By Jill McCubbin
“Perhaps most importantly, they’re places where all road users – people who walk, drive, take transit or bike – are safer. Improved bikability as a community priority makes sense for so many reasons.” – Share the Road 2015 Bicycle Friendly Community Program Introduction
A month ago today, I attended the two-day 2015 Ontario Bike Summit with Jeff Mills (Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month – http://mmbm.ca – founder and so-well-liked, so-hard-working community developer). I learned a lot and had even more reinforced about the health and economic benefits of bicycle friendly communities and the bicycle tourism industry in Ontario, which I hope will include Mississippi Mills as soon as possible!
In this article, the first of two about this topic, I’ll try to summarize information from the Summit and other documents I’ve received.
The Summit and Bicycle Friendly Communities
The Share the Road Cycling Coalition, organizers of the Summit, released a poll showing increased investment in cycling infrastructure is something Ontarians want. Stats include:
- 68% of Ontarians agree that transportation costs are a major financial burden and if someone’s only or best way to get to work or to go shopping is a bike, they should have the option to ride a bike and to ride it safely
- 39% of respondents see the potential to lower transportation costs as a factor that would encourage them to ride a bike more often
- 96% of respondents indicated if they rode a bicycle more often they would do so for recreation
- A majority (54%) want to ride their bike more often
- Individuals aged 35-49 (65%)
- Daily car drivers (56%)
In Thunder Bay, the push for bicycle friendly community was tricky and the town tried lots of education approaches. The goal of Thunder Bay’s “You Know Me. I Ride a Bike” campaign was to personalize cyclists – so that motorists see a person, not an object, riding on the road. Jeff and I really liked this idea, and I hope to get something like that started in Mississippi Mills.
Our town is nearly certified a Bicycle Friendly Community
Mississippi Mills is very close to becoming a BFC, but still has to invest in the “engineering” aspect of a BFD, namely we need some signage and a dedicated bike lane going down a main artery in our town (Ottawa Street would be super). More bike lanes and trails and better infrastructure are key measures that encourage frequent cycling.
Thanks to Mississippi Mills Bicycle Month, our community has a Mississippi Mills bicycle routes map and a bilingual map of cycling routes at the County level is coming soon. These are key items for increasing cycle tourism and being a bicycle friendly place. We have more kids biking to school and increased awareness about sharing the road. Mississippi Mills is also launching its first bike share program – Right Bikes – in May 2015 with four bikes to rent from the Almonte Old Town Hall. And a new active group, the Family Bicycle Club, has recently formed.
The first annual Eastern Ontario Active Transportation Summit happened last year in Mississippi Mills, organized by MM Bike Month. Its success spurred the second event, happening this year in the County of Renfrew, in Pembroke on 29 May 2015. Register or learn more: https://www.eventbrite.
Why invest in becoming a bicycle friendly community?
The province has started to get the message and I think Mississippi Mills can also get on board a 10-15 year vision: increase healthy and active lifestyles, increase tourism and increase transportation solutions. The February 2015 Cycle Tourism in Ontario report (full report: http://www.
- Improved health for all residents (Not just cyclists! More cyclists means less cars on the road, which improves air quality, safety and the health of pedestrians and car drivers too)
- More bikes on the road mean less car trips (and cars) which equals lower costs for road infrastructure upgrades and maintenance in the future
- Cycle tourism is booming across Ontario and building tourism goes straight to increasing economic development and helping local business to succeed
On 1 April 2015, as part of Ontario’s 20-year #CycleON strategy, the province announced it’s moving forward with a $25-million investment over three years to create a more cycling-friendly future. This includes $15 million for cycling routes that provide key connections and linkages on provincial highways, such as paved highway shoulders and barriers on bridges that separate cyclists from vehicles.
Ontario also dedicated $10 million to the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program to help municipalities expand local cycling routes and connect with provincial cycling routes.
Also note this article, Bike use is rising among the young, but it is skyrocketing among the old: http://www.
Some good next steps for Mississippi Mills…
- Continue to encourage biking and healthy, active alternatives to car travel
- Build cycling and walking infrastructure – so people feel safe and have options
- Use bicycle friendly measures to help continue to grow Mississippi Mills’ already strong reputation as a “great destination”
- Apply again and achieve Bicycle Friendly Community Status! (Such communities have increased profile in publications across the province and abroad.)
- Partner with Lanark County, CAA, the OPP, Public Health – all partners available! – to better open the County to cycle tourism
- Strike an Active Transportation Advisory Committee of Council in Mississippi Mills and participate in CycleON strategies and investments
(A second article on this topic will describe the many economic development benefits to building active transportation & cycling infrastructure in our town. Stay tuned.)