Ontario: ours to recover
Will the Waterloo Bike Summit inspire provincial policy?
By Dana Lacey, dandyhorse magazine, Summer 2009 issue
Ontario has always been yours to discover — assuming you do so by car. Why? There are plenty of great cycling models the province can look to
(Hello Portland, Oregon!) And it’s certainly not for lack of willing cyclists. Yet as Ontario continues its trillion-dollar infrastructure push, it seems to have forgotten all about self-propelled people.
Ontarians interested in securing a safer cycling culture should check out the Ontario Bike Summit on September 21 and 22 in Waterloo. Hosted by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition (STRCC) — a provincial cycling advocacy organization — the summit hopes to inspire vital dialogue between key players in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Speakers will include Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath and U.S. Congressman James Oberstar, Congressional Chair of Transportation and Infrastructure, and many more.
The STRCC was founded by Eleanor McMahon in the wake of her husband’s death: Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Greg Stobbart was killed on his bicycle on a training ride on June 6, 2006. The coalition takes on the heavy task of making Ontario’s roads safe for cyclists. As a result, McMahon has travelled to the U.S. and Europe to study cycling best practices. She has
built relationships with key stakeholders in the U.S., including the Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists, Andy Clarke, also a summit speaker.
More importantly, the STRCC acts as a hub that connects various advocacy groups and their ideas. “We are continually meeting with municipal leaders, law enforcement, economic developers and environmental and cycling
organizations in communities across Ontario to explore the tools they need in order to build bicycle-friendly communities; get their views on what the roles for the provincial government should be and ascertain how best to knit
together advocacy groups across the province — all with a view to building a cycling culture in Ontario,” McMahon says.
How successful the summit will be remains to be seen. A key objective is the development of a public policy framework for the Government of Ontario. “Existing provincial bike policies in Quebec and British Columbia have demonstrated that cycling has important economic, health and environmental benefits,” McMahon says, “and government officials in Ontario have expressed a desire to learn from other jurisdictions.” It’s just a matter of connecting the most relevant, up-to-date and viable information with the right people. And with Ministry of Transportation staff in attendance, there is hope that the STRCC’s message will spark some much-needed change for Ontario cyclists.