Mike’s Speech from the Ontario Bike Summit

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Mike Schreiner’s Remarks to the Ontario Bike Summit

May 29, 2013
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Thanks for inviting me to part of the Ontario Bike Summit.
 
I love speaking at the Ontario Bike Summit and Share the Road Events.
 
I share your passion for cycling, and I want to thank you all you for your hard work in promoting bike friendly communities across the province.
 
I especially want to thank Eleanor McMahon for your leadership on this issue. 
 
I was deeply honoured to be the recipient of a Bike Advocate Award last year.
 
The Green Party of Ontario shares your vision for how cycling plays an essential role in building a financially, socially and environmentally sustainable Ontario.
 
A New Vision for Transportation Planning
 
We are at an important historical moment. People are starting to realize that our approach to transportation planning for the past 70 years has not worked.
 
The cycle of constructing more subdivisions, paving over more prime farmland and building more roads just leads to more gridlock. We spend more time in traffic–away from family, friends and community–and we spend more time away from work. It is a never ending loop that only gets worse.
 
Gridlock now costs our economy $6 billion per year; that number will rise to $15 billion if we don’t change the status quo. Our transportation system is literally dragging our economy to a halt. 
 
It is negatively affecting our health, our communities, our environment and our quality of life. 
 
The status quo is not working. Ontario needs real change.
 
We need a new vision for transportation. A vision that recognizes that we can no longer afford a transportation system that is car dependent. Not that I’m against cars, I drive a hybrid, myself, but we can no longer afford a car dependent transportation system.
 
We must design our communities and our transportation systems to make it easy and affordable to choose other means of moving people and goods.
 
The release of the Metrolinx investment strategy on Monday–whether or not you agree with the details–is a hopeful sign that we can have a conversation about how to fund a new transportation system. 
 
And while some say we can’t afford to pay for transit and they won’t support revenue tools for transit, I say we can’t afford not to have a bold vision to fund public transit. 
 
The Green Party will continue to fight for dedicated revenue tools to fund public transit in Ontario.
 
But our vision for a new transportation system also includes the essential need for cycleable and walkable communities—for complete streets that are safe and accessible for all users.
 
Now is a critical moment for all of us who understand how important cycling is to our economy, health, environment and quality of life to demand that active transportation be a priority. 
 
A priority that includes funding for cycling infrastructure.
 
Transportation will be a dominate topic at Queen’s Park over the next few months. 
We must change the channel from a conversation about how to make driving cheaper to how to build a sustainable and affordable transportation system for the 21st century.
 
My commitment to you is that the Green Party will be there to support your efforts and to demand that active transportation play a central role in a new vision for transportation in Ontario.
 
I think we must demand bolder action from the Liberal government. The draft Ontario Cycling Strategy–the first update in 20 years–is a nice, albeit small first step. I believe we must push the government to transform the draft Cycling Strategy from a vague, tepid document to a bold vision for making cycling an essential part of Ontario’s transportation plan.
 
If this is going to happen, I believe we also have to challenge the opposition parties to do better. In the past year the discussion at Queen’s Park has not focused on sustainable transportation, rather the focus has been on how to make driving cheaper.
 
As someone who does drive a hybrid and ran a local food delivery company, I want driving to be affordable.
 
But we can no longer afford to give lip service to sustainable transportation.
 
This short-sighted debate won’t deliver the transportation system the we need to be successful in the 21st century.
 
The time for change is now.
 
When Ontario Bikes, Ontario Benefits.
 
Economic Benefits
 
We benefit economically.
 
Cycling creates jobs, saves money and contributes to more resilient local economies.
 
Bicycling and walking projects create 11-14 jobs per $1 million spent, compared to just 7 jobs created per $1 million spent on highway projects.
 
One mile on a bike is a $.42 economic gain to society, one mile driving is a $.20 loss.
 
Bike tourism in Quebec generates $134 million a year..   Biking in Quebec creates close to 3,000 jobs and $17.2 Million in tax revenue.  Bike tourist spend $83/day compared to the average tourist that spends $66.
 
Studies show that cyclists are more likely to shop local and that parking spaces used by bikes generated 3.6 times more expenditures per customer for local business than spaces used by cars.
 
Health Benefits
 
Our health benefits.
 
We have a growing health care crisis in Ontario.
 
51.6% of our population is overweight. 28% of our children are obese.
 
In US, and the numbers are probably similar here:  Between 1966 and 2009, the number of children who bicycled or walked to school feel by 75%, while the percentage of obese children rose by 276%.
 
Health-related issues resulting from obesity costs the health system in Ontario: $2.2 to $2.5 billion per year.
 
Ontario Medical Association report concluded that air pollution causes 9,500
premature deaths a year in Ontario. The areas with the highest numbers of smog-related
deaths in Ontario are in areas with the most traffic congestion: 
 
Cycling is an essential tool in addressing these costs.
 
Studies show that 1 mile cycling per individual provides $0.19 in Health Benefits.
 
Copenhagen saves $357 million a year on health costs because almost 80 percent of its population bikes regularly.  This is a savings of $300 per person per year.
 
Quality of Life Benefits
 
Our quality of life benefits.
 
No one imagines the good life as getting a good job, owning a nice home, raising a family and having to spend 3 hours in a car everyday to make it happen.
 
Commuting takes time away from family, friends and community.  Yet, that is the reality for more and more people everyday.
 
Transportation is the largest single sources of greenhouse gas emission at 26% or our emissions in Ontario. Emissions in the Transportation sector rose by about 48.8 Mt, or 32.8% from 1990 to 2005.
 
We can reduce pollution and GHG emissions, improve our quality of life and communities by planning for communities where people can live, work and play; where cycling and pedestrian infrastructure are valued.
 
People want to live in such communities and are willing to pay a bit more for a higher quality of life.  In one study, homes sold for 11% more when there was bike infrastructure nearby.
 
The Time for Action is Now
 
Ontario needs a comprehensive Ontario Bike Strategy and we need it now.
 
It needs to be bold and transformative. It must be better than the draft strategy the Liberal government has put forward.
 
All of you have provided all the details we need for an innovative, transformative Bike Strategy.
 
I want to highlight four key areas essential to make it happen.
 
1) Complete Streets
 
We need a Complete Streets Act in Ontario to ensure that our streets are safe for all users: cars, trucks, bikes, pedestrians, wheeled mobility devices, and transit users.
 
2) Infrastructure funding
 
The GPO is calling for a 1% percent solution.  We are calling on the government to dedicate 1% of the transportation budget for investments in cycling infrastructure and 1% for pedestrian.
 
Ontario’s transportation infrastructure budget is around $6 Billion. Do you know how much is dedicated for cycling. Zero.
 
This is not good enough.
 
Quebec spends $200 million on cycling infrastructure.  The US dedicates 1.6% of its transportation budget for states to fund cycling infrastructure.
 
Ontario needs an infrastructure fund for municipalities to access the dollars they need for safe streets and roads. And we need it now.
 
I want a Green MPP at Queen’s Park so that we make this a condition for supporting the budget in a minority legislature.
 
3) Education
 
We need stable funding and support for the CanBike program.
 
We need safe cycling education as part of the school curriculum.
 
Respect for cyclists lives should be part of the driver’s test.
 
And we need to ensure that cyclists are educated about the rules of the road and safe cycling.
 
I think it is especially important to have a province wide plan for safe routes to schools so that our kids can safely ride or walk to school.
 
4) Policy and Legislation
 
Ontario needs to change the Highway Traffic Act for laws such as:

  • 1 metre passing rule
  • legalize 2 way bike traffic on 1 way streets
  • implementation of safe cycling zones
  • stronger penalties for dangerous actions such as opening doors in the path of a cyclist.

We need to revise the Planning Act to ensure that Active Transportation is a required component of municipal growth plans.
 
Conclusion
 
Now is the historical moment for cycling advocates to ensure that active transportation plays a central role in transforming Ontario’s transportation plans.
 
Thank you for your tireless advocacy to make our streets safer and for working to ensure that Ontario is a bike friendly province–benefitting our economy, health and quality of life in our communities.
 
The time for change is now. The Green Party is committed to working with you to make it happen.
 
Thank you!