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cityscape

New Provincial Cycling Strategy Draft Is Underwhelming

The Ministry of Transportation is updating its cycling outlook for the first time in two decades, but the changes aren't exactly sweeping.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffstewartphotos/5034189754/in/photostream/"}JeffStewartPhotos{/a}, from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/pool/"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

The Ministry of Transportation has released a draft cycling strategy [PDF], the first update to its cycling policy goals in 20 years. The proposed new strategy aims to improve cycling education, infrastructure, legislation, and interest—but it has received mixed reviews from the cycling community, and for good reason.

Let’s start with some with some facts, as stated in the strategy. Ontario has 630,000 cyclists who hop on a bike daily. Nearly 48 per cent of Ontario residents ride a bike at least once during spring, summer, and autumn. About 50 per cent of those 630,000 daily cyclists use cycling as their main mode of transportation, meaning they use two wheels to get to school, work, shopping, errands, or friends’ homes. The draft doesn’t say where these cyclists are, but we’d guess a lot of them are here in Toronto.

The strategy—prepared partly in response to a scathing coroner’s report on cycling deaths in Ontario that was released earlier this year—is an optimistic read. It has two main goals: working with municipalities, and improving driver and cyclist education. But some of the points it raises are a little vague, and could use clarification.

For example, the ministry has some ambitious ideas for building a provincial network of bike routes. The draft repeatedly references Quebec’s successful Route Verte, which is estimated to generate an annual economic return valued at more than $100 million. Yes, $100 million—mostly in tourism dollars. This is a nice idea, and one that we support, but what about people who live in Toronto and just want to get around town?

What the strategy has to say about working with municipalities is unconvincing. In a nutshell, the ministry acknowledges that most cycling happens on municipal roads. It’s prepared to help municipalities to “develop and enhance their routes.” The draft says just that the ministry will work with cities to revamp any provincial infrastructure that a bike route happens to touch upon (a bridge, for example), but makes no funding promises beyond a vague pledge to “explore options” for including cycling in provincial funding programs.

Another section of the draft talks about how the ministry will pursue cycling education, which is nice to see. Educating drivers and cyclists about how to share the road safely is important. But the strategy doesn’t make any bold new recommendations (like, for example, adding a cycling component to drivers’ license examinations, as suggested recently by the Guardian). The strategy does mention the possibility of consulting the public on amendments to the Highway Traffic Act, though, which could lead to substantial changes at some point in the future.

Bottom line: the ministry’s strategy, in its current form, is a hopeful document, but not a particularly helpful one. It’s open to public input until January 29. You can submit your comments to the ministry here.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    There should be cycling education at school, somewhere around grade 5 or 6.

    • Guest

      The Netherlands has a test around Grade 7. It’s voluntary but everyone takes it anyway. It is obvious how effective it is because you can see how cyclists and cars know how to cooperate on the road (as much as possible). Everyone knows the rules of the road.

      • Anonymous

        Really? Did you read that somewhere? I lived in the Netherlands for 5 years, was hit by a car on a bike, saw all sorts of bad drivers and cyclists.

        Given, the cyclists and drivers were slightly better, but mostly due to intervention on either the legal side or the road logistics side.

        • Anonymous

          I agree that cycling education doesn’t make things perfect, but it does make things better.

        • Anonymous

          There is traffic education and a test for kids around 9-11. Driver education is more stringent than here, where you’re not taught how to open a car door and look out at the same time, but obviously it’s not a guarantee of individual driver/cyclist behaviour.

          • Anonymous

            More importantly, there are LAWS enforcing this “education”. You’re wagging the dogs tail here, guy.

          • Anonymous

            Well, we have some of the same kinds of laws here, but the level of compliance and enforcement here is different.

          • Anonymous

            *DING*
            Again, thank you for agreeing with me.

        • Guest

          I lived there and know this for a fact as all of my Dutch friends told me they took it.

          • Anonymous

            No doubt that the education helps, but honestly do you remember things you were tested on in gr. 7?
            Infrastructure and laws make biking safer in the Netherlands, a grade 7 “test” is simply an illusion. also remember that 20% of the dutch population are expats and 100% of them live in Amsterdam.

          • Anonymous

            It’s not just the grade 7 test, it’s the overall approach to driver training and public safety campaigns.

            also remember that 20% of the dutch population are expats
            There aren’t any hard figures for that, nor a standard definition for ‘expat’, but 20% of 16 million has to be a huge exaggeration. It’s in the 100,000s range at best.
            and 100% of them live in Amsterdam
            Absolutely false, especially in academia, IT, etc. Estimates put the number in Amsterdam at 100,000, plus another 50,000 in The Hague.

          • Anonymous

            “It’s not just the grade 7 test, it’s the overall approach to driver training and public safety campaigns.”

            Which is exactly what I’m saying. Infrastructure and laws make biking safer in Amsterdam, not “education” (we have driver education here too!)

            “There aren’t any hard figures for that, nor a standard definition for ‘expat’, but 20% of 16 million has to be a huge exaggeration. It’s in the 100,000s range at best.”

            Really?

            http://www.dutchdailynews.com/expats-netherlands/

            “and 100% of them live in Amsterdam Absolutely false, especially in academia, IT, etc. Estimates put the number in Amsterdam at 100,000, plus another 50,000 in The Hague.”

            It’s a Dutch joke. If you knew anything about The Netherlands you’d have gotten it right away.

          • Anonymous


            Really?
            http://www.dutchdailynews.com/

            Which says: ’19% of the population are foreigners or belong to a racial minority. Among them are many expats from all over the world’
            That’s not the same as saying 19 or 20% of the population is made up of expats. An expat is not always someone settled more or less permanently or who necessarily belongs to an established minority.

            http://www.aurorus.nl/over_aurorus/publicaties/pdf/wat_je_van_ver_haalt.pdf
            [There are no figures for the number of expats in NL; estimates indicate approx. 50,000 in The Hague and 100,000 in Amsterdam]

            It’s a Dutch joke. If you knew anything about The Netherlands you’d have gotten it right away
            Oh, you mean because it seems like they all live in A’dam? I know plenty about NL, thanks – enough to know that a lame exaggeration like that doesn’t meet the criteria of a joke there. Did you learn the meaning of the word ‘flauw’ while you were there?

          • Anonymous

            So 20% of the population most likely hasn’t taken cycling education. Glad you agree with me.

            nor a standard definition for ‘expat’,

            ORLY? http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/expatriate

            Goodbye troll.

          • Anonymous

            The 20% of the country being ‘foreigners’ or part of a minority doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t been there long enough to have taken cycling education. Minority kids get to take traffic training in group 7 too.
            ‘Expat’ in business circles refers mostly to people stationed outside their home country, usually for a defined contract period, often subject to a work permit. That’s the kind of expat people are referring to when they say Ams is where all the expats are.
            Ga toch fietsen, lijpe zeikerd.

          • Anonymous

            We’re well passed the original point that you have previously agreed with. Good to see the business circles using the Oxford Dictionary definition of the term!
            Sorry, I don’t speak Dutch.

          • Anonymous

            It doesn’t matter whether you look at ‘foreigners’ as a whole or just the ones there on 3-5 year contracts with the UN or a university or a design company or whatever – you still can’t assume they haven’t had some form of bike training.

            The point you are missing is that saying ’20% of the population is (originally) from somewhere else and/or an ethnic minority’ is nowhere near the same as saying expats by the most common definition in expat circles make up that 20%. Besides, a good proportion of expats in NL are from other EU countries and have had cycling education of some sort anyway, plus the infrastructure makes up for a lot of expats’ lack of cycling safety experience.

          • Anonymous

            It doesn’t matter whether you look at ‘foreigners’ as a whole or just the ones there on 3-5 year contracts with the UN or a university or a design company or whatever – you still can’t assume they haven’t had some form of bike training.

            [citation needed]

            Until proven otherwise, I will damn well assume that they haven’t. It would be foolish to assume otherwise in the face of zero facts.

            The point you are missing is that saying ’20% of the population is (originally) from somewhere else and/or an ethnic minority’ is nowhere near the same as saying expats by the most common definition in expat circles make up that 20%

            [citation needed]

            Oh, sorry I didn’t realize “business circles” made up 100% of “expat circles”

            Besides, a good proportion of expats in NL are from other EU countries and have had cycling education of some sort anyway

            [citation needed]

            plus the infrastructure makes up for a lot of expats’ lack of cycling safety experience

            Did you even bother reading the entire point of my argument? Speaking of “The point you are missing”

          • Anonymous

            You start with lame made-up stats and now you’re the one throwing the [citation needed]s around? You don’t have a point, because your experience of the Netherlands and of cycling there is probably limited to Amsterdam.

          • Anonymous

            I’ve not made up any stats [citations provided] and you haven’t proven otherwise. So STFU and [citation needed], troll.

          • Anonymous

            Your assertion that ’20% of the dutch population are expats’ is false and your citation to back it up even disproved it:

            19% of the population are foreigners or belong to a racial minority. Among them are many expats from all over the world
            Did it occur to you that the article might be drawing a distinction between ‘foreigners/minorities’ generally and a specific type of foreigner, the expat, being among them? The ones addressed in the penultimate and antepenultimate paragraphs?

          • Anonymous

            I’ll say, you’re at least tenacious. Hides your thickness very well.

          • Anonymous

            I can only aspire to the combination of denseness and disingenuousness that enables you to cite an article in favour of your assertion that actually refutes it, because you didn’t understand what it was actually saying.

          • Anonymous

            Now are we talking “business” circles, “oxford” circles or “Dante” circles?

            As I’ve previously stated: “20% of the dutch population are expats” speaking in “Oxford” circles. There is no refuting that statement, as it’s absolutely 100% true [citation provided]. You’re attempts to redefine what the Oxford dictionary defines as “expat” make your accusation of being “disingenuous” even better!

            Thanks! :)

          • Anonymous

            It’s pretty clear that even if we use your definition/the OED’s definition of ‘expatriate’ in general, as opposed to the one implied in the article you cited in support of your own claim (which it refutes), that 20% of the population would still include foreigners permanently settled there and citizens who are minorities who have a good chance of either having taken traffic training (if born there and of foreign extraction) AND people who have been there long enough to get used to the cycling environment (e.g., someone who emigrated there 10+ years ago). ’20% expats’ by any definition is not entirely composed of people like you staying 3-5 years on average and virtually never biking outside of the city.

          • Anonymous

            LOL. Wikipedia

          • Anonymous

            Says [citation needed] guy.

          • Anonymous

            FYI ‘expatriate’ in the sense of ‘someone residing outside his or her country of origin’ and ‘expat’ as used generally to refer to people residing there for a predetermined or ultimately finite amount of time before moving (back) elsewhere are not synonymous.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expatriate

            ‘In common usage, the term is often used in the context of professionals sent abroad by their companies, as opposed to locally hired staff. The differentiation found in common usage usually comes down to socio-economic factors, so skilled professionals working in another country are described as expatriates, whereas a manual labourer who has moved to another country to earn more money might be labelled an ‘immigrant”
            This is the distinction used in the article you cited. People intending to stay permanently, or who are well established, will have a different approach to cycling and integrating from those who foresee leaving the country again in a few years’ time.

          • Anonymous

            Woah!!! TLDR. Time to move on buddy, guy.

          • Anonymous

            The 20% of the country being ‘foreigners’ or part of a minority doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t been there long enough to have taken cycling education

            And it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have either…

          • Anonymous

            I don’t think there should be a test – there should be education. Different thing.

    • Anonymous

      Well there’s the CAN-Bike program that anyone is free to take if they choose to.

  • Anonymous

    2 or 3 years ago the provincial government had discussed plans to widen the paved shoulder on provincial highways from the old width of less than a foot to be closer to a meter. It was meant to operate as a province-wide bike system, but would also make the roads last longer, because they tend to decay from the outside. I wonder where those plans stand, because I haven’t heard anything about it since.

    The past few times that I’ve ridden out to Guelph I have noticed that they are installing wider shoulders when they do road work on Highway 7, so hopefully they went ahead with that plan. It is a lot nicer riding in what is essentially a bike lane than having to contend with 80km/h + traffic.

    • Anonymous

      That would be nice. re: more paved shoulders. I had the same experience out in Muskoka. There were some routes with decent wide shoulders, but others with not. The wide shoulder roads were a lot better ride on.

  • hamish w

    While it’s good that there’s finally a bit of something to react to, overall, we’re about as “carrupt” provincially as we are at the City here. There’s oh soo soo much that is needed, and yes, many levers are at the provincial level. Contrast the Dutch mindset as shown on When Cyclists Matter on Youtube, with the initial few moments of the friction between Mr. Bryant and Mr. Sheppard also available online, and to my eyes, there’s a discrepancy between what I see, and all the words that exist.
    Hopefully, despite the gaps and serious shortfalls, lots of people will push for far better conditions and respect for cyclists.

    • Paul

      i will make a $10 contribution to a cycling advocacy organization right now if you promise to stop using the word “carrupt”.

  • http://twitter.com/_blahblahblah Sunny Ng

    It would be helpful if the province would undo the download of provincial highways to the municipalities in 1998. But nope, that’s not gonna happen.

  • Anonymous

    These comments say a lot in favour of a “one reply only” blog policy. And, guys, there are social networks for this.

    • Anonymous

      This comment says a lot in favour of why people think vegans are fascists.