seeks public input for cycling improvements

The Ontario government wants to hear from you about how to improve cycling in the province.

At a news conference Friday in Ottawa, Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Bob Chiarelli said the province is looking for public input to form the basis of a draft cycling strategy. The public has until Jan. 29, 2013, to offer comments on such things as improvements to cycling infrastructure, public education and legislation.
Chiarelli said that starting in January, municipalities can also apply for funds under the new Municipal Infrastructure Program as it pertains to supporting the development of local cycling networks. Cycling infrastructure funds were not available to municipalities under the program in the past, but now they can apply for funds up to $2 million, he said.
The draft cycling strategy will also look to create a provincial cycling network to connect destinations and recreational cycling and tourism routes, run public education campaigns with groups such as Share The Road, update the Driver’s Handbook to include better guidelines for cycling and sharing the road with other vehicles, and provide cycling safety and bike maintenance information with new bikes sold.

“This means that what was in some respects a series of ad hoc initiatives that existed in Ontario by various stakeholders or municipalities and sometimes the province is (now) going to be much more comprehensive,” Chiarelli said in an interview.
“It’s going to be better funded and it’s going to make a significant difference for cyclists, they’re going to be safer on the road, they’re going to have better infrastructure, and cycling will be more exciting for a lot of people because part of the policy is related to tourism so that we’re going to be connecting regions with cycling paths.”
Chiarelli sad Ontario has “the safest roads” in North America, although cycling fatalities still do happen in the province. He said he hopes the new initiatives will help reduce the number of cycling fatalities in Ontario.

“We’re going to have better infrastructure, more bike lanes and we’re going to have better educated drivers and cyclists. We think of cyclists becoming more educated, but automobile drivers need to be more educated and they need to know where the cyclists have the right to go on the road — they’re not only restricted to driving along the curb. They have access to the road under the appropriate circumstances and there are lot of drivers who don’t understand that,” he said.
The announcement was welcomed by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, a provincial cycling policy and advocacy organization, adding it was Ontario’s first cycling policy update in 20 years.

“I think you are seeing a quantum leap forward in terms of parties in the legislature supporting this in each of their different ways,” Eleanor McMahon, founder of Share The Road Cycling Coalition, said at the news conference held at retailer Bushtukah. She founded the coalition after her husband, an OPP officer, was killed in 2006 by a motorist while cycling.
“This is not the time for partisanship, it is the time for focusing on the safety of our most vulnerable citizens and making sure that there is clarity on our roadways so that motorists and cyclists can share the road in a safe way,” McMahon said.

She said the coalition’s 2010 green paper on bicycling in the province, which was based on the responses of 1,200 people, outlined priorities on how the government could make Ontario more bicycle friendly. The coalition also endorsed the 2012 Coroner’s Review of Cycling Deaths in Ontario which called for cycling infrastructure and education investments.
She said she hopes the province can meet municipalities “halfway” in coming up with a comprehensive cycling strategy.
“Some of this stuff can seem quite mundane but it affects everybody in our day-to-day lives, if we want to cross an intersection and it doesn’t feel safe, or as cyclists we don’t have the proper turning opportunities,” McMahon said.

“We’re taking about signage, infrastructure, bike lanes, and sometimes segregated bike lanes if at all possible. I know that any change creates opposition, but (public) education is important,” she said.

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