Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns listens to instructions before embarking on the Harbour Quay to China Creek leg of the Tri-Conic Challenge, Sunday morning. Johns celebrated Canada Day at 10 different locations, and said he prefers to be in his riding instead of Parliament Hill for the national celebration. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Gord Johns to ‘Ride the Riding’

MP will travel across the Courtenay-Alberni riding by bike to promote a national cycling strategy

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns will be taking part in a cycling tour across his riding to promote Bill C-312: Make Canada a Cycling Nation.

Johns will ride over 12 days, from Aug. 21 to Sept. 2, starting in Hesquiaht First Nation territory on the west coast.

Johns said he came up with the idea for a “Ride the Riding” initiative because cycling is his main way of getting around in Ottawa. “Being a cyclist, understanding that we need to do better,” he said. “We need to do more to get people on bikes, create safe cycling.”

This is also a way for Johns to follow through with his commitment to reach every community in his riding, a riding which includes more than four regional districts and seven municipalities.

“We have a really unique riding,” he said. “Some of it is only accessible by boat. But those communities count.”

Johns will use the information he gathers during the ride to deliver a message from the West Coast to Ottawa.

“It’s an opportunity for me to get out into the community and hear from people at the grassroots level,” he said. “We’ll be in outside venues in the communities, asking people to come for a bike ride with us. It will give people something fun to do with their community. We’ve done town halls and coffee houses. Now we’ll do it by bike and do it at a grassroots level.”

The ride will vary by day, sometimes travelling 50-60km, while some days will be a lot shorter than that. Johns will be visiting well over 30 communities in what he describes as a “jam-packed schedule, as far and fast as we can.”

He added, “There’s areas where cycling infrastructure is good, some areas where cycling infrastructure is very weak.”

Johns and his team will be working with communities to make sure there are safeguards in place during the ride and that waivers are signed.

“It’s one of the many reasons we’ve presented a call for a national cycling bill,” said Johns. “Nationally, we haven’t had any sort of motion around cycling.”

Typically, funding is provided in a one-third, one-third, one-third format, said Johns, with one-third coming from the federal government, one-third coming from the provincial and one-third coming from the local government. In cases like the city of Port Alberni’s bike lane project, half was funded by the province and half was funded by the city.

“The federal government doesn’t have that money on the table right now,” said Johns.

Johns pointed out that cyclists are taxpayers, too, and deserve accessible transportation.

When it comes to usage of things like bike lanes and cycling infrastructure, Johns said sometimes it takes a little time. “We’ve seen a huge increase in cycling when there is a safe space for people to cycle,” he said. “A lot of it is education.”

Johns said that the bill offers significant savings and a sustainable solution to transportation. “We have a huge opportunity to grow the economy through cycling tourism,” he added.

The City of Port Alberni and Village of Cumberland endorsed Bill C-312 last month.

Johns has been working with a number of local cycling groups through their AGMs and local stakeholders about what they would like to see with the bill. “They’re ecstatic about this ride,” he said.

Wheely Fun Alberni will be joining Gord Johns when he arrives in Port Alberni on Aug. 24-25. Times and locations are still to be announced.

For more information about the ride or Bill C-312, check out gordjohns.ndp.ca/cycling.

elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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