committed four-year stream. The amount of $183,362 for 2018 can be used to cover 2/3 of qualified projects, the first of which will be the development of an active transportation plan for Brockville.
Of economic note, apart from the other benefits that the project deliverables provide to the community, the two grants themselves, when the required matching from other sources is included, total $925,000. That is money all spent into our local economy, creating the equivalent of approximately 18.5 fulltime job-years. Park that on Laurier!
Brockville’s official plan, like any other, declares that public roads exist to move people and goods.
A current and comprehensive transportation plan, which Brockville does not have, would then go on to stipulate the relative priority given to different modes of transportation and then go into some detail on the current and future transportation network of the city. Cities usually define the modal priorities as pedestrians, then cyclists, then transit, with private automobiles last.
The linked article describes how the city of London England has greatly improved the overall efficiency of their transportation system by designing and implementing roadways that match their priorities. This includes designated bicycle highways as well as facilities on shared roads. When people are offered choices they perceived to be viable as well as safe then more rational outcomes result.
In London, the result is a system in which cycling proves to be five times more efficient than driving, without even considering the associated health and environmental benefits.
The City of Vernon, BC, population 40,000, easily exceeds Brockville in terms of the pickup truck centric lifestyle core to a large cohort of residents. Yet despite that, Vernon’s city council and staff understand the economic development and other benefits as they join the competition to “create more livable and desirable communities”. Like Brockville, they’re a long way from being walk and bike friendly; however, they are on the path. Read more here.
There seems to be no end of articles highlighting the economic boost that small towns gain when they consciously attract and serve the growing cycle tourism sector. There are lots of case studies right here in Ontario, accompanied by compelling research published by Ontario By Bike, to back up the claims. Sometimes though, it’s nice just to read about small-town success stories and find ideas that can be adapted and adopted for local benefit. This is one such article, which you can read here.
“Are Bike Lanes Good for Traffic?” is the title, yet the article is really a wide-ranging description of the progress being made everywhere as public roads are transformed to be safer for moving people regardless of choice of transportation. It was published in autotrader.ca and serves to both illuminate and describe the variety of approaches, designs, and social factors brought into play as roads built first for cars are now reshaped to serve moving people. Read the article here.