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.”
“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.
You’ll soon hear discussion of “Neighbourhood Greenways” in Brockville. In design and function, they fit between off-road trails and complete streets, aimed at providing calm routes through low-traffic neighbourhoods, linking them to each other as well as to busier and more direct thoroughfares (spine/core routes) that need complete streets or protected bikeway treatment. Continue reading “Greenways Link Neighbourhoods”
Here’s a thorough exploration of making cities more livable, from the Knight Foundation, starting from the simple principle of “pedestrians first”. The article explores several pillars: walkability, bikeability, public spaces and public transit – all key to building more vibrant communities. Read more here.
Here’s an interesting perspective on the utility of cycling for short trips of any sort. Great food for thought, especially in a small city like Brockville where point to point trips are invariably less than 5 km. Read more here.
This is a great summary piece that lists fifty different reasons why cities of all sizes need to pay more attention to design that puts people, community and walkability, and moving people in a way that creates interaction, ahead of moving cars. The list covers the gamut from physical and population physical and mental health, to social community, to economic factors. Read more here.
This article from the Sierra Club highlights the social and economic benefits found in neighbourhoods with higher walk scores. “People who could hoof it reported more trust and involvement, and are happier and healthier than those in less walkable neighborhoods.” As well, “A 2009 study by CEOs for Cities found that homes with an above-average Walk Score sold for up to $34,000 more than their no-sidewalk-in-sight counterparts.” That of course raises the issue of social equity. Should people have to pay more to live in a walkable neighbourhood, or should cities be designed to be put community first? Read more (with links to research) here.
A wonderful opinion piece in the Winnipeg Free Press offers some thoughts on that city’s progress in introducing protected bike lanes. The writer captures the backlash from the inevitable anti-laners quite well:
“Change is often slow in Winnipeg, but it is occurring. Wholesale opposition to making Winnipeg streets safer for all users will sound more shrill and intellectually hollow over time, and will soon be clung to by a small number of citizens who are staunchly anti-cycling as a matter of quixotic principle.” Read article here.
“We are all heading on the same path that our grandparents were on. It is an inevitable journey of life. Cycling Without Age reminds us of that relationship with our elders and on our five guiding principles that we abide by.”
“It starts with the simple act of generosity. Give our time to them when they gave us their care and time. There are a lot of stories to be shared through storytelling from our elders, but also from us. They want to listen to us too and through this bridge we form relationships. We take our time, and the act of cycling slowly helps us take in the experience and appreciate it. Without age is the principle of how life does not end at a given age, but instead we can embrace what each generation has to offer through something as simple as cycling.” Read more at their website.
Simply put, an “all ages & abilities” (“AAA”) cycling network is one comprised of high-quality bicycle facilities separated from traffic, or using streets with low vehicle volumes and speeds, to enhance the comfort and safety of those choosing to cycle for purpose or pleasure. An 80 year old with an 8 year old ought to feel comfortable navigating the network together. One of the better descriptions of the facilities used in AAA networks, including protected bike lanes, neighbourhood greenways and off-road trails, is provided on this Victoria BC page: read more here.