Lessons Learned from the Ontario Bike Summit 2018
I had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Bike Summit in April as a representative of London Cycle Link and wanted to share some of the things I learned with decision-makers and cycling advocates in London.
Encouraging more people to ride bicycles is a uniform desire for Ontario municipalities and the province as a whole. It was stated by the Minister of Transportation, Kathryn McGarry, that a 10% increase in physical activity equals a decrease of $150 million in health care spending per year in Ontario. More people riding bikes improves public health and the associated health care costs dramatically.
The people of Ontario are eager to ride more as well – in a geographically representative survey of Ontario, 32% of respondents would like to cycle to work. Would like to is different than choosing to and the major barrier to seeing more riders is the fear of riding in traffic.
The solution is simple. Separate people on bikes from vehicles with physical barriers and people will ride more. In a survey of GO Transit commuters, 90% said they would be comfortable biking in a protected bike lane (cycle track). The results of recent infrastructure improvements in Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton also tell a similar tale. The Bloor Street cycle tracks in Toronto saw 49% more cyclists in its first year (City of Toronto, 2017). The Cannon Street cycle track in Hamilton saw a 68% increase in ridership from its first year to its third year (Bender, 2018). The increase of people biking on Laurier Avenue in Ottawa is up 330% in the five years it has been open (City of Ottawa, 2016). People will bike more if they perceive their journey to be safe.
The amount of cycle tracks being implemented in Ontario is increasing rapidly as more and more successes are had. Toronto has cycle tracks on Sherbourne (2012), Richmond (2014), Adelaide (2014), Bloor (2016), and River (2017); Hamilton opened the Cannon cycle tracks in 2014 and the Bay cycle tracks in 2017; Ottawa has cycle tracks on Laurier (2011), Churchill (2014), and Mackenzie (2017); and London will celebrate its first cycle track on Colborne this week. These are just a sampling of cities in Ontario who are taking the lead on making our streets safer.
There are many municipalities who are being rewarded for their introduction of good cycling infrastructure. Increases in the number of people biking means healthier, wealthier, and more equitable communities and also means provincial recognition. Waterloo was given a Gold Bicycle Friendly Community Award this year to join Ottawa and Toronto as the leading cycling cities in our province.
Attending the Ontario Bike Summit made me hopeful for a future Ontario where people who ride bikes have safe access to whole cities and the entire province. London should act now to improve the safety of our streets by implementing a network of cycle tracks that will result in a dramatic shift in how Londoners move around our city.
Bender, D. (2018). Cannon Street Bi-Directional Cycle Track Pilot Project (PED 18136). City of Hamilton, Planning and Economic Development. Hamilton: City of Hamilton. Retrieved from https://pub-hamilton.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=155977.
City of Ottawa. (2016). History of Ottawa’s first Segregated Bike Lane. Retrieved from City of Ottawa: https://ottawa.ca/en/residents/transportation-and-parking/cycling/cycling-planning/completed-projects/history-ottawas-first-segregated-bike-lane
City of Toronto (2017). Bloor Street Bike Lanes. Retrieved from City of Toronto: https://www.toronto.ca/services-[ayments/streets-parking-transportation/cycling-in-toronto/cycle-track-projects/bloor-street-bike-lanes/