Sunday, June 17, 2007

Of bike revolutions and cycling petitions

A coworker, who thinks I'm a bit more of a bike rebel than I really am, saw this story in the Toronto Star yesterday, and when I arrived she said "let's see your hands" - jokingly expecting to find my hands covered in pink paint.

Nope, wasn't me.

To tell you the truth, I kind of feel that the bike war in Toronto has already been won, due to the simple fact that it is actually being waged. I mean, we already cycle in Toronto, more or less happily. We have bike lanes, we've been promised loads more bike lanes and actually have the money for them, and most importantly, there already exists a cycling culture in Toronto.

After I spend my working day in Whitby/Oshawa, and I get off the Go Train with my bike in Toronto, I breathe a big sigh of relief to be back on the Toronto streets, because I feel like I (as a cyclist) truly belong on these streets.

This "sense of belonging" is sure as hell not the case in Whitby/Oshawa. The "Bike Revolution" that we're all hungering for will not really have reached critical mass until places like Durham actually start installing bike lanes. Durham Region is the home of General Motors. There are no bike lanes here, no bike parking posts, the only cyclists I ever see are either roadies on their way to the country roads north of the city, or they're riders up on the sidewalk scared to death to share the road with the cars.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we do need to keep fighting the war in Toronto, but at least we know that the war is "on" in this city. Out in Durham, which does actually have a cycling plan, (though the implementation timelines for bikelanes etc range up to 20 years) the war hasn't even begun yet.

But maybe our petition will help!!!
I've been monitoring the House of Commons debates for a while now, and Olivia Chow has finally been able to present our
cycling petition to the House.

In case that link stops working, you could use this search page to type in cycling and find the mention of the petition on June 18.

Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the next petition, which is close to 200 pages, comes from over 3,000 Canadians from cities coast to coast, like Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Halifax.

The petitioners want the federal government to legitimize cycling as the preferred means of transportation and to make it a part of the solution to climate change.

The 3,000 Canadians want the federal government to offer a tax credit to bicycle commuters similar to that offered to public transit users; set up a program similar to Britain's cycle to work initiative, that the employer purchase a bike and claim the tax back from the government and sell the bike to the employee at a tax free price; offer tax incentives to employers who set up bike lockers and showers for employees; and the removal of the GST from bikes and bike accessories.

Last weekend many parts of southern Ontario experienced smog days. The time for action is now.

And that's it.
As I've written before, dozens of petitions get read in the House everyday. If we want this one to mean anything, it has to be followed up. Someone out there write the next one. Let's do the side-guards thing, let's demand that it be mandatory for all new roads to have bikelanes, let's ask for all Go Train stations to have bike lanes leading from them into their respective city centers. Let's make the words "Mr. Speaker, I have another petition regarding cycling" to be heard in the House of Commons on a weekly basis.


DeValera said...

Congratulation on getting the petition submitted - thanks too for the follow up email and link back to your site (will pop by from time to time)


Darren J said...


I like that she pointed out how many people signed it. The other petitions must not have had so many people.

I gotta agree with you about the areas around Toronto. There's so much room for improvement, and there's actually physical room for those improvements!

I noticed last week that Aurora is adding sidepaths on some roads. In some places sidepaths can have problems, but in so many places in the suburbs, the arterial roads only have a driveway or intersection every 500 m or so, which makes the equation very different from a dense urban area.

Amy Beaith said...

Go Chris go! I'd heard about your bike trips to Oshawa and back. keep on pedalling. your voice is being heard by people across the country who share the same hopes in making biking a viable alternative in the eyes of the government.

Wil said...

Do you actually take your bike on the GO train?

I've done that a few times but I was feeling guilty for breaking rules with GO and Union station.

I have a 37km ride from Markham to downtown TO and it's very doable on my way to work. But the steady incline coming home makes it a bit difficult. When ever I see photos of trains with bike racks in Europe, I can't help but feel like everything is ass backwards here. If bikes were permitted on the GO train even during rush hour, I'd be commuting on my bike a lot more.

Tomorrow's Earth Day so I am hoping to ride down and sneak the bike on the train for a ride home.

Wish me luck.