● All the parties have a Climate Plan – but do they have a National Cycling Plan?

A federal election is underway, Greta Thunberg lambasted political leaders at the UN for inaction on global warming, youth staged massive climate strikes across Canada last Friday, and all of Canada’s national parties duly toted out their plans for fighting climate change.

But after the election, is anything really going to change? I don’t think so.

There is one really simple test to see how serious any of Canada’s national political parties are about tackling climate change. Check to see if they have a well thought out cycling plan for the country.

I’m not talking about the usual platitudes or earnest statements of support. I’m talking about a comprehensive plan, or strategy, to promote cycling that would include substantial funding, detailed programs, effective targets, wide ranging policies, and the necessary legislative changes.

Why is cycling the test for political seriousness about taking action on climate change? Quite simply, because it’s a ‘biggie’ in the arsenal of tools government can use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A European study estimates that a person riding a bicycle one kilometre emits 250 grams less carbon dioxide than someone traveling the same distance by car . The same study concluded that if people in all parts of Europe cycled just five kilometres a day instead of using their cars, the EU could meet 50% of its target for reducing carbon emissions in the transportation sector. And it’s worth noting that in most jurisdictions, the transportation sector rates as one of the top sources of greenhouse gases.

The opportunity for cutting emission in the transportation sector might not be quite as dramatic in our country, but cycling can still make a huge contribution in helping Canada meet its overall targets for greenhouse gas reductions. As a tool for combating climate change, cycling ranks right up there with increasing the number of electric cars on the road, building more wind turbine farms, insulating homes better, closing coal-fired plants, planting more trees, and so on.

Unlike many other means of dealing with climate change, cycling is essentially an off-the-self solution that is just waiting to be implemented. Adopting a National Cycling Strategy is a straight forward proposition that doesn’t require complicated programs or the development of costly new technologies. In addition, cycling is a relatively inexpensive option, especially considering its potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite all that it has to offer, cycling is often viewed as a niche issue, and it is largely ignored by all of the national political parties as an effective means for reducing carbon emissions. In other words, it could be said that none of the parties meet the test for being serious about taking action on climate change.

This is certainly the case with the Liberal Party. Four years ago when the new Liberal Government was trumpeting all it was going to do for the environment, I wrote that cycling was a litmus test on how serious they were about dealing with climate change. It turns out they weren’t serious at all. Four years later and Canada isn’t even on track to meet the inadequate carbon emission targets that were originally put in place by the Harper Government.

There is also some strong evidence that at the beginning of the Liberal mandate, the Cabinet did consider a proposal that would have seen the federal government take on a greater role in promoting cycling. However, the idea was quickly rejected. This is also in keeping with the government’s response to an online petition that was submitted to Parliament calling for a National Cycling Strategy. Statements issued on behalf of four senior ministers basically said cycling is a very nice activity, but it doesn’t warrant federal involvement.

The situation with the Conservatives is even worst. Many pundits are saying that Andrew Scheer’s climate plan is clearly deficient for meeting Canada’s targets for greenhouse gas reductions, and some are saying carbon emissions could actually go up under a Conservative Government. It’s also worth noting that under the Harper Government, money was made available for snowmobile and ATV trails, and tariffs were lowered on all sorts of sporting equipment, but absolutely nothing was done for cycling.

The NDP and Green Party are the ones that appear to be most serious about taking action on climate change, but there are still large gaps in exactly how they plan to realize their ambitious objectives for lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Although Jagmeet Singh seems to be personally committed to cycling, the NDP’s position is mostly limited to earnest statements of support.

The Green Party comes closest to having any kind of substantive position on cycling. It is found in a one line statement about the need for a cycling and walking infrastructure fund. This is good, but it’s a far cry from a comprehensive National Cycling Strategy.

If any of the political candidates end up at your doorstep seeking your vote, ask them about their position on a National Cycling Strategy. They will probably skirt around the question while thinking to themselves they are dealing with someone who is concerned about a niche issue. What will really be happening is that you’ll be evaluating their seriousness about taking action on climate change.

Additional Information:
Overview of an National Cycling Strategy as proposed by Velo Canada Bikes.


2 Comments on ● All the parties have a Climate Plan – but do they have a National Cycling Plan?

  1. It would be nice if the City of Ottawa had a cycling plan as well. What I mean by a cycling plan is: a map of the City of Ottawa where all the separated and protected cycle routes needed to connect all major parts of the City are shown and a time frame when we will get these routes ( ie comparable to Phase 2 and 3 of the LRT routes). Ottawa’s current approach is to create these routes as needed road repairs are done, which could take 50 or more years.
    I just got back from a week cycling in the Netherlands from Amsterdam to Maastrict where there are safe cycling routes thru cities. Ottawa is about 50 years behind the Netherlands in safe cycling routes

  2. ain’t nothing going to change -that’s like telling a drunk to stop drinking heavily while in their stupor. You can’t tell a drunk to stop drinking, its near impossible. Canada has lots of shit on its hands






    we all like to paint canada as this “world leader” in environment. Yah right, I know people at ECCC the last thing on their mind is the environment. Many don’t have a passion for it and many just want the almighty buck because that empire is growing like crazy. Really doing nothing really but creating another bureaucracy. Looks good though!!! and that’s what counts in canada.

    I’ve volunteered for roads and cycling in ottawa, it was a btch trying to fight for more cycling lanes and bike paths. Many do fight the good fight though, luckily. For the most part its all about the almighty buck and budgets… no vision.

    We lack vision in this country in a big way, but we do like to build our empires of nothingness.

    Its all a facade in many ways.
    Luckily many fight the good fight though, but good luck trying to stop the drunk from drinking. That will be tough esp when we let the youth graze in the same field and drink from the same beer bottles… that needs to change – a consumer nation we are now. And, that auto industry is very very powerful

    see tvo car vs bike


    its a scuzzy industry and it has us by the nits… we use a vehicle and a house to define ourselves which is really lack of self confidence and self esteem when we need stuff to define self worth.

    I was in central america on this island, it was fantastic- the golf carts got along with the bikes and the pedestrians. No large metal boxes!! could even bomb around drunk on the golf carts, no one seemed to care. Not many rules (freedom really) as everyone got along well. One cop on the whole island. Cheap living that was.
    Up here, there is so much money to be made on the mess of it all. Messes build empires. Good luck changing that.

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