OVCATA's vision for cycling in Ontario

Alliance outlines its vision in response to MTO's Discussion Paper on Cycling Initiatives under the Climate Change Action Plan

This fall, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario held extensive consultations on its CYCLE ON strategy. OVCATA members attended sessions in Ottawa and Kingston.

In addition, MTO circulated a Discussion Paper on Cycling Initiatives under the Climate Change Action Plan and invited citizen input on it. OVCATA's response to this paper provides a good summary of the kind of actions for which our Alliance is pressing the provincial planners and politicians.

The paper asked what infrastructure should be prioritized to make cycling in Ontario safer and more convenient to support commuter cycling between residential communities, major transit stations, employment areas and other destinations travelled to on a frequent basis.

OVCATA wrote, in response, that all provincial highways should have hardened shoulders, both for cycling safety and for the other benefits derived: lowered maintenance costs, greater safety for motor vehicles, extended road life. The shoulders of all highways being resurfaced should, routinely, be hardened.

Building a provincial network of highways with hardened shoulders will take time. Priority should be given to hardening shoulders of those segments of provincial highways that pass through urban areas, This will enable residents to cycle safely to shopping areas, work or school; and to access public services such as libraries, hospitals, parks and recreation facilities by bicycle. Painted bicycle lanes and standard “share the road” signage should also be installed.  A province-wide inventory should be done to identify these “urban” segments of provincial highways, using an inclusive definition of “urban” area such as that employed by Statistics Canada (i.e., a population of at least 1,000 and a density of 400 or more people per square kilometre).

In general we recommend that MTO place focus on low-cost measures that will be most effective in encouraging commuter cycling. These include

1. Rigorous enforcement of the Highway Traffic Act, especially  speed limits and the 1-metre rule. Currently, speeding of up to and in excess of 20 km/hr above limits is routinely tolerated, which makes cycling risky and scary.

2. Development, in coordination with counties and municipalities, of cycling routes.

3. Prominent signage identifying cycling routes and educating drivers and cyclists about road safety.

4. Widespread and prominent public education, both for drivers and cyclists, about cycling and driving safety.

The paper asked for evidence that could demonstrate the impact of cycling infrastructure investments on the number of cyclists and on GHG emissions. 

OVCATA responded that the Province should designate and promote a certain day each month (e.g., the first Monday) as “Ontario Bicycle Day.” On that day, volunteers in communities around the province would count the number of cyclists passing a particular point over a given time period.  Data would be sent to the MTO, which would track trends and publicize the results through outreach to media and local cycling groups.  Trends would be calculated on a per capita basis (size of community) as well in absolute numbers.

Regarding cycling infrastructure that would best support commuter cycling, OVCATA replied that local cycling networks require well-identified cycling routes and lanes, where possible. As with commuter cycling between residential communities, identification of routes, prominent signage and widespread public education should be top priorities. ALL public buildings, including federal and provincial offices, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, and transit stations should have bike parking.

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