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How CAA Is Encouraging Cities to Be More Bike Friendly

This program is helping to improve cycling infrastructure across the province

Cycling on the Spurline Trail in Waterloo Ontario

For more than 50 years, most Canadian communities have been designed around one thing: the car. But a growing number of them are re-evaluating their love affair with the automobile—and embracing cycling.

Enter the Bicycle-Friendly Community program. Run by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, an advocacy group, and sponsored by CAA South Central Ontario, it recognizes municipalities that have improved their cycling infrastructure and education programs. Its goal: to give Ontarians more transportation options.

Why it’s important to have bicycle-friendly communities

“A large number of trips are made by automobile, but that’s not necessarily the right tool for every trip,” says Jamie Stuckless, the executive director of Share the Road. “There is a large proportion of people in every community who would like to cycle, but they don’t feel safe doing it.”

In fact, Stuckless says a survey by her organization found that 32 per cent of Ontarians, or 3.5 million people, would rather cycle to work than drive.

The most cycle-friendly communities in Ontario

Share the Road has recognized 44 communities across the province as bike-friendly. Leading the list are Ottawa, Toronto and Waterloo, which all reached the program’s Gold level.

Waterloo was the first mid-sized city in Ontario to reach Gold status. That was the result of a decade of investments in bike lanes, recreational trails and education programs, says Philip Hewitson, Waterloo’s manager of active and autonomous transportation.

Waterloo spends about $1 million a year on cycling infrastructure and has 235 kilometres of bikeways (157 kilometres of off-road trails and 78 kilometres of on-road bike lanes). That has led to a jump in ridership: the city’s busiest routes see upwards of 2,000 cyclists during the morning and evening rush hours between May and October, Hewitson says.

At the same time, the city’s long embrace of cycling has spared it from the public battles over road space common in many other municipalities.

“In some cities, it has almost been like a war,” Hewitson says of efforts to build downtown bike lanes. “We’ve never had that. There’s community support for what we’re doing.”

Building on the success of the Bicycle-Friendly Community program in several Ontario municipalities, Share the Road has partnered with CAA National to expand the program across Canada.

Want to be more cycle friendly in your own city?

Learn the simple technique that can help protect both cyclists and drivers.

Plus, find out more about the Bicycle-Friendly Community program—and how your city or town can participate—at the Share the Road website.

Image credit: Courtesy of the City of Waterloo