Local cycling advocate Sarah Thomas tries out the city’s new bike lanes.

Alberni’s MP wants national cycling strategy

A new national cycling strategy might be on its way courtesy of Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns.

A new national cycling strategy might be on its way courtesy of Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns.

“The bill sets forward a criteria and targets to establish a Canadian cycling strategy,” said Johns. Johns, an avid cyclist who spent last winter cycling to parliament, introduced his private member’s bill on Tuesday morning.

“We need to do more to make Canada a cycling nation.”

The national cycling strategy has five parts, Johns said:

• Commit the federal government to set clear targets for the expansion of cycling friendly infrastructure;

• Encourage more Canadians to choose cycling as their mode of transportation;

• Improve national safety standard measures, such as side guard rails for trucks;

• Support the cycling industry in Canada;

• Increase education for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

Committing the federal government to providing cycling funds will help lighten the load on municipalities, he added, noting Port Alberni’s large infrastructure deficit.

“We need to bring all levels of government together,” Johns said.

“Federal leadership is very important in supporting communities.”

Port Alberni  recently painted hundreds of metres of bike lanes along Gertrude Street, Roger Street and 10th Avenue—a move that Johns said will encourage more cycling in the region.

“It’s clear that when you create a safe place for people to cycle, they will cycle,” said Johns.

“I certainly feel safer cycling in Port Alberni now.”

Other countries, such as the Netherlands, France, Ireland and Sweden are all far ahead of Canada in having national cycling strategies.

“We’re lagging way behind,” said Johns.

“In Canada, only two per cent of school children cycle to school. In Sweden, it’s 20 per cent. In the Netherlands, where they established a cycling strategy in the 1990s, 50 per cent of children cycle to school.”

While some residents felt that Port Alberni was too small for bike lanes when the city painted them over the summer, Johns disagreed.

“Look at Bellingham [in Washington State]… it’s a small town but it’s known as one of the most cycle friendly communities in North America.”

Johns’ bill has action items—within two years he wants the federal government to deliver a report to parliament on how to implement the strategy.

The benefits of getting more people out of cars and onto bikes are manyfold, Johns noted.

“For every kilometre, a cyclist saves 23 cents while a driver costs 16 cents,” he said, noting that every sector from cycling tourism, the environment and healthcare will see a boost from an increase in cycling.

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