Going Dutch? Ontario’s Cycling Strategy Released!

Summarised for you: The Ontario Cycling Strategy in 1000 words: How Ontario will look like in 20 years.

downtown Ontario cities will see safer infrastructure, such as this bike lane in Rotterdam, The Netherlands (bike modal share 23%)
Downtown Ontario cities will see safer infrastructure, such as this bike lane in Rotterdam (bike modal share 23%), Netherlands

This afternoon, August 30, 2013, the Ministry of Transportation released its first provincial cycling strategy in 20 years. This is a much better document than the first draft that was floated around at the beginning of the year. Over 1000 individuals reacted when this first draft document was open for public input, a number that is unheard of in Ontario, which shows the desire for change. From this input and the input of many professionals comes the Ontario Cycling Strategy.

Traffic lights could be equipped with a morror, so that truck drivers can see if there are bike next to them.
Traffic lights could be equipped with a mirror, so that truck drivers can see if there are bikes next to them. (Haarlem, Netherlands)

The document contains basically lots of reasons why we should have a bike strategy, with numbers, examples from other great cities such as London, England (not sure why London, England was chosen, Londoners will be surprised I bet)  and case stories such as Cervelo (owned by Netherlands based Pon Holdings BV btw) Oddly, neither Vancouver nor Montreal is mentioned once in the document. Here is the summary of the document, illustrated with about 20 pictures from the Netherlands (pics by me). I added some wishful thinking comments on how Ontario will look like in 2033 based on the areas of action. It is all out there already, it is just a matter of getting your act together as a government.

New communities give priority to cycling as a means of transport; the car will hardly be visible in the landscape (Lansingerland, Netherlands)
New communities will give priority to cycling as a means of transportation; the car will hardly be visible in the landscape in 2033 (Lansingerland, Netherlands)

From the document

“Cycling has become a popular activity in Ontario, both for recreation and daily transportation. Recent Ministry of Transportation surveys of road users suggest that around 1.2 million adults in Ontario ride a bicycle during the spring, summer and fall, and 2.8 million ride at least once a week. These high level statistics don’t tell the full story – there are many communities in Ontario where few people cycle.

Rural communities will see bike use to stores and libraries below 5 km explode like at this square in Holten.
Rural communities will see bike use to stores and libraries with a  5 km radius explode like at this square in Rijssen-Holten (bike modal share 38%), Netherlands.

Cycling generates a wide range of health, economic, environmental, social and other benefits. These include improved personal health, reduced health care costs as a result of lower rates of chronic conditions through active living, reduced traffic congestion in urban areas, a cleaner environment and increased tourism opportunities across the province.

Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart will see rows of bikes outside their down town stores  (The Hague, Netherlands)
Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart will see rows of bikes outside their down town stores (The Hague, Netherlands)

At the heart of the Strategy are a bold Vision, ambitious Goals and a set of carefully targeted Strategic Directions. These will guide the development of policies, programs and legislation over the next 20 years. Achieving the Strategy’s Vision requires a commitment from all partners for integrated action to:

1        Design healthy, active and prosperous communities

2        Improve cycling infrastructure

3        Make highways and streets safer

4        Promote cycling awareness and behavioural shifts

5        Increase cycling tourism in Ontario

Ontario’s Cycling Strategy will be implemented through ongoing, multi-year Action Plans.

Ontarions will bike a lot more to church in 2033. This is a church parking lot in Lansingerland, the Netherlands (bike modal share 31%)
Ontarions will bike a lot more to church in 2033. This is a church parking lot in Lansingerland (bike modal share 31%) Netherlands

Vision 2033

Cycling in Ontario is recognized, respected, and valued as a core mode of transportation that provides individuals and communities with health, economic, environmental, social and other benefits.

Wayfinding signs will dot the landscape, such as in The Hague (bike modal share 30%), Netherlands
Wayfinding signs will dot the landscape, such as in The Hague (bike modal share 30%), Netherlands

Aspirational Goals for 2033

Top 10 world wide: Ontario is recognized as the best Canadian province for cycling and ranked among the top 10 jurisdictions worldwide for cycling. At least one Ontario city is ranked among the 10 most bike-friendly cities in the world. (currently it is Borne, the Netherlands, based on a bike modal share with 33%)

The built environment in most Ontario communities supports and promotes cycling for all trips under 5 km.

Ontario’s cycling environment is safe for people of all ages, striving to achieve a record of zero fatalities and few serious injuries.

Ontario’s cities and towns have interconnected networks of safe cycling routes enabling people to cycle to work, school, home and key destinations.

Ontario has an integrated province-wide network of cycling routes.

Bike paths through the country side will connect towns for safe touring (Delft, bike modal share 30%), Netherlands
Bike paths through the Ontario country side will connect towns for safe touring (near Delft bike modal share 30%), Netherlands
In smaller towns too, main street might see bike lanes such as this one in Haarlem, Netherlands
In smaller towns too, complete main streets  will appear such as this one in Haarlem, Netherlands

Strategic directions for 2033

1 Design healthy, active and prosperous communities

The design of Ontario communities has evolved since the post-war period. The focus today is on creating communities that mix residential and business activities in an environment that supports active transportation. The goal is to build active, liveable communities in which more of our goods, services and jobs are available within an easy bike ride from home. A more cycling-friendly approach to land-use and transportation planning is key to creating healthy communities.

Areas for Action

To support the development of cycling-friendly communities, the province will:

Enhance cycling provisions when planning policies, guidelines and legislation are reviewed

Partner with municipalities to implement Complete Streets policies and develop cycling or active transportation plans as applicable

Partner with municipalities and transit agencies to integrate cycling with transit

Ensure that bicycles are better accommodated in institutional, residential and commercial buildings

There will be clear bike routes, where children can safely cycle to school. More roads will have mediums, in order to accommodate safer crossings.
There will be clear bike routes, where children can safely cycle to school. More roads will have medians, in order to accommodate safer crossings. (Haarlem, Netherlands)

2 Improve cycling infrastructure

Increasing cycling as a daily activity will require more bike paths, cycling routes and cycling-friendly transit connections. As we build that infrastructure, we need to consider new design guidelines that will benefit all road users. We can also explore opportunities for innovative funding and development models that could help support this growth.

Areas for Action

To increase and improve cycling infrastructure within Ontario, the province will:

Develop a funding partnership with municipalities and the federal government to build provincial and municipal cycling routes

Make adherence to design guidelines conditional to receiving funding

Fund provincial and municipal cycling infrastructure pilot projects to test new ideas and gather data

Remove barriers and streamline approval processes to implement cycling infrastructure

Smart bypasses will allow cyclist to keep moving, rather than stopping unnecessary like in the Hague, Netherlands
Smart bypasses will allow cyclists to keep moving, rather than stopping unnecessary like in The Hague, Netherlands
Older suburbs will see major make overs to adjust them for proper cycling safety (Lansingerland, Netherlands)
Older suburbs with speeds over 50k/hr will see major street make overs to adjust them for proper cycling safety (Lansingerland, Netherlands)

3 Promote awareness and behavioural shifts

Encouraging more people to ride their bikes means communicating the benefits of cycling, sharing cycling-related data and research, and demonstrating leadership on cycling issues.

Areas for Action

To build broad support for cycling as a healthy and valued transportation option, the province will:

Lead province-wide campaigns to encourage more people to cycle more often

Develop and share relevant cycling best practices, research and data

Encourage more cycling education in schools and at the community level

New communities will be designed with a cycling first approach, such as this development in Lansingerland, Netherlands
New communities will be designed with a cycling first approach, such as this development in Lansingerland, Netherlands

4 Make highways and streets safer

We can reduce cycling road fatalities and injuries by continuing to ensure our traffic laws and policies are based on the latest research and reflect the differences between bicycles and motor vehicles. Enforcing the rules of the road, improving cycling skills and increasing road-user education also contribute to safer highways and streets.

Areas for Action

To create a safer cycling environment for people of all ages and skill levels, the province will:

Review and recommend cycling-related legislation based on the latest research

Continue to better educate all road users on the rules of the road to build cycling skills

Work with police services to build consistency of enforcement of existing traffic laws to improve cycling safety

Cycling tourism is on the list too. Families will go for outings to enjoy the country side (near Hillegom, bike modal share 33%) Netherlands.
Cycling tourism is on the list too in Ontario’s Bike Strategy. Families will go for outings to enjoy the country side (near Hillegom, bike modal share 33%) Netherlands.

5 Increase cycling tourism opportunities

Ontario’s cycling tourism industry is growing and creating new economic opportunities for communities. On-road and off-road cycling paths abound in the province. Connecting them into a province-wide network holds significant potential to boost cycling tourism.

Areas for Action

To encourage the growth of cycling tourism, the province will:

Promote Ontario as a premier cycling tourism destination

Identify a province-wide cycling network and use it to prioritize future infrastructure investments on provincial highways

Improve cycling tourism experiences in Ontario and inter-modal cycling connections by working with our partners to provide end-of-trip facilities, maps of existing cycling routes and way-finding applications

Public transport and cycling is seamlessly integrated, with tons of bike parking at the suburban train stations (Pynacker, bike modal share 39%) Netherlands
Public transport and cycling is seamlessly integrated, with tons of bike parking at the suburban train and LRT  stations (Pynacker, bike modal share 39%) Netherlands
Trucks will be equipped with side bars to avoid that cyclists will be dragged underneath their wheels.
Trucks will be equipped with side bars to avoid cyclists being dragged underneath its wheels.
Suburban arterials will become Complete Streets in Ontario's landscape more and more, such a this one in Haarlem, Netherlands (Bike modal share 38%)
Suburban arterials will become Complete Streets in Ontario’s landscape, such a this one in Haarlem, Netherlands (Bike modal share 38%)
Bike traffic lights will be common place in Ontario in 2033 to truly make cycling safer at intersections.
Bike traffic lights will be common place in Ontario in 2033 to truly make cycling safer at intersections.
Shopping centres will see cycling and walking mixed and it will work just fine. (Lansingerland, Netherlands)
Shopping malls will become shopping streets again and see cycling and walking mixed; it will work just fine by 2033. (Lansingerland, Netherlands)
Multi storey bike parking will appear at Union Station such as this one in The Hague, Netherlands
Multi storey bike parking will appear at Union Station in Toronto such as this one in The Hague, Netherlands to accommodate all the multi modal rides by TO commuters
Bike share at the Ministry to move around Toronto will be common place (The Hague, Netherlands)
Bike share at the Ministry to move around in Toronto will be common place (several Dutch Ministries, The Hague, Netherlands)

For further reading:

Full Ontario Cycling Strategy document

Cycling in the Netherlands PDF (2009)

Ontario Bicycle Strategy Update (2013)

All bike modal shares are percentages for distances below 7.5 km, more or less the cut off distance for many people. Data from: http://www.fietsberaad.nl/?repository=Cijfers+over+fietsgebruik+per+gemeente

Photos by Hans Moor, except Haarlem arterial (Google Streetview)

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14 thoughts on “Going Dutch? Ontario’s Cycling Strategy Released!

  1. bike racks at Loblaws ? They are already there … what about the Rideau Centre, a downtown shopping concentration without a single bike space on the McKenzie-King side. I’ve complained to this mall about the lack of parking and they are totally uninterested in cyclists. My interest in going there has also declined.

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    1. I was actually more refering to possible future Loblaws/Shoppers in the down town areas. When I visit Europe, I notice more and more smaller A-brand supermarkets, like the Dutch Albert Heijn in the picture above. You even see them in smaller places, like at Schiphol Airport and some train stations.

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  2. Hans, I’m a bit more pessimistic. The strategy smells a little of a cheap pre-election promise. A strategy shouldn’t be released unless you’re willing to put some skin in the game. There was no skin except for a potentially handy hashtag #cycleON, which in my view doesn’t count as infrastructure.

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      1. Any evidence it existed before? If nothing else its being used and followed way more connecting cycling advocates which actually may be more powerful than throwing money at infrastructure ……

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  3. The number of cyclists will only increase (and, in my opinion, will increase dramatically) if they feel safe. And we have a very long way to go before that happens.

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    1. I don’t have the docs here (I am in Calgary currently) but I believe we made a three page suggestion after the first meeting which we missed and I was in Halifax that week and Alex in Israel. Unfortunately these meetings are often organised during the day and in Toronto, which is hard for volunteer organisations outside of town. We got a four day notice which didn’t really help either but we managed to pull something off and got involved. I guess that is the fate of volunteering, scramble at the last minute in your own time.

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  4. In the preliminaries leading up to this, the document had mention and a definition of power-assisted bicycles (ebikes). In this latest document, there is no mention, I can only guess there is no vision of ebikes in Ontario for the next 20 years. Hardly surprising as our present Minister is a member of Cycle Toronto which has been waging a media and political campaign against ebikes, along with its spin off organizations like TCAT. I at first thought this must be accidental, but Ontario, and indeed the Ministry of Transport, is well aware that ebikes were legalized several years ago, therefore I have to conclude their exclusion was deliberate.

    There still seems to be an emphasis on cycling as recreation and exercise and not much on transportation. Also Ontario is fast becoming a black hole for ebikes as city copies city on banning ebikes from bike lanes and trails, making ebike tours impossible which are becoming popular in other countries. Ontarians can book an ebike tour, but have to leave the country, they cannot do so in their home province. Bicycle tourism, yes for the young and fit, nothing for those on the fringe who need a little assist.

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  5. A note, as a born and raised Dutchman living in Ottawa.

    “I want,..I want.. I want…, but what about me?”

    It should be noted that simply changing the infrastructure to accommodate cyclists in and around our cities will not be enough to provide safer cycling. I personally believe in the education of the people, cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians alike, in order to create a safe environment. Culturally Canadians do not know how to deal with cyclists on the road. Drivers are scared to pass, cyclists move too close to their side, and pedestrians don’t think to watch out for cyclists. Accidents happen…of course. However, in a tragic case in Ottawa last year a cyclists was fatally injured whilst travelling in the opposite direction of traffic on one of our major arteries where the speed limit sits around 70 Km. The cyclists community in rage over the accident, everyone sought to blame the driver. Yes it is tragic, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, however one must take responsibility of one’s own safety first and foremost. Regardless of the the Law, we have to stop assuming it’s someone else’s fault all of time. Just because as a pedestrian I have the right of way in a crossing, doesn’t mean I should simply walk out without looking, while listening to my music and text-ing my best friend to meet me for a drink…which I subsequently won’t make because I didn’t see or hear the bus! Sure the law could rule in my favour, but I’m dead now!

    The infrastructure is needed before the education can take place, agreed; but we cannot simply assume everyone will know what to do. In everyday life, it seems, that we all want to hold someone else accountable for anything and everything that happens. As a society we need to stop thinking of ourselves as the better person, especially cyclists and pedestrians! Honestly…take a good look around next time you see cyclists encounter issues with drivers and pedestrians, it gets very interesting very fast because someone always feels they have the right of way; the right to the road; the law says…; and so on…

    My advise, to cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers: Have a little more patience. Look out for your fellow human beings around you. A common near accident I see almost daily, and I am guilty for having done it myself is this scenario: Driver has another car in front of them that is waiting to turn left at an intersection. It’s a single lane traffic with parking on either side of the road. The cyclist is passing the parked cars and the stopped cars in the lane, and then…the driver decides not to wait any longer and swerve out using the intersections space as advantage to curl around the car ahead of them. The cyclist then swerves out and narrowly misses the person with their child in a stroller crossing the intersection legally in the same direction that traffic is currently moving. The yelling ensues… for what? This happens all of time because we are impatient.

    It’s a give and take environment that needs to succeed. Stop and say hello to your neighbour you see in the elevator every day, but don’t know their name.. The street vendor you pass, whether you buy anything or not… Let a car through once in while when you know it only takes 5 more seconds…or a pedestrian, or cyclist. Tap in to that patience you know you have, be an example to others, not a follower of the same old indifference and anonymity. It’s not just about you 😉 It’s about us all, together, unified, understanding, acceptance, and mostly, patient.

    “I want…, I want…, I want…, but what about you?”

    My rant…

    Cheers!

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