Cycling has the potential to provide many B.C. families with increased affordable transportation choices and economic opportunities. While it already is a popular activity, with sufficient investment, cycling can become a practical safe transportation option for many more people of all ages, leading to significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reliance on oil, congestion, health care costs, and cycling fatality rates.
To realize these benefits, the BCCC recommends that Provincial Government increase its investment in cycling and walking to $100 million per year.
A Comprehensive Cycling Strategy
The BCCC and our member cycling organizations recommend that the Province of BC and municipal partners develop and implement a Comprehensive Cycling Strategy that enables residents and visitors of all ages and abilities to safely and conveniently cycle throughout the province for transportation, recreation and tourism.
Maximizing the Benefits of Investments in Cycle
Over the last two decades, there has been significant investment by all levels of government in cycling routes in communities around the Province. However, often these routes are not connected to each other. Many destinations are still not served by safe comfortable convenient cycling connections. Until people can cycle from anywhere to anywhere without worrying if there is a good bicycle route, many won’t chose to ride a bicycle and we will not realize the full economic, health, environmental and social benefits from the hundreds of millions of dollars already invested in cycling.
As part of a Comprehensive Cycling Strategy, the BCCC recommends a significant acceleration of the investment in cycling networks including bicycle paths, separated bicycle lanes and other high quality bicycle facilities totalling $175 million per year by all levels of government. This investment in infrastructure, accompanied by funding for education, promotion, and end-of-trip facilities, will enable residents and visitors of all ages and abilities to safely and conveniently cycle throughout the province, fostering healthier individuals and communities.
We encourage the Provincial Government to show strong leadership by committing $100 per year for all ages cycling and walking networks and education. A public opinion poll commissioned by the BCCC found that 42% of B.C. residents support increasing cycling investment to $75 million per year while only 28% are opposed.
Making BC the North American leader in cycling will bring many economic benefits including:
- Boosting tourism and the local retail economy
- Increased tax revenue and jobs from the bicycle industry
- Increased worker productivity due to higher levels of physical fitness
- Attracting the skilled professionals required to build the businesses of the future who value the benefits of a healthy environment and physical fitness
- Increased expertise in planning high quality cycling facilities which can be exported around the world
Combatting Childhood Obesity and Physical Inactivity
A Strategy for Combatting Childhood Obesity and Physical Inactivity in British Columbia by the Select Standing Committee on Health of the Legislative Assembly of BC estimated that the direct and indirect cost of obesity and inactivity combined in British Columbia is likely in the range of one billion dollars a year and two to three times larger when including reduced productivity and increased susceptibility to illness and disease. This situation may become even worse if action is not taken to enable and encourage physical activity among children. The Committee stated
We also believe that schools, municipalities, and the province must work together to ensure that every student in British Columbia has access to safe walking or cycling routes.
The Strategy recommended the Government provide additional resources to promote cycling and improve walking and cycling routes to schools and throughout communities.
High Public Interest and Support
Interest in and support for active and integrated approaches to transportation is high throughout the province. For example:
- Nearly 70% of B.C. residents cycle at least once a year, 42% cycle at least once a month and 25% cycle at least once a week;
- In Metro Vancouver, 85% supporting government funding, planning, and promoting of cycling;
- In the Capital Region, 82% of residents support funding for cycling;
- In 2010, UBCM passed a resolution supporting increased funding for cycling;
- 35 rural communities in British Columbia have supported a motion calling for increased provincial investment in cycling infrastructure;
- In 2013, 19,280 British Columbians took part in Bike to Work Week. Participation increased by 26.8% over 2011 and reduced CO2 by 208,269 kg; and
- BC has hosted several sustainable transportation conferences in the last few years including Walk21, ACT Canada, Velo Village and Velo-City Global.
Inadequate Funding for Communities
Communities across the province have produced extensive cycling network plans. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, these cycling networks may not be complete for 20 to 30 years. For instance:
- Surrey has recently completed a cycling plan that includes over 470 km of additional bike lanes and paths. With current funding, it plans on completing around 12km per year but has indicated that additional funding from senior levels of government would speed implementation of the plan.
- The recently completed Pedestrian & Cycling Master Plan – Capital Regional District estimated the cost of upgrading the bicycle network to attract people of all ages and abilities is around $275 million.
- TransLink has estimated that completing all ages cycling networks around the region may be much higher than $800 million. Due to lack of new funding sources, in 2013, TransLink is only investing $2 million.
Decades of Underinvestment
A large expenditure on cycling facilities is required to make up ground lost through several decades of underinvestment . The Netherlands, widely hailed as the world leader in cycling, spends approximately $40 per person per year on cycling. Several other jurisdictions with cycling levels similar to that of BC are matching or exceeding that level of investment. London Mayor Johnson recently announced he will increase cycling funding to $619 million over the next three years.
We estimate that by 2023, yearly cycling investments of this level could increase cycling mode share to 9% enabling the people of BC to save around $285 million per year through reduced gasoline use alone, let alone the reduction in health care and other costs.
No other transportation investment of similar size can boast the potential to be enjoyed by people of all ages and income brackets, in communities large and small, throughout the province. High quality cycling facilities that are attractive to a significant portion of the population such as bicycle paths and separated bicycle lanes can cost from $1 million to $4 million per km (1/6 the cost of one km of road network for motorized vehicles). This investment will enable the construction of hundreds of kilometres of high quality facilities in communities around the province, giving the majority of British Columbians access to great bicycle routes.
Importantly, cycling facilities also benefit those who don’t ride a bicycle. Multi-use paths are used by pedestrians, in-line skaters, electric wheelchairs, personal mobility scooters, and skateboards. Traffic calming along bicycle routes benefits neighbourhoods, making streets safer for all pedestrians. But it has particular benefit for seniors, children, and the disabled. Bike lanes along busy streets calm traffic, enhancing the pedestrian environment and creating a more welcoming retail atmosphere.
Building on the success of Spirit of 2010 Trails and the Trans Canada Trail, a network of cycling routes linking communities and attractions throughout the province will also offer visitors and residences wonderful cycle touring experiences. This dramatic increase in cycling tourism could have significant economic benefits to rural and urban BC communities. Oregon estimated that in 2012, cycling tourists contributed $325 million to their economy.
Keeping Our Athletes Safe
Athletes in cycling and other sports require safe cycling facilities to train on. People training for charity fundraising rides and events like the Grand Fondo also require safe cycling facilities. Improving cycling routes will not only make the sport safer and more enjoyable, that peace of mind can encourage more people to participate in clubs, organized rides, and charitable events.