Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
You’re stuck in your car on the daily commute out of downtown. The traffic light is green, but the dozen cars ahead of you are still waiting to inch forward. It’ll turn red again – maybe twice – before you reach it.
A flash of motion whizzes by the passenger side, and within seconds a cyclist pedals through the intersection and on to the next. She’s not only getting home faster than you – she’s getting a first-rate workout at the same time.
It’s Bike to Work week in British Columbia and Bike Month in Toronto, with numerous other cycle-commuting celebrations held in Canadian cities throughout the spring. Yet despite the health, environmental and even financial benefits of commuting to work by bike, still less than two per cent of Canadians choose this option.
Only one Canadian city – Montreal – was ranked among the world’s most bike-friendly cities in the 2013 Copenhagenize Index. Given that the Yukon and Northwest Territories each have a higher proportion of bike commuters than every Canadian province but British Columbia, what excuse do the rest of us have?
This week’s question: How can we make it easier to choose bike commuting as a practical option for Canadians?
Lonny Balbi, founder of Calgary’s Bike to Work Day
“The primary reason people choose not to bike is safety concerns. Cyclists worry about getting hit by a car, having a car door suddenly open in traffic or mixing pedestrians with fast-moving bikes. Having separate pathways and dedicated bike lanes goes a long way to addressing this concern.”
Khandker M. Nurul Habib, assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto
“Commuting distance should be feasible for biking: Promotion of mixed land use would help encourage people to live closer to their workplace. Also, the transportation network should be bike friendly, accommodating multimodal movement through separate bike lanes and bike-supportive signals.”
Réal Ménard, head of the executive committee on transportation for the City of Montreal
“The City of Montreal aims to annually expand its 600-kilometre cycling network and attract more cyclists with the BIXI bike-sharing service, accessible bicycle parking and making cycling safer with bike boxes at intersections and through bike lanes. This year we will tap into social media with a smart phone app with information on cycling resources and route maps.”
Jerry Dobrovolny, director of transportation with the City of Vancouver
“The City of Vancouver is making cycling safe, convenient, comfortable and fun for people of all ages and abilities. Key bike improvements include separated bike lanes and calm local street bikeways, and it’s working: Cycling is now our fastest-growing mode of transportation between 2008 and 2011.”
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