Cities that develop a strong cycling strategy see escalating ridership and economic, social and environmental benefits. In detail, what does Regina need and what are you ready to support to develop a municipal cycling strategy?
For starters, cycling should be seen as part of a comprehensive public transportation strategy, and in the City’s Transportation Master Plan, it is. That also means designing communities and new developments around walkability, convenient access to public transit, and cycling needs. Here we need to talk about the Official Community Plan and Neighbourhood plans. So let’s get started with what exists and fund recommendations that have already been crafted. I’m ready to support the creation of dedicated bike lanes and the growth of shared (marked) roadways. In terms of a strategy, I would first need to see what kind of data already exists and, if necessary, expand on this work through public consultation and research. We need to make sure that the strategy is evidence-based and effective.
Considering that over 30,000 residents work in the downtown core, and another 20,000 are employed in the surrounding areas, Ward 3 is just the place to launch pilot projects. That means improving cycling access and infrastructure to and from downtown. Here I would reach out to the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District to see how the city and BID can facilitated improvements together. We already have a number of bike lanes on one-way streets leading to the downtown on a north-south corridor, but what we need now is dedicated cycling space on major east-west roadways. That means look at 13th Avenue, 14th Avenue, 15th Avenue, and Victoria Avenue as a starting points.
- The federal government has already committed to developing a 10-year infrastructure investment plan that will include significant new funding in green infrastructure to create sustainable and livable communities. Knowing the link between infrastructure and ridership, what would do to hasten the construction of local networks of protected bicycle infrastructure?
My response to this question depends on my cycling experience that day. If I’ve struggled to avoid being hit by traffic or running into parked cars on a heavily trafficked road going into the downtown core, here’s my response: give me a group of volunteers, a can of paint, and a roller and I’ll give you a new bike line by tomorrow afternoon. How’s that for hastening the construction of local networks? But it’s not that easy.
As Councilor, I would review the existing recommendations available in Regina’s Transportation Master Plan. It’s surprisingly progressive and attentive to the importance of improving public transportation and cycling infrastructure. Let’s start there. A lot of expertise and public consultation time was invested into the development of that solid document. What it reveals is that relatively little money has been invested into cycling infrastructure and other forms of transportation. Between 2009 and 2014, only 15% of the Transportation Capital Budget Allocation was invested in transit, active transportation, and multi-modal infrastructure. The rest went into roadways, bridge infrastructure renewal, traffic control and safety, streetscape development, and safety improvements. Yes that’s important stuff but we need think big. Per-capita spending on active transportation is about $3, compared to $4 in Winnipeg and $8 in Edmonton. My objective is to change that.
Keep in mind that improving cycling infrastructure and encouraging residents to use a bike is far less expensive than people are meant to believe. Bikes don’t need new roads or pathways; we just need to secure dedicated space. That means increasing the number of shared lanes (on roads and certain sidewalks) and, most importantly, launching bike-only lanes that are protected by a curb or other barriers. People that say this can’t be done on wide, prairie city roads should probably visit other Canadian cities where the work’s been done. Even Saskatoon has made advances in this area. Regina just needs to catch up! The City should also create commuter maps that link existing paths to roadways and areas that enable cycling. There’s no reason why Regina can’t develop creative cycling commuter corridor and map for people to follow. That would be consistent with the direction of recommendations in the Transportation Master Plan.
The research is in, recommendations have been crafted – now it’s just a matter lighting a fire under Council come budget time. But that’s the tough part. Groups like Bike Regina need to continue their lobbying efforts. Challenge Councilors to bike around the city and maybe even commute on two wheels once in a while, if they are able. These folks need to experience the benefits and the challenges. Advocacy also includes letters to the editor, public challenges, op-eds, and other means of presenting data showing the economic benefits associated with improving cycling and public transportation infrastructure. Partnerships between Bike Regina, the city, and the various businesses in the community that sell bikes and related gear can be forged to promote cycling. Maybe we can even talk about raising funds for community-based bike repair clinics, or purchasing helmets, bikes, and bike parts for residents who can’t afford these items. Finally, all municipal buildings and spaces, like parks, need an appropriate amount of space for people to lock up their bikes.
Cars take a toll on our air and our roads, so we need to think of alternatives. Make cycling safer and more efficient is certainly one way to promote this mode of transportation.
- Where did you last ride a bicycle, and what do you love most about it?
Depending on when you publish my response, it’s likely I last rode my bike to work (University of Regina). And I do that year round. For me riding a bike is both a functional means of getting around and a form of mental relaxation. I love how it lets me unwind after work. It also gives me great relief to take a mix of bike lanes, paths, and side streets home when I know there are a bunch of suckers working their way through rush-hour traffic on their way home. Biking is also a way for me to confront Regina’s long, harsh winters. It’s much better than waiting for a freezing car to warm up!