English: Riders assemble for a ride organised by the London Cycling Campaign, as part of Bike Week activities. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Have you read the CycleOn proposal that is sweeping the cycling nation? This new proposal is aimed at positioning Ontario as an innovative, bike-friendly province before 2033. To say that CycleON contains “aspirational goals” might be the under- exaggeration of the year. The progressive nature of this proposal has created a lot of buzz around biking in Canada: Protestors and positive supporters have begun to share their insights across social media, in the press and offline at community events. Therefore, I wanted to write this blog to look at some of the issues that are being raised, as well I what #CycleON can offer to Ontario bikers.
For some background regarding the proposal, visit: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling/index.shtml. Here you can read the provincial proposal, as well as review background information such as the concepts/research behind the strategy. This background includes the acknowledgement of the positive environmental, communal and physiological impacts that growing the cycling population will inevitably have on Ontario. I am sure that every active cyclist can agree with this strategic thought process as cycling offers a powerful antidote to many of the issues that are preventing Ontarians from realizing more active lives that do not cause ecological harm.
While this strategy is positive and sensible, one issue that is being constantly communicated across on and offline media is that CycleON focuses on extremely lofty and, at times, unrealistic goals. The truth behind this accusation is not hard to see when you look at CycleON’s Strategic Directions. Arguably, it may be difficult for the masses to imagine how CycleON alone will, “Design Healthy, Active & Prosperous Communities.” Especially for non-cyclists, I can imagine that this proposal seems like quite the ideological reach.
However, if you do not get too caught up in the specifics, you can see that the Ministry has a very positive and altruistic aim of creating more physically able and happier communities. Biking may not be the only solution, but by positioning it as an absolute stronghold in the fight for vitality, the Ministry will force communities to re-evaluate the indispensable nature of cycling.
Personally, I would love to see many of the CycleON objectives come true. We have 20 years to transform our province and, I believe, that it can happen. CycleON bring attention to the fact that not even one Ontario city is currently acknowledged in the top 100 bike-friendly cities. With a bold aim of getting us in the top ten, CycleON demonstrates that they have big goals for bikes.
Unfortunately, this and some of the other more “reaching” aspects of the plan are bringing sceptics out of the woodwork. I just hope that they do not disregard the positive nature of the entire plan in favour of a pessimistic refusal of progression. Luckily, passionate cyclists who have been consistently disappointed by conditions in Ontario are rallying behind the new doctrine.
If CycleON’s goals were not big and bold then there would be nothing to strive for. We need a huge push behind our motorists to ensure that the celebration of cycling becomes a widespread phenomenon. I have often spoken to the cyclist/motorist dichotomy that seems to inhibit the widespread acceptance of bike lanes/safety precautions. I hope that CycleON will remedy some of this built-up tension and reposition Ontario as a province that is more friendly toward non-motorized transportation. If Ontario commits to reaching even some of the CycleON goals, then I truly believe that we will all be living in a happier and healthier community.