City staff are asking councillors to approve a comprehensive cycling master plan that would complete a continuous bicycle network through the entire city - eventually.
By Ryan McGreal
Published June 16, 2009
After extensive public consultation, city staff are asking councillors to approve a comprehensive cycling master plan that would spend either $1.25 million a year for the next 40 years or $2.5 million a year for the next 20 years to complete a continuous bicycle network through the entire city. This plan is an update of the 1999 "Shifting Gears" regional plan.
The main infrastructure component will be on-street reserved bike lanes - essentially a painted lane on the road - but also includes multi-use paths, signed bike routes on bike-friendly streets without designated bike lanes, and paved shoulders on rural roads.
The current budget allocation for cycling infrastructure is $300,000 a year, though the city only started actually spending that much after hiring an alternative transportation coordinator (Daryll Bender), a position that is now temporary but would be made permanent under the cycling master plan.
If council decides to increase the annual budget to $1.25 million, staff suggest the city can maximize the connectivity of the network by concentrating on the urban portion.
The higher budgetary commitment option, $2.5 million per year, amounts to $5 per resident per year, a little less than Burlington and Toronto's commitments of $5.25 per year for the next 25 years.
The lesson from other cities that have committed to aggressive timelines for bicycle network construction confirms the adage If you build it, they will come. Several European cities have managed to achieve bicycle commute rates that equal or even exceed the rate of automobile trips. In a few short years, Portland has managed to increase its bicycle commuting rate to 15 percent of total commutes.
Further, as the rate of cycling goes up, the rate of accidents falls dramatically. In New York, during a period in which cycling increased by a third, the actual number of accidents fell.Compared to the expense of vehicle lane construction, cycling infrastructure is extremely cost-effective. The total cost of the Cycling Master Plan, $51.5 million (of which $28.9 million is allocated to rural infrastructure and the rest goes to urban infrastructure), is only slightly higher than the cost
Among the manifold benefits of cycling are the fact that it is nonpolluting after manufacture, supports community and neighbourhood development, is consistent with the provincial goal of dense, walkable development and consumes a much smaller land area footprint than the automobile.
Cycling also confers tangible health benefits to cyclists, increasing life expectancy by several years, and is associated with significantly lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Overall, cycling is safer than driving, particularly once you take into account the extend life expectancy from active transportation.
The bicycle is also the most energy-efficient transportation mode ever invented, getting an amazing 0.68 L/100 km (1,400 mpg) equivalent in fuel economy.