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”.
At it’s regular monthly meeting today, Brockville’s “Finance Admin, Operations” standing committee received an update from John Taylor, chair of the Brock Trail committee, reviewing progress to date in completing the trail. While there is lots of work left to do, progress is significant, as anyone walking or rolling around town knows. Of special note, for every $1 spent by the city, the Brock Trail committee has raised an additional $2.46 from grants, donations, and in-kind. To date, expenditures total approximately $1.4million, the equivalent of 28 “jobs created” (a.k.a. “FTE-years”) as tallied by economic programs. The update is attached below.
At it’s regular monthly meeting today, Brockville’s “Finance Admin, Operations” standing committee passed, unanimously and without discussion, a motion enabling the City to apply to participate in the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program (OMCCP), and to develop an active transportation plan as the first project. The cycling advisory committee passed motions last week endorsing this action. Today’s item goes to full Council next week as part of the consent agenda. The report to FAO/Council is below:
At its next meeting on July 13th, it’s expected that the City’s cycling advisory committee will pass motions endorsing Brockville’s application to participate in the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program, and recommending development of a cycling master plan for the City.
(May 29, 2017) The “Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program” (OMCCP) was announced today, deepening the province’s commitment to making it easier for commuters and families to get around by bike. In this year’s tranche of the multi-year program, the province is investing $50 million from its carbon market to fund this and other new initiatives that support commuter cycling infrastructure. The OMCCP will provide eligible municipalities with funding to build more bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure, or enhance existing infrastructure. This investment will help promote safety for cyclists and make cycling more comfortable and appealing for daily commutes and other frequent trips.
Of note for Brockville:
Only municipalities with a current cycling plan are eligible. Brockville does not have a current transportation plan, active transportation plan, or cycling plan. These were committed in the Official Plan, yet motions to move them forward have been defeated more than once at Council.
OMCC program funding may be used to develop a cycling plan, with up to 80% of the cost covered.
OMCC program funding may be used to develop cycling facilities, with up to 80% of the cost covered.
Program applications are open June 5th, with a deadline of August 18th.
This program is a follow-on to the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program under which Brockville is receiving $325,000 for projects currently underway. (Read here)
See the Ontario announcement here.
See OMCCP details here.
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.
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.”
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.
Brockville City Council carried the first of two motions in a report from staff and the cycling committee, “THAT bicycle parking corrals be added to the Water Street parking lot, Hardy Park, Rotary Park, St. Lawrence Park and Memorial Park”.
Last week the city’s ongoing move into the 21st century with active transportation planning garnered two articles in the Recorder Times and one opinion piece that somewhat incorrectly characterized an update to Council’s Finance, Admin, Ops Committee. We all understand that the Recorder’s customers are advertisers, our eyeballs are the product, and stirring minority displeasure into major controversy is trade practice.
So that you can form your own opinion, with kind permission from Cogeco TV Brockville, here is a link to the particular recorded segment of the committee proceedings. BCAC at FAO, May 17, 2016 (streaming MP4 video file). (20 minutes total)
While the Brockville Cycling Advisory Committee (BCAC) has regularly informed Council and senior staff of the rapid adoption of active transportation plans and on-the-ground implementation in centres across North America and here in Ontario, many residents may not be as aware of the issues and trends. Many residents may also not be fully aware of the commitments Council has made to active transportation over the last few years. Watch for a series of posts summarizing “frequently asked questions”, to be posted over the next several days. Some of the questions to be addressed include: Continue reading “Cycling plan FAQs”