Oh, Canada! You Get Biking!

When I think of Canada I think of good health care and hockey. Now, it’s time to add biking to the list.

Last week I was at the Ontario Bike Summit in Toronto. I’ve been asked to speak there several times, but it’s getting to the point where we’re going to have to invite Ontarians to come to Wisconsin to teach us a thing or two.

While I was there the Ontario Minister of Transportation announced during his keynote address to the group that the government would commit $25 million to biking infrastructure in the province over the next three years.

Minister of Transportation Glen Murray said, “Our goal is to make Ontario the premier cycling province in Canada with options that connect people to their jobs, schools, parks and places of interest right across the province. We are committed to providing the people of Ontario with safe, healthy, active transportation choices and today we have taken action to make that commitment a reality.”

To quote the government’s press page: “As part of its first Cycling Action Plan, ($10 million of the $25 million commitment) would help municipalities expand their local cycling routes and support connections for a future provincial cycling network. Municipalities can also use the funds to pilot innovative cycling improvements such as new types of lane markings or cycling-specific signage, which could be applied in other communities across the province.

“The province will also dedicate $15 million over three years to build cycling infrastructure on provincial highways and bridges, such as paved road shoulders.

“These investments are part of #CycleON, a 20-year vision for cycling in Ontario that supports healthier and more active lifestyles, increased tourism opportunities, a greener environment and more sustainable transit. It will be implemented through ongoing, multi-year action plans.”

The press information goes on to point out that in 2010, two million Canadian visitors spent $391 million while cycling in Ontario — an 18 per cent increase over the previous year.

Contrast all this with the resistance we’re getting at the state and federal level in the United States to moving cycling forward. While Ontario increases its funding and government officials demonstrate how well they understand the connection between cycling infrastructure and economic development, our state and federal governments cut funding and often seem oblivious if not hostile to cycling.

But we can’t just blame others. This is happening in Canada because of dynamic leadership. In fact, I’ve invited Eleanor McMahon, the leader of Share the Road Ontario to speak at our Wisconsin Bike Summit on October 10th in Madison.

For years Canada has been learning from our progress in Wisconsin. Now it might be time for them to return the favor.


About Dave Cieslewicz, Director Emeritus

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

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