● Cycling has the strongest growth rate for people commuting to work, according to Canada’s 2016 census.

Canada’s 2016 census just came out, and it shows that more Canadians are now cycling to work. In fact, cycling has the strongest growth rate as a mode of transportation for commuting. It’s a phenomenal 87.9%, compared to a growth rate of only 31.5% for motor vehicles, and 23.4% for walking (see chart below).

But let’s not kid ourselves. In terms of overall numbers, there are many more people using cars than bicycles to travel to work. Nationally, only 1.6% of Canadians cycle to work in the country’s metropolitan areas (up from 1.2% in 1996). Moreover, over the last 20 years, there are 2.8 million more cars on the road during rush hour compared to only 140,000 more bicycles. Although the numbers for cycling are still relatively small, at least they are moving in the right direction and growing quickly.

Another factor that should encourage more people to start cycling to work is that Canadians commuting in cars are spending more and more time sitting in traffic. The average commute time in Canada is now 26.2 minutes, up 3.1% since 2011. The median commute distance has gone up 9.5% since 1996. Amazingly, over 850,000 Canadians now spend more than two hours getting to and from work in their cars.

In the Ottawa/Gatineau area, 2.4% of people cycle to work, which places the region behind Victoria with a whopping 6.6%, and Kelowna with 2.7% . Just behind Ottawa is Vancouver with 2.3% and Montreal with 2.0% . Toronto lags behind with only 1.4 % of people cycling to work. This is a little surprising considering all the bicycles we see in Toronto’s downtown core.

Although there has been a good increase in the numbers for cycling, they are no where close to where they should be. The frustrating thing is that if the federal and provincial governments really wanted to, they could easily get over 20% of Canadians to cycle to work over the next twenty years. This may yet happen once governments realize that getting more people on their bicycles is an immediately available, and cost effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (and as an added bonus, a good way to save the country’s health care system millions of dollars).

Click here for the 2016 census numbers for sustainable transportation.

Click here for a CBC report about the census (information about cycling is towards the end of the article).

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