The growing popularity of e-bikes is no surprise, given their ability to provide an easy alternative to the car for short trips and to help those wanting to get back on a bike but perhaps not having ridden since they were kids. (Read more here.)
In Ontario however, one of our stumbling blocks has been the omnibus classification of “e-bike” that encompasses both heavier scooter/moped styles as well as the more bicycle-like pedelec style. The common classification for two distinct styles is causing confusion as municipalities try to figure out which vehicles are appropriate to use on various facilities. Clarification is coming – MTO has committed to review and update the classifications as part of Action Plan 2.0 of the Ontario Cycling Strategy. For more information, see Share the Road’s article here.
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.
A new survey by Nanos Research for Share the Road adds to the trend in earlier robust research showing continued and strong public support for improving cycling in Ontario. The majority agree that getting more people riding bikes benefits everyone, that public funding should be used to improve cycling infrastructure, that investments in cycling are important for public health, and more.
One note of interest in this survey is the support for cycling’s impact on social equity, with the majority strongly or somewhat agreeing with the statement, “Cycling isn’t just about recreation, it’s about equality. For many individuals transportation costs are a major financial burden. If someone’s only or best way to get to work or go shopping is a bike, they should have the option to ride their bike and ride it in safety. That’s a good reason for the provincial government to promote cycling in Ontario.”
Of no surprise is the continued finding that roughly half of those surveyed thought negatively about the behaviour of those driving, and half of those surveyed thought negatively about the behaviour of those cycling. This aligns with other research showing that those cycling and those driving float the law in about equal numbers.
The full presentation and report makes for interesting reading and adds to the body of evidence showing general public support to improve cycling in the province. For further information and links to download this and previous research, read more here.
Methodology: Nanos conducted an online survey of 1,004 Ontarians, 18 years of age or older, between April 5th and 10th, 2018. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Ontario. The research was commissioned by Share the Road Cycling Coalition and was conducted by Nanos.
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.
“There have been big jumps over the last two decades in the number of Canadians cycling and taking transit to work, while the increase in car commuting, which remains the method used by most people, lagged behind the rate of population growth in major centres.
The new numbers are part of a release of census data that paints a picture of a country that is gradually changing how it gets around.”
Those of us who live in slow-starter small cities rely on the larger cities and their deeper resources to figure out what works really well and what doesn’t, and to measure and publish their results. Cities like Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and others have all got great stories to tell. In this short article, New York City’s Department of Transportation summarizes the results of a multi-year investment in cycling facilities, revealing some stunning yet not surprising numbers over a five-year period, including a 50% increase in regular cyclists and an 80% increase in cycle commuting.
Read the article here, or download the report PDF here.
Eight national health organizations are calling on the federal government to develop and implement an active transportation strategy for Canada, citing research that links moderate amounts of exercise woven into the activities of daily living with significant reductions in the instance and severity of several chronic diseases and their associated healthcare costs. Read the article here.
Much has been written about the need to design cycling facilities that serve the majority of people, those who are “interested yet concerned”. This cohort represents the majority, those who are quite willing to use a bicycle more often for everyday activities, yet are dissuaded by safety concerns. Designing to this cohort’s needs led to the adoption of protected lanes as the default wherever possible. And indeed, the largest uptakes in cycling activity occur with the implementation of protected lanes.
In Ontario, survey results have yielded the same outcomes and MTO has embedded the findings as part of their design guidelines in the Ontario Traffic Manual (OTM Book 18 – Cycling Facilities). Available here (large PDF download).
From the Alberta Centre for Active Living comes an updated summary of the diverse and many benefits of active transportation. It’s current, evidence based and complete with references to source case studies and research. Read and/or download below.
As Doctors for Safe Cycling point out in this recent article in the Toronto Star, “Cycling is very effective in promoting good physical and mental health, and it’s infrastructure like protected lanes that makes widespread bike use possible.”
StatsCan reports that fully 41% of Canadians over the age of 12 are at least occasional cyclists now, and cites the evidence that, “The health benefits of physical activity, including cycling, are widely recognized. In an era when nearly a third of children and youth and just under two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese, cycling for leisure or transport is a valuable form of exercise. Cycling is also good for the environment ― commuting by bicycle helps to alleviate road congestion and noise pollution and reduces emissions.”
It’s time for Brockville to join the 21st century and work to become bicycle friendly. There will always be naysayers and NIMBYs who fight to keep streets unsafe, children at risk and property values depressed, but it’s time to move ahead and create a better Brockville.
Just published by New York City’s Department of Transportation is a comprehensive study and analysis of 20 years worth of cycling data. Adding to and reinforcing similar studies in other large North American cities, this study confirms both the “safety in numbers” effect as well as the risk reductions of well-designed cycling infrastructure.
The telling metric is “KSI” – the number of cyclists killed or severely injured in traffic. In a nutshell, cycling numbers grew by 162% while KSI dropped by nearly half. Said another way, the rate of KSI/100 million trips dropped from 1,072 to 292, a decline of 73%. Notably, only 11% of KSI occur on roads with cycling facilities.
The lessons learned in NYC add to the body of evidence showing that:
the implementation of cycling facilities, especially protected facilities, dramatically reduces risks to those cycling.
the the reduction of risk is both real and, more importantly, perceived, which in turn encourages large growth in cycling from the “interested but concerned” cohort.
Higher numbers of people on bicycles induces a “safety in numbers” effect due to aggregate visibility and overall traffic calming.
Small cities simply don’t have the frequency of incidents and populations to do meaningful studies like this. Yet, we can learn from these lessons shown repeatedly in larger centres.
Two recent articles on walk-friendly communities made recent note. The first is a CBC piece on Sudbury’s progress toward becoming walk-friendly, with development on several fronts. As Sudbury’s active transportation coordinator says, “We know younger generations are driving less, and there’s more interest in living a sustainable lifestyle. So I do believe it’s to the city’s benefit to invest in cycling and walking, to attract people to come here, live here, work here and start families here.” Read that article here.
A second article, from Public Health Ontario, highlights a recently published study that investigated the health benefits of integrating walking into everyday activity. This isn’t the first study in this area and it won’t be the last as the evidence continues to mount that designing walkability into our urban landscape results in healthier lifestyles. Of course, that in turn reduces future healthcare costs. “In this age group [30-44], people in the most walkable neighbourhoods averaged almost 15 minutes per day more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity than people in the least walkable neighbourhoods.” Read that article here.
An article in the Guardian prompts with the provocative headline, “Street wars 2035: can cyclists and driverless cars ever co-exist?” However, in a more measured tone the article goes on to explore the challenges of designing systems for driverless vehicles that allow them to coexist safely with the unpredictability of people moving more naturally – walking, cycling, skateboarding, running, or those using using mobility-assist devices. Continue reading “Driverless vehicles vs people”
In this column from the Montréal Gazette, columnist Andy Riga interviews Dale Bracewell, Vancouver transportation planner, on that city’s strategic approach to focus on building quality cycling infrastructure that serves All Ages & Abilities (AAA) rather than just putting in kilometres of facilities that do not encourage the widest diversity of people to get out and bike more often.
The key to encouraging riders from 8 to 80, rookies to hardcore, inexperienced to confident, is the containment of motorized vehicles so that cycling traffic is separated. See the photo above, from the city of Vancouver, for a typical spectrum of cycling facilities from least to most encouraging.
As Dale says, “We were having some success with cycling but we were really still serving the person who already was choosing to cycle. Now we’re designing for children, for seniors, for new people cycling, for bike-share users.
It really shifted the way we approach cycling infrastructure. We’re not delivering as many bike-lane kilometres as we’re used to or compared to cities like Montreal. Now, as best we can, we design for people to be able to ride with their kids, or for a senior who still cycles or wants to, and for a person new to cycling.”
“A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health has concluded that physical separation from motor traffic is “crucial” to reducing the higher than average cyclist injury rates seen across the U.S.”
“In an leading editorial to sit alongside the deeper study, the authors write: ‘bicycle infrastructure can indeed help improve cycling safety and increase cycling levels. That is clearly demonstrated by decades of evidence from Europe, by the 10 US cities listed in Table 1 (below), and by the article on Boston by Pedroso et al. However, the type and quality of bicycle infrastructure matter as well. It is crucial to provide physical separation from fast-moving, high-volume motor vehicle traffic and better intersection design to avoid conflicts between cyclists and motor vehicles. More and better bicycle infrastructure and safer cycling would encourage Americans to make more of their daily trips by bicycle and, thus, help raise the currently low physical activity levels of the US population.'” Read the article here.
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.
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.
“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.
CAPE‘s recently published Active Travel Toolkit contains a concise, current and evidence-based summary of the wide-ranging benefits to be harvested from greater uptake of active mobility, ranging from improved mental and physical health (and lower care costs), to social equity, to the environment, to more resilient communities. This short paper is well worth downloading and understanding. Download here (pdf).