By Marina Irick
Amsterdam. Copenhagen. Malmö. Strasbourg. Some of the world’s most bike-friendly cities. Why not add Ottawa and other Canadian cities to the list?
This is one of the questions that advocates at the 2nd National Bike Summit, organized by Vélo Canada Bikes, were asking earlier this week. In fact, they’re calling for a National Cycling Strategy and for greater investment by the federal government in creating cycling infrastructure for all Canadian cities, making it easier and more appealing for Canadians to hop on two wheels to get around.
While I am fortunate that my home and workplace are connected by bike paths along the Rideau Canal, many Ottawans do not have access to safe travel routes. There is a huge need to continue to improve safe cycling in the downtown core, and to provide cycling opportunities for people in rural or remote communities too. Ottawa’s light rail is coming soon and Vélo Canada Bikes wants to make it easy for people to use both bikes and public transit.
What does a National Cycling Strategy look like? According to Vélo Canada Bikes, it involves the creation of a national-level forum to consult, share and develop best practices around cycling transportation. The Strategy would maximize funding from all levels of government and non-profit organizations working to make their communities bike-friendly. It would create a dedicated federal infrastructure fund for active transportation. And, it would set achievable targets and direct Statistics Canada to collect data on cycling.
Consider this: More than 80 per cent of Canadians are tied to their cars, compared to 60-to-65 per cent of cold-climate dwelling Scandanavians. The reason? Sweden, Norway and Finland all have national cycling strategies—and, as a result, they benefit from lower carbon-dioxide emissions per capita.
More than 80 per cent of Canadians are tied to their cars, compared to 60-to-65 per cent of cold-climate dwelling Scandanavians
To wrap up the Summit, more than 200 cyclists gathered on Parliament Hill on Tuesday for “Bike Day on the Hill”, an interprovincial ride. A group of us from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute joined the ride to demonstrate our commitment to healthy, active living. Together, we cycled over the Portage Bridge, along the NCC designated multi-use pathway in Gatineau, and back over the Alexandra Bridge to Wellington Street, returning to Parliament.
According to the organization, Ottawans have a role to play in representing other Canadian cities.
A grassroots non-profit organization based here in Ottawa, Vélo Canada Bikes strives to ensure that Canadians of all ages and abilities can cycle safely in any Canadian community. As Bike-to-Work month wraps up, let’s look towards a future where active transportation is more accessible for everyone, both in Ottawa and across Canada.