Last week I wrote about Britain’s government prescribing biking outlining the new British federal policy to increase fitness through diet and by encouraging cycling use. Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger also wrote about this new initiative and went a step further, outlining “In countries like Britain or Canada with nationalized medicine, there is much more of an incentive to keep people healthy and out of the hospital in the first place, since the costs are paid through taxes”.
But where is Canada?
As Christopher Guly in the Tyee writes Member of Parliament (and a member of the New Democratic (NDP) party Gordon Johns has twice brought forward a bill to adopt a national cycling plan. You’d think with the impact of the Covid pandemic that such a bill would be especially helpful as people want to keep moving as gyms and community centres remain closed down. Separated safe cycling lanes have demonstrated over and over again to be what is holding back a universal adoption of cycling as a more accepted municipal mode of transportation.
Mr. Johns who represents the Courtenay-Alberni riding has already received support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, along with such major cities as Toronto, Ottawa and Victoria”.
The day last March that Mr. Johns reintroduced his private members bill asking for Federal support for cycling, it was also announced that Canada’s first national active transportation strategy would be developed. This plan will develop “a national active transportation strategy that promotes bicycle and walking-friendly communities and school travel, including identifying and harnessing current investments that fall within the strategy.”
An integrated national strategy on active transportation is helpful during the Covid pandemic where being outdoors and being able to physically move safely is more important than ever.
I have written about the initiatives of Winnipeg and Edmonton who were early adapters to the creation of active transportation streets in their municipalities. Vancouver eventually joined the party a few months later in adopting “Slow Streets”.
But here’s the exciting thing about this national initiative~eight organizations related to health including the Alzheimer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation have been supporting a national active transportation strategy. Finally some thinking on the intersection between providing good infrastructure and impetus for active walking, cycling, and getting outside which would reduce costs on the national health care system.
Member of Parliament Andy Filmore who is leading the federal initiative has 20 members of parliament willing to work on the strategy~sadly there are no members from the Official Opposition party , the Conservatives.
The Covid pandemic has shown the need for a rethink of how active transportation can provide mental and physical benefits, as well as moving more sustainably to schools, shops and services. A national strategy must include best practices for universal accessibility for all users and ensure seniors as well as children are comfortable on planned projects and networks. In a country that also provides universal health care it just makes sense.