Cities need to encourage cycling with 10 easy steps, report finds

Cities need to do more to make cycling a viable transportation option for Canadians, a new study suggests.

The report, Increasing Cycling in Canada: A Guide to What Works, provides municipalities with 10 courses of action to get people on bikes.

Over a span of 10 years, the Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) monitored biking across the country.

Principal investigator Beth Savan from the University of Toronto says more people started opting for bikes over that time and it’s not just in larger cities, but in smaller communities like Niagara Falls, Ont., Saskatoon and Kelowna, B. C. as well.

“I think what that means is that with a very determined municipal council, plan and policy on encouraging cycling, it can be made very attractive for many people in the population,” said Savan.

She says the full report will be given to city councils across the country.

Weather is a key issue

Making cycling attractive to residents is just one of the 10 recommendations the report. Others include encouraging cycling in all stages of life, identifying areas for potential bike paths, making streets safer and addressing geographical challenges like hills and weather.

Addressing issues like snow and rain is something that cycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick says isn’t talked about enough.

“Montreal, they still have a huge ridership in the winter,” she told CBC News.

“Toronto’s winter ridership is definitely increasing every year as we’ve begun to try to properly clear key cycling routes but we’re not quite there yet,” said Bambrick.

Between 1996 and 2016, the study found that Montreal had the highest cycling increase, at 176 per cent, while Toronto came in second with an increase of 147 per cent. The city with the lowest adoption rate was Winnipeg with 24 per cent.

“So much of the investment in cycling in Toronto and in many cities has been in the downtown core,” said Savan.

When it comes to the suburbs, Savan added, “about a third of all the trips undertaken are less than five kilometres and can be very easily undertaken by bike,” if that mode of transportation is promoted and bike lanes are built.

Mississauga is currently working on a $450-million climate-change plan that includes expanding cycling and pedestrian infrastructure

The City of Toronto also launched a revamped Vision Zero in March aimed at making the roads safer and cutting the number of pedestrian deaths. The plan includes lowering speed limits and changing road designs. Toronto also plans to build 120 kilometres of new bike lanes in the next three years.

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