Ontario Bike Summit 2015 hosted by Share the Road Cycling Coalition was the largest ever with 215 registered delegates at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel inToronto.
The event kicked off on March 31st with a Bicycle Friendly Communities Workshop. Six communities achieved BFC status since last year’s summit, bringing the total to 28. Several existing BFC communities applied for and received a higher designation rank. This year’s workshop was oversubscribed with representatives from all across Ontario anxious to find out how to help their municipality become bicycle friendly.
Experiences of other communities
Jackie Gervais from Niagara Region spoke about how healthy competition amongst the Region’s municipalities has led 5 of them to achieve BFC status since 2012. Niagara Region boasts their own Active Transportation Summit and a range of bicycle events and programs that have been built into the fabric of community life.
Adam Krupper from Thunder Bay told us how he learned a valuable lesson in 2012 when the city installed a bike lane along Victoria Street which he dubbed the “Road Diet from Hell”. The City initially used standard communications: flyers, door hangers and newspaper and radio ads to inform citizens about the new bike lane. The response was ugly and politicized. Then Adam created a very personal and fun advertising campaign called:
“You Know Me, I Ride a Bike”
The effect was dramatic and positive.
The City of Barrie has partnered with Green Communities Canada to implement school travel planning. They even used a drone to help them with mode counts and winter walkabouts! The city has teamed with local grocery stores which offer their parking lots as congregation centres for walking and riding school buses.
Hamilton recently installed the first 2-way cycle track in Ontario and The City of Waterloo spent $20,000 in 2014 to install a way-finding sign system along the trail routes in the city. They’ve done most of the design and construction work, “in-house” which has kept the costs low; each sign was built and installed for less than $65.00!
The evening reception and dinner highlighted a keynote address from Top Drawer’s creative founder Howard Chang who spoke about the critical role of velodromes in creating bike culture. Howard was a great last minute stand-in for Barb Chamberlain the Executive Director at Washington Bikes who missed due to health issues.
The next day started with a welcome from Jaye Robinson – Chair of Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee who announced plans to build a separated bike lane along the entire length of Yonge Street all the way from Lake Ontario to Lake Simcoe! Unfortunately Jaye was just playing an April Fool’s joke on us. But she did announce that Toronto is dedicating $90M over 10 years to cycling projects in the city.
Jamie Stuckless, Share the Road’s new Executive Director spoke about the necessity of changing the conversation to raise the priority of government investments in active transportation. She said:
“there are 3.8 million people in Ontario who ride weekly or monthly and there are over 600,000 trips by bicycle taken every day in the province.”
With growing public support for greater active transportation choices, the timing couldn’t be better for share the road advocacy, Jamie concluded.
The next presenter was MPP Kathryn McGarry, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation and the person now responsible for the implementation of the Ontario Cycling Strategy Action Plan. Kathryn announced that the $15M funding for cycling improvements on provincial roads would go to four projects: Hwy 33 in Kingston, the 1000 Islands Parkway (both of which form part of the Waterfront Trail), Hwy 6 on Manitoulin Island and Hwy 17 between Sault Ste. Marie and Espanola. She said:
“cycle tourism is one of the fastest growing economic segments in Ontario!”
The government also intend to allocate $10M to municipal cycling projects. The funding model is undergoing changes as a result of public consultation and should be announced in the next few months. $400K has been set aside for cycling safety education in the province. Bill 31 “Keeping Ontario Roads Safe Act” is in third reading and should pass by the end of the current session of parliament.
Several of the breakouts looked interesting but I had to choose two. I heard Mikey Bennington from the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation speak about the importance of citizen engagement in community design, working with professionals on such things as street audits and cycling counts and the importance of tactical urbanism, the implementation of low-cost, temporary changes to the built environment intended to improve local neighbourhoods and city gathering places. I then heard Brendan Matheson from Cycle Simcoe speak about how they partnered with Ontario By Bike to improve cycle tourism signage in Simcoe County.
The lunch panel discussion was all about lowering speed limits on municipal roads to reduce the risk to pedestrians and cyclists. Most residential streets currently have a default speed limit of 50Km/hour but are designed for speeds far faster than that. In a motor vehicle collision with a cyclist or pedestrian the survival rate rises dramatically if the speed of travel is reduced to 30Km/hr. There was much debate about the impact of lowering speed limits without increased enforcement and or changing road engineering. The general consensus seemed to be that signs by themselves won’t change speeds but that education combined with better road engineering would have the desired effect.
For the last session of the day, a number of us made Pecha Kucha style presentations on a range of topics. I presented a summary of our bike mechanics training program at McHardy Court. I found presenting 20 slides in 20 seconds each, extremely challenging but the presentation was , I think, well received.
The Ontario Bike Summit 2015 was a very valuable conference, with lots of good information for cycling and infrastructure in the City of Brampton. All in all the conference mixed good conversation, good contacts and good food with good information.