There’s currently an e-petition underway to support the idea for creating a National Cycling Strategy in Canada. However, there are some people (including various federal politicians) who believe that cycling is strictly a local issue that should be handled at the local level.
There’s no doubt that cycling issues have to be dealt with at neighbourhood and municipal level. The problem starts with the suggestion that cycling advocacy should be limited largely to local intatives. This lends itself to the quaint idea that cycling issues are the concerns of nice groups of well intentioned cyclists, and that after the really important matters have been taken care of, a little pocket change can be thrown their way to pay for a few cycling projects.
In terms of what it can offer, cycling is much more important than this. After almost a century of spending vast sums of money on automobile infrastructure, as a society, it’s time to rethink our priorities, and direct more of our resources to cycling and other modes of transportation. All this goes well beyond the realm of municipal politics.
But is cycling a federal matter? The last time I looked, the federal government had taken on the responsibility for ensuring that Canada reduces its greenhouse emissions. One sure fire way of combating climate change is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel cars for transportation. While people like to talk about electric vehicles and the development of new technologies, cycling is immediately available as a proven and highly cost effective tool for reducing carbon emission. If only for this reason, Canada urgently needs a National Cycling Strategy .
And then there are the health considerations. A recent study in the UK indicates that regular cycling can cut the incidence of cancer and heart disease by close to 50%. In the meantime, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer issued a serious warning about the increasing number of Canadians who are suffering from cancer and cardiovascular disease because of a sedentary lifestyle and growing obesity rates. Imagine if the government suddenly had a pill that could radically reduce these health problems. Well, they do, but it’s a bicycle. Again, another reason for a National Cycling Strategy
The federal government also has a role to play in setting national priorities and policies for transportation. In fact, Canada’s development as a country is closely tied to transportation policies and related funding, starting off with the national commitment to build the transcontinental railroad which facilitated BC ‘s entry into confederation. In the1950s’ the government spent large sums for the completion of the Trans Canada Highway, at the time, the longest highway in the world. In the 1960s the federal government built over 100 airports across the country. Today, the federal government continues to be the source of funding for transportation projects through its infrastructure strategy.
It’s time the federal government do for cycling what it did for other modes of transportation. At the very least, this means developing and implementing a substantial National Cycling Strategy.
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