People call me a “cycling enthusiast”. I suppose it’s an easy label to apply to someone who is a Co-Chair of the Brampton Cycling Advisory Committee, and hasn’t owned a car for 5 years. I understand why someone might use this label, but I don’t agree with it. Using the term “enthusiast” makes it easy to dismiss what appears to be a fringe thing. In this case perhaps, cycling.
That’s not what I’m interested in.
I’m interested in going to get groceries. To grab a tea and give an enthusiast “Hello!” to the fine people at T By Daniel. I want to bring items to donate to a recycling centre, pick something up from the Brampton Library, or hardware store. I want to get to work. I’m interested in doing the things I need to do every day, and not relying on a car to do them. People complain about the cost of gas, insurance, and traffic in Brampton. I stopped complaining about those things 5 years ago.
But I also realize that I’m lucky. The area where I live has enough residential roads to be just good enough to cycle around. With a little effort, I can pick out side roads and streets that cross the 410 without competing with merging highway traffic. Not all Brampton is so lucky. It’s time for the City of Brampton to take cycling investment seriously and here’s why.
I’m putting this reason first because, frankly, this article is mostly written for you, Millenials.
The next wave of tax-paying adults are driving 23% less. They’re favouring other means of transportation like cycling and transit by 24% and 40% respectively. And they’re moving to cities that reflect these preferences. From Brampton’s standpoint, if the city is serious about growth and prosperity, this is the audience to target.
Growth in people-friendly cities puts more traffic demand for low-stress transportation solutions. Making cycling a safe and enjoyable experience for people of all ages means more local trips made on a bicycle. In turn, this leaves roads open for transit and freight movement, and trips by car when truly necessary.
“Rather than paying millions to encourage more people to drive, the city could spend a fraction of that amount to encourage people to cycle instead.”
I found it difficult to determine which item should come next — Health or Economy. I chose health, because you cannot have a robust economy if your customers and employees are not well.
People who ride a bicycle regularly take fewer sick days, and are more productive. Their blood pressure and stress is lower, and they have more energy and strength.
Childhood obesity is rising, as are healthcare costs in general. Many of these costs relate to ailments due to inactivity. In 2004, 28% of Grade 7 to 12 students were either overweight or obese. This has become a big enough problem that The Region of Peel Public Health has made addressing this a priority.
“The health and economic implications associated with diabetes, sedentary behaviour, and unhealthy eating are vast. We understand that the most effective way to impact the high rates of obesity and diabetes in Peel is to focus on policies and programs that are the underlying determinants of physical activity, unhealthy eating and sedentary behaviour. Therefore, we are influencing policy development in child care centres, schools, workplaces and the build environment to create supportive environments for healthy living.”
The Region of Peel Public Health, “2014-19, Setting The Pace, A revision to Peel Public Health’s 10-Year Strategic Plan 2009-19”. Accessed February 4, 2016
You might have been able to tell from the above section that it’s difficult to separate public health and economy. But, here we are — let’s talk economy.
Releasing yourself from car ownership means no longer being on the hook for car payments, insurance, gas, costly maintenance, and parking. How much do you spend for one car? According to the CAA Driving Costs Calculator, The Total Annual Driving Costs of a Compact car in Ontario is $9,207 annually. That’s not including the variability of financing.
The costs break down like so:
One of the benefits of having fewer multi-tonne vehicles moving at high speeds is that the city saves money too. In 2016, Brampton will be spending $11,000,000 on road resurfacing projects. Less cars traveling on the road means less wear-and-tear on the asphalt. This increases the longevity of the road assets. It also saves money on road resurfacing projects, or stretches the same dollars further.
It takes less asphalt to accommodate people riding bicycles. Let’s compare. The City of Toronto estimates a cost of about $4,000 per metre to reconstruct a 4-lane road. Compare that to $320 per metre to construct a bike lane using hard curbs. The a difference ratio in cost is about 12.5:1.
Brampton will be widening McLaughlin Rd. between Wanless Dr. and Mayfield Rd. — a distance of about 1.3 km, budgeted at $7,810,000. That works out to be about $6,000 per metre of repaving, give or take. If we apply the same difference ratio to construct a bike lane with hard curbs, Brampton would pay about $480,000 to construct a cycle track along the same stretch of road. Rather than paying millions to encourage more people to drive, the city could spend a fraction of that amount to encourage people to cycle instead.
Alright, enough on government spending. But, I’m not finished yet. I still need to talk about benefits to local business!
Research from cities across North America point to the same observation: Bicycling means business. The principles of why this is so is summarized by the League of American Bicyclists:
- People who ride bikes buy bikes. This puts people to work in bicycle shops and apparel stores
- People who ride bikes buy other things too. Bike-accessible business districts benefit by catering to these customers
- People on bikes are also more likely to make repeat trips to their local stores
- With the money saved from lower travel costs, people who ride bikes have more of their money to spend on local businesses
- Developers, cities, and individuals can save money on parking costs by providing space-efficient, low-cost bike parking instead of expensive car parking
Darren Flusche, League of American Bicyclists, “Bicycling Means Business, The Economic Benefits of Bicycle Infrastructure”. Accessed February 4, 2016
While not usually as compelling to most people — sadly — as saving money, there are massive environmental benefits to investing in cycling. You’ve probably heard them before: Cycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions, noise pollution, and congestion.
In short, burning gas while going nowhere is bad.
Social and Safety Benefits
I’ve saved the best for last. This is easily one of the most unexpected benefits I’ve encountered since deciding to favour cycling: Cycling is social.
Removing a metal cage from my day-to-day travel has reintroduced me to my community. Stopping with other cyclists at a red light often results in an unexpected chat. These pleasant interactions were impossible from behind the wheel of a car.
Encouraging more cyclists builds on the “safety in numbers” principle. More cyclists results in calmer, safer roads, reduces opportunity for crime, and makes neighbourhoods more pleasant to live in.
Don’t forget: Paved roads were originally built for bicycles.
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