Ontario Liberals promised bike infrastructure fund a drop in bucket

The Ontario Liberals promised $25 million towards cycling infrastructure this year. While this is certainly better than zero dollars and while cycling organizations such as Share the Road did good to get excited about it, I'm going to look at the gift horse in the mouth. I'm here to provide the horse droppings on the parade (or some such metaphor).

For the 2013-14 fiscal year Ontario dedicated about $6 billion towards transit and highways. The $25 million for cycling infrastructure is over three years and spread out across a population of 13.5 million. That comes out to 60 cents a person per year. Compare that to $450 per person per year for transit and highways!

The Ontario government loves cycling about 0.1% as much as they love big transit and highway projects.

I'm well aware that province-wide that cycling rates are low (though they do increase quite a bit when we include all the recreational cycling), the rate is still an order of magnitude higher than 0.1%. Toronto as a whole is around 2% but there are parts of central Toronto that are almost 20%.

While the announcement is certainly good news, it is just barely so. It will have a minor impact on transportation choices in this province. The best thing the government could do would be to pick just 2-3 big projects in cities where there is a sweet spot of a high impact on bike mode share and a willing city government to quickly implement the change. Otherwise the money might be spread too thinly to even be noticeable.

Perhaps if cyclists across this province went around our neighbourhoods and asked for 60 cents from all our neighbours we could double this tiny fund in no time.

The good news, as cycling advocates have pointed out, is that Ontario will now incorporate cycling infrastructure into all provincial highway and bridge work.

“The experience of jurisdictions where they do that is it actually doesn’t cost you any more because… you basically integrate it. You can see it on Highway 7 in Toronto: You’ll see the Viva (bus) lines, you’ll see a sidewalk and you’ll see a roadway with several lanes on it and you’ll see a cycling trail. From now on, we’ll just simply build it in like we build sidewalks unless there’s a cost reason,” he said.

The exception will be where it doesn’t make sense, such as in Brampton, where there are sidewalks along highways that aren’t being used. Those are being re-purposed as active transportation corridors.

This will have a longer term impact even though the changes will be slow to be seen since it doesn't involve actual retrofitting of highways that don't have other work scheduled. And it doesn't seem to include any policy directive for municipalities to do the same for their own infrastructure projects. Neither has the province promised to make implementing cycling infrastructure easier. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has been frustrated--as have most cyclists--that the implementation of protected bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide has dragged on for years, partly because of the onerous environmental assessment process:

The public, he said, doesn’t understand the “convoluted” environmental assessment process that means it can take four or five years to realize a project.

Let me pat you on the back Minister Glen Murray, but we've only just started.

Comments

Bicycle lanes need an environment assessment because bicycles are so very, very bad for the environment...

...not.

Touche! great comment

I wanted to add that despite this being a drop in the bucket, it's still a lot more than I'd expect from either the Tories or even the NDP under Andrea Horwath. I've been completely disappointed with Horwath who seems to take every opportunity in focusing on the "welfare" of drivers in a veneer of trying to help out the common man.

The article also mentions that the money is to be allocated to, “quick wins” and pilot projects. This means they will likely find a few high profile projects that will get the public attention, but cycling infrastructure is a long game.

And of course, with an election in the offing, I wonder if this will get proposed, started, then stopped or changed in a post-election belt tightening frenzy. They pick a few big projects, start working on them, then the plug is pulled. That's precisely what has stalled so much transit development in Toronto.

The change in future builds (e.g. to incorporate bike infrastructure into highways) is one of those "long term view" things that politicians often fail to see as important. A regime change could nix that as well.

Let's hope if the people at the top do change they find the courage of their convictions and make it stick.

Cheers,

Ian

http://cyclinggotham.blogspot.ca/

I think the best way to get quick results would be to ask for bike infrastructure around the Pam Am games. With them happening in 2015 it is on the minds of our politicians. Also because it is so short a time, a provincial election will not affect the timetable of putting them in. Lets face it, if Tim Hudak wins, the money will be gone immediately.

As for repurposing some sidewalks, the West Mall in Etobicoke could be a good one for that. Sidewalks on both side of the street, rarely used, go a decent distance. There are other places like that, we just need to identify them

How strange that we need an EA for bike lanes on Bloor, for maybe doing, for maybe $200,000 for simpler paint (which I'd settle for after a near-decade), but to rebuild the Gardiner for single occupant vehicles creating much extra congestion for $400M or whatever, and something that reinforces all that car pollution, no EA required.

There's also something called the Places to Grow Act which in sections 3.2.2. and 3.2.3 seem to mandate cities and town to provide better biking when the more routine things get done - like repaving. So with Bloor St. W., shouldn't that mean bike lanes? It would also benefit the subway - but for the price of paint ie. near-nothing.

Thanks for the horse droppings.

I like the idea of fund raising for bike stuff. Imagine going door to door, asking people to double the money the province will spend on bikes, at a mere $3 for a family of five. There's a sensational comparison here, and it is worthy of ridicule. Interesting to note that over the same three year period, Toronto will spend between $500-600 million on road repair.

The Pan Am games idea is brilliant.

As for repurposing sidewalks, there is a long stretch of sidewalk from just north of the 401 to Sheppard that is virtually unused by pedestrians, it could be repurposed for bikes. Actually, there are a lot of sidewalks north of the 401 that are barely used.

Lost opportunities...

Cheers

Ian
http://cyclinggotham.blogspot.ca