HUB Cycling’s Recommendations for Federal Active Transportation Strategy and Funding
April 16, 2021
We are pleased to see the federal government dedicate funding to active transportation - this is an important step towards achieving the impressive potential for combating climate change, improving mobility options, reducing traffic congestion, creating jobs, and improving well-being and livability in Canadian communities.
Research shows that increases in cycling rates, and declines in crashes, are directly tied to safe and comfortable cycling infrastructure. The recently released State of Cycling report in Metro Vancouver shows that 46% of the bikeway network in the region is comfortable for most people. This leaves slightly more than half of the bike network that is not comfortable for most people. The areas that showed the greatest growth in ridership levels were also the ones that built infrastructure that was comfortable for most people. More needs to be invested in active transportation networks to ensure there are safe, comfortable, and connected facilities for people to walk, cycle and use other forms of active transportation. The earlier the investment, the greater the return.
Spending on non-infrastructure items such as education is necessary and needs to be paired with spending on physical infrastructure spending. Cities across the province have made significant strides in the development of active transportation infrastructure. Physical improvements alone, however, will not be enough to attract more people to switch to active transportation. Many external factors like cultural practices, social influence, emotions, and attitudes all influence which mode of travel people will use. Spending on education and promotional events programs, including youth active travel programming, costs a fraction of infrastructure investments, yet can be very effective in increasing ridership to maximize the use of new as well as existing infrastructure. In recognition of this, Government of Canada funding should include a mandatory minimum amount (1-5%) to provide for the promotion of the new infrastructure, similar to the Bicycle Infrastructure Capital Cost Share (BICCS) funding criteria at TransLink.
HUB Cycling recommends that government funding for Active Transportation be increased significantly to at least $21/person per year.
Municipalities should be able to receive the funding directly, and they should each have a prioritized active transportation network gap list that shows the merits of each infrastructure project so they can do the most meaningful projects first and use evidence-based policymaking.
To better equip communities with the data they need to make sound decisions, the federal government should improve their active transportation-related Census data collection to include transportation habits for all trips, not just work trips, and not just the most frequent mode in a week, but all modes used.
Any investment made in cycling has a triple benefit of creating good green jobs for Canadians, providing social and health benefits while reducing emissions. With this in mind, federal funding for active transportation should increase so that total government spending on active transportation is at least $21/person/year to complete cycling networks and an additional at least $2/person/year on cycling promotion enabling and education. By comparison, the Netherlands spends $48 per person per year on active transportation programs; Denmark $34, and New Zealand $24.
To create an irresistible alternative to fossil fuel dependent transport, the Government of Canada should be future-focused and visionary in applying to fund for projects such as cycle highways that meet the growing demand from electric-assist bike users and help people travel longer distances between suburban and urban areas for work and utilitarian trips, as well as for tourism and recreation.
The Government of Canada can support the uptake of cycling by vulnerable populations by improving data collection, incentives, funding, promotion, and education that specifically targets marginalized segments of the population (including newcomers, racialized people, low-income populations) that may have limited access to bikes and the knowledge/confidence to cycle for transportation.
Research from New Zealand and the UK shows that investment in active transportation facilities such as cycling infrastructure has a return on investment between 5:1 to 11:1 considering the health improvements and injury and C02 reductions.
We request that the federal government accelerate their commitment by creating a Permanent Active Transportation Fund, just like the $3 billion/year Permanent Public Transit Fund1 introduced by the Federal Government earlier this year.
Long-term Federal investment is the catalyst needed for securing provincial funding and bringing local government leaders together to develop regional active transportation plans. The federal parties must commit to maintaining consistent investment over the long term so that cities can plan and keep pace with the exploding demand for active transportation.
Proactive investment in projects that serve underserved and racialized communities
Transportation is the linchpin that allows us to function in our daily lives. The lack of active transportation options in racialized communities has become increasingly clear. Lack of access to safe active transportation infrastructure has contributed not only to rising obesity and diabetes rates but also contributes to a mounting toll of injuries and fatalities to people walking and cycling without other options than travelling on unsafe streets. Research shows that people with low-income walk and bicycle more than people in the upper-income brackets, but safe active transportation options are often limited for low-income individuals and families. Lack of transportation options often leads to restricted employment possibilities and low school attendance.
Providing safe and convenient walking and cycling infrastructure in racialized and marginalized communities can help to overcome these challenges. Many studies have shown the need to create networks of wide, barrier-protected, bicycle-exclusive cycle tracks in lower-income ethnic-minority neighbourhoods to help these communities get to work affordably, quickly, and safely, and improve public health and quality of life in communities where these benefits are most needed.
The Government of Canada should encourage that funding for active transportation projects is targeted for these communities and not encourage the philosophy that communities that already bike the most deserve more additional resources. This philosophy perpetuates a vicious cycle where cycling grows quickly in some neighbourhoods, while underserved communities continue to stay underfunded.
In summary, we recommend:
- Prioritizing active transportation infrastructure that is protected from motor vehicles, smooth-surfaced, direct, and lit - to allow people of all ages, abilities, and bicycle or wheel types (including wheelchairs, kids’ scooters, road bikes, mountain bikes, strollers, etc) to use it both day and night safely and conveniently.
- Prioritizing active transportation infrastructure that serves marginalized populations
- Prioritizing active transportation infrastructure that separates walking from cycling due to their significant speed differences and resulting safety issues.
- Adding a minimum amount of funding for promotion for each infrastructure project (i.e. opening event, advertising, editorials or earned media, education at schools or community centers nearby, signage, etc). This helps people become aware of new infrastructure and be motivated, feel more comfortable to use it. TransLink’s BICCS cost-sharing active transportation funding mandates 1-5% for promotion and enabling. Research shows significant ridership increase when the promotion is added, and promotion is very affordable.
- Developing a National Active Transportation Strategy and a permanent active transportation infrastructure fund of $700 million per year.
- Designating electric-assist bikes as zero-emission vehicles & implementing financial incentives and funding projects such as cycle highways that meet the growing demand from e-bike users and help people travel long distances.
- Incorporating cycling directly into the Government of Canada climate change plans.
- Applying a gender-based and equity-based budget approach to active transportation.
- Improving active transportation-related Census data collection to include transportation habits for all trips, not just work trips, and not just the most frequent mode in a week, but all modes used. Collecting better data to understand the equity implications of current active transportation allocation.
- Funding municipalities directly.
- Leveraging existing resources and coordinating efforts - there is much research and many strong active transportation strategies at regional and provincial levels that can be used as a template to create a national active transportation strategy. Existing effective policies and standards should be used rather than creating new ones from scratch. See TransLink’s Regional Cycling Strategy and BC’s Active Transportation Strategy and related Design Guide for example frameworks and targets.
Moving toward greener, fairer, and more resilient ways to get around.
The recent allocation of active transportation specific funding is promising; however, Federal funding for active transportation is far below demand and is missing out on the huge potential benefits of more people using active transportation. For example, Metro Vancouver’s cycling network is full of gaps—or areas lacking cycling infrastructure—and safe, connected infrastructure is needed now, more than ever before to #UnGapTheMap.
HUB Cycling encourages the Government of Canada to apply its funding to the most meaningful infrastructure and promotion and to increase investment in active transportation to ensure environmentally and economically healthier communities, improve climate resilience, poverty reduction, and an equitable, sustainable, and proactive public health system.