A few weeks ago a positive cycling article came out in - of all places - Wheels, the Toronto Star's car fetish section. The author, Mark Richardson, rode country roads alongside Eleanor McMahon, founder of the Share the Road coalition. The article is interesting for not only its focus on McMahon's strong push for better cycling infrastructure and her experience working with politicians and policy-makers, but also for the fact that Richardson has had an increasing personal interest in cycling. As he notes in a May article, Cyclists aren't leaving, and add Editor to ranks:
Yes, the editor of Canada’s largest automotive publication also rides a bicycle. I wrote here last summer of how my cruel and unusual wife, a keen cyclist, has been prying me from the broad saddle of my Harley-Davidson and onto the spindly seat of her old Fisher hybrid. My kids bought me Lycra cycling gear for my birthday, and on a pleasant afternoon, the two of us will head out on the country roads near our home in Milton.
And then in July, Richardson's wife convinced him to go on the 730 km Great Waterfront Trail Adventure from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border.
And that brings us to the September article on McMahon, showing the naysayers like Rob Ford that in fact car drivers willingly do give up their cars for cycling, at least every once and a while. The anti-bike attitude is contributing to injury and death and doesn't help anyone:
“Cycling has become so polarized that it’s made it difficult to get things done,” says McMahon. “It’s pushed politicians off to the side — if they’re seen as pro-bicycle, then they must be anti-car, and if they’re pro-car they must be anti-bicycle. But they’re the people to fix this. Instead of motorists and cyclists pointing fingers at each other, we need to tell the politicians to sort this out.”
And she knows how to work with politicians. She spent 10 years as a press secretary to Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and held senior roles with the United Way of Ottawa and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. On Monday, she’ll be bringing the mayor of Portland, Oregon, to the Ontario Bike Summit in Burlington, where he’ll be telling the attendees about why his city is one of the most bicycle-friendly in North America. It recently more than tripled the number of its residents who cycle regularly, partly by building and improving hundreds of kilometres of bicycle trails.
“That cost $70 million,” she says. “That’s the price of a mile of freeway.”
McMahon wants the Ontario government to invest $20 million in an improved cycling infrastructure, considerably more than it spends now on such things as bike racks on buses and upgraded bike parking facilities. The Ministry of Transportation has given $750,000 to 33 communities in the last two years for projects that promote cycling and other alternate forms of transport, as well as other money spent promoting safe cycling.
But this is much less than the $200 million Quebec has invested or the $31 million B.C. has earmarked in the past year on cycling.