Revitalizing Toronto’s Streets

In recent years cyclists and pedestrians have been clamouring for more space for themselves on Toronto’s streets. (RANDY RISLING / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)

“Cities are their streets. Great cities are those with great streets. Other things matter, of course — parks, buildings, transit — but it’s streets that bring a city to life, that make it a place people choose to live, visit, work, play . . .” Click through here to see a wonderful piece on how Toronto’s streets are coming alive as they’re reclaimed to put people first.

Ontario Becomes First “Complete Streets” Province

Churchill Ave in Ottawa – an award winning complete streets project

The updated Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe was released on May 18, 2017 and comes into effect July 1, 2017. (View or download here.) Significant new policy statements embedded in the update require that all road projects for new and renovated facilities will follow complete streets guidelines, and that active transportation is prioritized over private automobiles. Continue reading “Ontario Becomes First “Complete Streets” Province”

The Bicycle Turns 200…

CC BY-SA 2.0 Jasiel Azevedo

As the invention of the bicycle passes its 200th anniversary, this article reflects on the climate change of that time which partially spurred the development as a practical means of transport. In today’s world, transportation paradigms are changing as fast as the climate, with the humble bicycle playing an an integral role. Read more here.

CAPE Supports National Cycling Strategy

CAPE, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, has provided an extensive article on their website outlining their endorsement of a national cycling strategy for the diverse and far-reaching benefits that a more bicycle friendly Canada would provide for all. Read more here.

“A National Cycling Strategy is the holy grail of public health; the public policy the serves many public health goals with one investment. It is an investment that will pay for itself many times over in health care savings alone.”

Towards a Bike-Friendly Canada: A National Cycling Strategy Overview

Crossing Laurier Ave in Ottawa – Photo: Hans Moor

Many municipalities and a few provinces across Canada have made solid gains towards making cycling on public roads is a safe and convenient choice for getting around. Progress is also being made towards a national cycling strategy that would provide both opportunities and consistency in guidelines and funding. Canada Bikes is the national nonprofit organization leading this charge. Working with stakeholder organizations across the country, they have developed a primer called  Towards a Bike-Friendly Canada: A National Cycling Strategy Overview (pdf). That and more is on the Canada Bikes website.

“The document is inspired by long-established frameworks already in place in the most advanced and successful bike-friendly countries in the world. We hope you find it helpful in describing what a national cycling strategy could do for Canada and for all of us.”

Public Places: for People or for Parking?

photo from Momentum Mag

Great idea: Rethinking parking – From coast to coast and in middle America, more sensible parking policies are taking hold and may be the quickest path to urban revitalization.

CNU’s “Public Square” editor Robert Steuteville interviewed Donald Shoup, UCLA professor and author of The High Cost of Free Parking, and Jeffrey Tumlin, director of strategy for Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, transportation planners and engineers, on how new ways of thinking about parking are transforming the American landscape.

This wide-ranging interview describes how required provisions for automobile parking have shaped urban areas, especially downtowns, in ways that discourage and defeat walkability. Many examples serve to illustrate this quickly disappearing paradigm. The interviewees also highlight the rapidly increasing number of municipalities that are removing minimum parking requirements from zoning bylaws, and the upsurge in urban revitalization that follows.

In Canada, some cities are following suit in removing parking minimums, most notably around transit hubs. A discussion about removing parking minimums from developments around the downtown and waterfront area in Brockville could be of local benefit especially if coupled with a parking garage that would provide the convenience of “park once then walk”.

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Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is a US nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago and Washington.
“The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) helps create vibrant and walkable cities, towns, and neighborhoods where people have diverse choices for how they live, work, shop, and get around. People want to live in well-designed places that are unique and authentic. CNU’s mission is to help build those places.”

Serving “invisible cyclists” too

In our community of Brockville, like most cities, especially post-industrial centres struggling to rebuild, we have a socio-demographic cohort of those living with low income. These are the “invisible cyclists”, those for whom walking and cycling is a necessity rather than a choice. For various reasons they often don’t have an opportunity to participate in surveys, attend public information sessions, or have their voices heard in forums discussing better choices in safely getting around town for work, school, shopping and appointments.

Invisible cyclists don’t travel in packs, wearing brightly coloured Lycra outfits. They likely aren’t seen leisurely cruising the Brock Trail either. Rather, they are to be found at dusk or dawn, often on a cast-off bike, headed to or from work. Or coming home from shopping, or a few bags of groceries hung from the handlebars. Easy transportation and the ability to carry packages is an often overlooked yet simple factor in food equity.

One of the considerations in designing a network of cycling routes is that it be safe, convenient, and easily navigable by those of All Ages & Abilities. A cycling network that includes as key destinations workplaces, grocery stores, pharmacies, schools and so on helps to serve invisible cyclists.

Designing for “everyday cycling”, one of the design principles of Brockville’s nascent network, is an important aspect of supporting social equity that must not be overlooked.

Other cycling-related approaches which address social inequity around basic transportation could include installing a small bike share with four or five bikes at Community Hub locations, providing an easier way to get to and from the grocery store than walking. Another common approach is supporting the establishment and operation of a bike repair co-op or a “bicycle recycle” shop.

For a great article on invisible bikers, read here.
For a deeper, evidence-based exploration of how social equity factors into the benefits and challenges of active transportation, see this paper (pdf) from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

How Your Suburb Can Make You Healthier

photo from Momentum Mag

Communities across the continent are realizing the health, social, and economic benefits of designing neighbourhoods and cities, large and small, that encourage people to move themselves more often. This article explores the changes that are underway as paradigms continue to shift rapidly, and how different designs meet the needs of different types of activities. One compelling aspect of this article is the emphasis placed on the need for changes in thinking with respect to zoning, community design and political will. Read more here.

Our Unsustainable Automobile-Centric Economy Is Cracking

Stuck “in” traffic? You are traffic!

An insightful academic piece published by the World Economic Forum explores the failing economy of our automobile centric lifestyle. The average private automobile in Canada costs $9,000 per year to own and operate and sits idle 95% of the time, and in Brockville carries 1.1 people on average. Our infatuation with automobiles kills people at the same time as it is killing our planet, and the author contends we are on the cusp of massive changes.

Continue reading “Our Unsustainable Automobile-Centric Economy Is Cracking”

Bicycles’ Role In The Transportation Revolution

Here’s an interesting opinion piece from CNN’s Money editors exploring the role that bicycles are playing in the disruption of the transportation industry. In particular the author contends that fleets of shared e-bikes will disproportionately displace the use of automobiles in urban areas, noting that that already in many dense urban areas getting around by bike is faster than driving. Read more here.

Bike Friendly Communities More Age Friendly

An article published by the AARP under their “Livable Communities – Great Places for All Ages” banner enumerates ten ways that bicycle friendly communities are good for everyone. Yes, even those who may never get on a bike. While this may be yet another great summary of the ever-mounting evidence in support of the social, health and economic benefits, it goes a step further by linking the benefits to making a city more age friendly. Brockville, a city that to date has failed to be designated as bike friendly, walk friendly, age friendly or youth friendly could use some of this common sense. Read the article here.

Belleville Continues To Outpace Other Small Cities

Belleville Counc Egerton Boyce, photo by Jason Miller, Intelligencer 2017

As reported previously here, Belleville is a recent recipient of Share The Road’s “Bicycle Friendly Community” designation. This city of 49,000, divided like Brockville by the 401 and railroads, has a city council that understands and supports the economic business case for making the city more walk and bike friendly. The cycling facilities in their active transportation plan are being implemented at a quick pace. An article in the Intelligencer describes the current activity underway and the support that the plan is receiving. Also of note is the environmental study conducted for the city by their regional Health Unit. Among other things it is one of the few studies that has used the World Health Organization’s economic modelling to quantify and monetize the health benefits of small numbers of increased cyclists and activity in a small city.

Read the Intelligencer article here.
The Health Unit’s study can be found here (pdf).

Brockville Moves Closer To North-End Cycling Network

Click to enlarge

The Brockville cycling advisory committee, at its regular meeting in City Hall on Thursday May 10th at 5 p.m., will review the outcome of discussions for a holistic view of the cycling network that best fits Brockville’s neighbourhoods north of the 401. For background, please see the Brockville FAQs postings, including the report (pdf) unanimously approved by City Council in December 2015, and a revised work plan for the northern part of the cycling network later adopted by the committee.

As a gentle reminder, the cycling advisory committee is a formal Committee of Council that was established by unanimous vote of Council late in 2010. The committee’s terms of reference mandate that it advise Council and staff on ways to fulfill the commitments Council has made to residents through the Official Plan and other programs.

A brief history and context as well as a full discussion of the north-end cycling network is provided in the PDF document below, which is part of the agenda package for next week’s meeting. Anyone wishing to help support the committee in moving this forward is invited to attend the meeting, or contact them [this author will pass along messages].

BCAC CycleNet Discussion Paper, May 2017

4th Annual Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit

Save the date! The 4th annual Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summary will take place in Carleton Place on May 31st and June 1st. This annual event is a great place to learn about what’s happening in active transportation across the province and here in our region. Of special note this year is the number of significant provincial announcements including the provincial cycling network, the provincial cycle tourism strategy, a five-year commitment of provincial funding for cycling infrastructure and more.

Perhaps you’re a downtown business person, who wants to discover the economic potential of pedestrian and cycle friendly communities? Or a town planner, or staff person, wanting to learn best practice techniques for building a healthier town? Maybe you’re a resident that wants to be able to get around your community more easily and safely, on foot or on a bike. Come learn about simple concepts that make towns healthier, more vibrant, and stronger economically.

See here for more details including the agenda as it gets finalized.

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.

 

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.

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