By Rachelle Niemela, Chair, Sudbury Cyclists Union
The 2014 Ontario Bike Summit was held on April 14-15th and it was certainly one to talk about. The recap is rather long, but it certainly highlights how the province and other cities are making cycling a real priority. With the threat of an election looming, we will see how much of the initiatives that were unveiled at the Summit will come to fruition. But it’s nevertheless exciting to see that cycling is being considered a priority on the provincial stage.
These yearly summit are organized by the Share the Road Coalition, a provincial cycling advocacy organization which has been advocating for safe cycling in Ontario since 2008.
Share the Road has posted an excellent recap of the activities here. But I’d also like to comment on some of the very interesting things that were said, both by presenters and participants. And those participating weren’t only cyclists or cycling advocates. I talked to city planners, city engineers, and councillors too.
April 14 Opening Keynote Speakers
The opening keynote speaker on Monday, April 14, was Teresa Di Felice, Director, Government & Community Relations and Driver Education, CAA South Central Ontario. This chapter is very invested in safe cycling. They implemented a Watch for bikes campaign in southern Ontario as a response to the many “dooring” incidents in this area, and you’ll see the decals on the side view mirrors of many cabs in Toronto. Along with Share the Road and others, they were also one of the key partners of a successful lobby campaign that resulted in the final version of Ontario’s #CycleON Strategy.
They are also a sponsor of the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure, a ride along the Waterfront Trail, which is a 1400km trail that travels along the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and the Niagara, Detroit and St. Lawrence Rivers.
The CAA also produces how-to videos for basic bike repairs and sponsors the Bicycle Friendly Communities program.
So what’s the CAA doing supporting cycling? Ms. Di Felice’s message was that it’s not about the car vs the bike. She talked about why “car people” are working with “cycling people”, and that their focus is on working together to create the best conditions possible and that it’s “safety first”. It’s about making roads safer for everyone. This may seem to be a radical message from an organization that was founded to service automobile drivers. But the CAA sees some interesting growth opportunities by supporting cycling.
Ms. Di Felice mentioned that the founder of the CAA, Dr. Doolittle, was a cyclist in the 1890’s, and that the CAA embraces “traffic safety, mobility, and consumer protection”.
What does this mean for Sudbury? Individual areas of Ontario are covered by different chapters of the CAA and Sudbury falls under the North and East Ontario chapter, who do not offer the campaigns Ms. Di Felice’s chapter does. Which is unfortunate. The SCU has attempted several times to contact them to see if they can assist us in promoting safe cycling in Sudbury, with no results. However, there may be opportunities moving forward as cycling becomes better supported and promoted Ontario-wide, and I spoke to Ms. Di Felice who is interested in helping move some things forward in Sudbury.
By the way, if you are a CAA member, and you’re stranded on your bike, you can use one of your calls to have them come and help you out. This Bike Assist program is available in Sudbury.
The second keynote speaker was the Honorable Glen Murray, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. He provided an update on the #CycleON strategy and announced new funds for cycling infrastructure. $25M will be allocated over 3 years to new cycling infrastructure, with $10M of that targeted for municipal cycling infrastructure. We’ll be watching closely to see what happens to this initiative if an election is called.
Last year, Share the Road initiated a 1% campaign, asking that 1% of Ontario’s roads budget be allocated to cycling infrastructure. We modeled our 2014 budget request for 1% of our roads budget on this provincial campaign. While the amount is spread over 3 years, and it’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to municipal requirements, it is a start, and an acknowledgement that cycling infrastructure needs to be part of all road construction.
On an aside note, the City of Greater Sudbury just proposed to allocated $2M over 5 years to an item it identified as “Active Transportation”. Part of the dollars will come from development fees. This translates to $400,00 per year, which is slightly above the $380,000 that we request for the 2014 municipal budget. No details have been provided as to how this will be spent, how priorities will be identified, and how expenditures will be tracked.
Some of the key messages that Mr. Murray provided: Everything that Ontario now builds will include cycling designs. He wants cycling to be part of base budgets – that the future is Complete Streets. In the next year, every single Ontario plan, including the Provincial Policy Statement, will include cycling. And the Ministry will be working on getting cycling education in schools.
Mr. Murray also detailed some of the proposed Highway Traffic Act changes that are included in Bill 173 – the Keeping Ontario Roads Safe Act, which includes provisions for safe cycling. More on that later.
Of interest is that Mr. Murray walks the talk. He has “given up his car, has lost over 30 kgs since 2013, and has saved tons of carbon emissions.”
Sudbury politicians and transportation planners need to start listening to what is happening provincially and world-wide. How many of our councillors use sustainable transportation? How many of our councillors know how frustrating it is to take the bus on Sunday? How many cycle? How many walk? We only need to look at my dear friend Fabio Belli to see the results of our current lifestyles.
I especially like this tweet from Mr. Murray: Tim Hudak on reducing congestion: widen the highways. That’s like losing weight by loosening your belt. Doesn’t fix the problem.
We’ll be asking local councillors to take part in this year’s Commuter Challenge June 1 to June 7. Will any of them participate?
Bicycle Friendly Awards
A number of Ontario cities received Bicycle Friendly Community Awards at the Summit. 24 Ontario communities are Bicycle Friendly Communities. But there are none in Northern Ontario.
The Sustainable Mobility Advisory Panel investigated applying a few years ago. But in order to apply, you must demonstrate how you meet the requirements of their “5 E’s”:
– Engineering: Communities are asked about what is on the ground; what has been built to promote cycling in the community.
– Education:The questions in this category are designed to determine the amount of education there is available for both cyclists and motorists
– Encouragement: Questions concentrate on how the community promotes and encourages bicycling.
– Enforcement: The enforcement category contains questions that measure the connections between the cycling and law enforcement communities.
– Evaluation and Planning: Here the community is judged on the systems that they have in place to evaluate current programs and plan for the future.
Conclusion: Sudbury is not yet ready to qualify for the award and has lots of work to do to be in a position to apply. We lack good, connected infrastructure, and there’s no coherent cycling promotion programs at the City. There’s lots of encouragement on the part of various cycling groups, but no one at the City has the responsibility for implementing active transportation programming. Will we be in a better position next year if we adopt and implement a Complete Streets Policy? Will we have an Active Transportation Network plan tied to goals, priorities, and budget? One bright hope is our new Police Chief, Paul Pedersen, who is a triathlete and avid runner; we’ll be trying to connect soon to see what partnerships can be made to promote and enforce safe cycling in Sudbury.
April 14 Luncheon Keynote Speaker
The luncheon and keynote speaker for April 14 was Mayor William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburg, who gave an inspiring talk about how Pittsburgh has evolved from a steel city of the industrial area to a modern city of culture and education. Pittsburgh routinely makes the list of top cities for livability according to Forbes Magazine, the Economist and Businessweek. Mayor Peduto outlined how a walkable and bikeable city ranks significantly on his list of priorities as a critical attribute to attracting investment and people to Pittsburgh. His speech clearly showed how a true leader of Council can make a real difference – something sorely needed in Sudbury.
11 years ago, Pittsburgh was very unfriendly to cyclists. In 2003, it was rated the 5th worst city for cyclists in the U.S. Now there are 70 miles of on-street infrastructure, and 7000 bike parking spaces. By the end of the year, they will be going from 0 to 5 miles of protected bike lanes. Pittsburgh has more hills than San Francisco and more steeper hills than many cities. Their aim is to be one of the top 10 best cycling cities in the U.S.
Mr. Peduto shared some very good advice:
1. Work with others and with allies, allies that go beyond cycling and build a coalition of advocates.
2. Be prepared. Consult with people – people don’t like to just be told what will happen to them and to their neighbourhoods. Ensure that a Complete Streets model is always implemented.
3. Be involved in your community. Be at the table when it comes to elections – you must elect the right people.
Good advice that we can use as we gear up towards our municipal elections in October 2014.
April 15 Plenary Session
On Tuesday, April 15, all participants attended a plenary session “Provincial Initiatives to Support Cycling”, led by Jill Hughes from the Transportation Branch of the Ministry of Transportation. She provided an update on #CycleON’s implementation and reviewed the changes currently proposed in Bill 173, the Safer Roads for Ontario Act.This act is currently in second reading at Queen’s Park, but with the budget now not likely to pass, it will remain to be seen where this proposed legislation will go.
The full act can be found here: Bill 173 – Keeping Ontario Roads Safe Act.
For a summary of the changes, see here: Summary of Changes
The initial draft strategy was released in November 2012, and went to public consultation. The Ministry received over 1,100 submissions with nearly 3,000 comments, which was a major surprise to them. This response was the highest that they had ever experienced when asking for public input on a strategy or plan. In May 2013, the Ministry formed a Minister’s Working Group to revise the strategy based on the directions and feedback from public consultation.
#CycleON’s number 1 goal is that Ontario is recognized as the best Canadian province for cycling and amoung the top 10 jurisdictions worldwide for cycling.
Over 100 action plans came out of the feedback and discussions, which were then incorporated into the Ministry’s proposed action plan. The Ministry worked with 12 partners, including other ministries, to develop the action plan.
Ms Hughes highlighted some key action plans that we assume will be priorities for the Ministry:
#CycleON Strategy 1 – Design healthy, active, and prosperous communities:
– Action 1.2: working with municipalities to implement Provincial Policy Statement – making sure that cycling is integral.
– Action 1.4: working with municipalities to implement provincial active transportation policies. This includes official plans, transportation plans, education programs, planning/engineering research.
#CycleON Strategy 2 – Improve cycling infrastructure
– Action 2.1: a 3-year Ontario Cycling Infrastructure Program to build municipal and provincial infrastructure – criteria coming soon.
– Action 2.2: identify a province-wide cycling network – by 2016 – to identify areas that need improvement – consultation is coming
– Action 2.2 – incorporate design features for cycling and pedestrian facilities in all provincial roads and bridge projects
#CycleON Strategy 3 – Make highways and streets safer
– Action 3.1 – legislation to promote cyclist safety. Result – the new 173 omnibus bill
#CycleON Strategy 4 – Promote cycling awareness and behavioural shifts
– Action 4.1: establish community of interest forum to encourage innovation. will include munipalities
#CycleON Strategy 5:Increase cycling tourism opportunities
– Action 5.1 – identify a province-wide cycling tourism network. Significant project.
– Action 5.2 – invest more than $3.5M in trail development
The next steps are to work on action plans and to determine key principles partnerships. Milestones and performance measures will be established.
The other session of interest was a discussion by members of the All Party Cycling Caucus and Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner.
MPP Mike Colle (Liberal, Eglington-Lawrence), MPP Cheri Dinovo (NDP, Parkdale-High Park) and Mike Schreiner discussed how cycling is supported by their political parties.
Some comments of interest:
Mike Cole: There is currently a paradigm shift happening in Ontario for support of cycling.
Mike Schreiner: Cycling is good for business and good for the economy.
Cheri DiNovo: It’s all about the money. We need more investing in cycling infrastructure.
Cheri DiNovo: We need Complete Streets. We need to involve funding from the provincial and federal levels.
Mike Schreiner: We need a Complete Streets Act. Kids should be walking/biking to school. 95% of kids are driven to school.
Queen’s Park Reception
An MPP reception at Queen’s Park closed the summit. Participants had the opportunity to meet and speak to many MPPs. Frances Gelinas, MPP for Nickel Belt attended, but Rick Bartolucci, MPP for Sudbury, did not.
I was able to chat with Ms. Gelinas, who has always been supportive of cycling. Great to see her again!
The SCU recently sent both Ms. Gelinas and Mr. Bartolucci letters asking for their support of Bill 173. We’ll be watching carefully what happens now that there is the possibility of an election.
Throughout the summit, participants had an opportunity to attend several workshops, and other plenary sessions. A full copy of the agenda is here: Share the Road Agenda
The SCU will be discussing in further depth some of the lessons learned from the workshops that I attended.
Takeaways from the Summit
Quick thoughts on lessons learned through workshops or through chatting with participants:
– While things sound so much rosier in Southern Ontario, there are still many cities in Southern Ontario that are facing the same type of obstructions as we face in Sudbury, namely issues with staff, Council and residents who may not see cycling as a priority.
– It takes leadership at the City level from both Council and management to implement good cycling strategies.
– We need strong, coordinated advocacy campaigns to educate City leaders on the need to implement safe cycling in Sudbury.
– Cycling is becoming more popular everywhere and is for everyone. Times are a changing, and Sudbury will eventually catch up. There is no going back.
Lastly, the SCU will be developing strategies to encourage all municipal candidates to not only support but also champion safe cycling in Sudbury. With the permission of Share the Road, we will be promoting their “I bike, I vote” campaign in Sudbury.
Become involved in promoting safe cycling in Sudbury! Our next meeting is Tuesday, May 6, 7 pm at reThink Green on Larch St. in Sudbury.