You may have missed it because of all the preparations for Canada’s 150th birthday party, but the country’s first National Bicycle Summit took place on Parliament Hill on June 1st, 2017.
The main theme of the summit was why should the federal government develop and fund a National Cycling Strategy for Canada. The organizers of the summit recently released an “Impact Report” which provides a synopsis of what was said at the event. Needless to say, there was widespread support for the development of such a strategy, something the “Canada Bikes” organization has been promoting for some time. (Canada Bikes has put together a short, but interesting publication on what a National Cycling Strategy might look like.)
The national summit was attended by 90 delegates, with a further 200+ people or organizations participating via a live webinar link from coast-to-coast-to-coast. It was organized by Canada Bikes, with support from Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), The Co-operators, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), and in partnership with Senator Nancy Greene Raine and the “National Health and Fitness Day”.
Personally, I think the question of whether Canada should develop and implement a National Cycling Strategy is a real no-brainer. Such a strategy could have real implications for a number of the country’s priorities, and it should not be viewed as doing a little something nice to keep a bunch of cyclists happy. The lack of progress on adopting such a strategy leads me to believe that the Trudeau Government and its “sunny ways” is all talk and no action on certain key issues.
Shortly after the Trudeau Government came to power, I suggested that cycling could be the litmus test on how serious they were are about reducing greenhouse gases. I said this because in many jurisdictions, the largest, or the second largest, source of greenhouse gas emissions is the transportation sector, the bulk of which comes from motor vehicles on our roads. At the same time, we know that one of the most inexpensive and effective ways to lower carbon emissions in this sector is to get more people to use bicycles for basic transportation needs, especially for relatively short distances in urban areas.
In forging ahead with its environmental agenda, did the Trudeau Government take any significant action to promote cycling? No. It failed the litmus test, pure and simple.
More recently, a major study has come to light which indicates that regular cycling can cut the incidence of cancer by 45% and heart disease by 46%. Think about it. If Health Canada had come up with a pill that could reduce the risk of death from cancer and heart disease by close to 50%, the federal government would be falling all over itself bragging about how it had extended the life of millions of Canadians, and saved the health care system billions of dollars. But it turns out that it’s not a pill, it’s a bicycle. So has this prompted the federal government to take any significant action to promote cycling? No.
The federal government has left it to organizations such as Canada Bikes and backbencher Gord Johns to promote and develop the idea for a National Cycling Strategy. But even when the result of their efforts are handed to the government on a silver platter, still no action. Hello Federal Government, anyone home?
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