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.
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 this piece from Strong Towns articulates, there is much to be gained from better and more productively engaging youth in community building, and ensuring their voice is heard. In our old-style local newspaper the few vocal “angry old folks” tend to dominate the reporting of new developments , after all they provide easy click bait fodder. What’s missing is the voice of youth – especially the young professionals – who tend to have a fairly clear picture of the kind of community in which they would like to live and create jobs. And in some key respects that isn’t the kind of community the fading generation would fight to preserve.
“Talent attraction and retention are buzzwords that we’re hearing all around the world right now. Communities are shifting their mindsets as they’ve come to realize that young people pick places before they pick jobs. They pick amenities over low property taxes. They pick walkability and quality public transportation over a confluence of interstate highways”
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.
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!
Ontario’s momentum toward becoming a more bicycle-friendly province took a big step forward today with the announcement of funding details in the first year’s tranche of the Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling Program (OMCCP). Brockville’s grant for 2018 will be $183,362.
“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.”
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.
The municipal leaders in this video understand the health and social benefits of parks and trails, as well as their direct contribution to economic development – attracting and retaining businesses, talent and families.
The Ottawa Valley region is one among many in Ontario tapping into the successful and growing cycle tourism sector. Their latest investment is route maps: “The cycling map can be used as a tool to draw cyclists from outside of the region to the area, which will support tourism in the area.”
Ask your favourite local/regional councilor why we’re not actively chasing this proven opportunity.
“Community green spaces are where communities come together to meet, talk and play – it’s where people find common ground and connect.
According to the new TD GreenSights Report, the majority of Canadians – 95 per cent – believe that access to community green space will be important to their quality of life in the future. However, there is room for improvement: three-quarters (77 per cent) say the green space closest to their home could be better.”
The report provides insights and a strong case for keeping our more natural green spaces undeveloped – spaces like St Lawrence Park, the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area, and the Brock Trail linking them.
Sometimes the relentless flood of evidence in research and case studies, all showing the overwhelming positive bottom line and growth of cycle tourism is, well, overwhelming. It can seem cold and analytic, which it needs to be.
Yet local stories inspire and provide context, which is also important, especially in small towns and conservative rural areas.
“Bicycle tourism has an unexpected and humble ability to prop up small economies. And it is those small-but-lasting impacts that we want communities to expect and believe in, and then build from.”
Andre Picards’ opinion piece in the Globe and Mail summarizes quite nicely several years of research and case studies on the economic and health benefits of designing cities to be more walkable. His short and insightful piece summarizes our current state well: “Walking has to become a lever for social change, big and small – for everything from healthier neighbourhoods to a more sustainable planet – and walkability needs to be imbued into the DNA of urban planning.” Read the article 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.