Gord Johns wants to make Canada a nation of bicyclists.
The West Coast’s rookie Member of Parliament has put his first bill forward to the House of Commons, Bill C-312, and it calls on the federal government to establish a national cycling strategy.
“Canada needs a national strategy to help make cycling a primary mode of transportation,” Johns told the Westerly News. “We know cycling is a sustainable transportation solution that is low cost, environmentally friendly and encourages healthy living.”
He said the strategy would include improving national safety standards, increased education for road users and funding for, and encouragement of, cycling infrastructure projects.
“We are going into historic spending for infrastructure according to the promise of the Prime Minister, why would we not want to make sure that active transportation is captured?” Johns asked. “If we’re building infrastructure that’s just for cars, we are going to fail future generations miserably.”
He added bike-friendly infrastructure projects are too often paid for from local government budgets.
“It’s been on the shoulders and the backs of local government with very little federal funding,” he said.
“There’s a lot of communities that don’t have the capacity or the aptitude or the money to support cycling even though, longterm, it’s a cost savings to all taxpayers…There’s cities that have taken very little action to support cycling and, as a result, they have very, very, few cyclists.”
He noted Tofino’s Multiple Use Path relied on local fundraisers and district dollars.
“From the early 90’s when we kicked off the multi-use path extension to today, there are way more people riding because it’s a safe place to cycle,” he said.
“Tofino and Ucluelet are going to continue to grow and we are going to have more and more traffic on our roads and we are going to create more and more trail networks as we move forward…This isn’t something that might happen, it’s going to happen. So, we need to make sure that cycling is going to be part of that and it would sure be nice if the federal government had some ways to support that kind of growth.”
He said getting Canadians on bikes could result in significant savings.
“We’re facing many challenges, including reducing green house gas emissions, soaring health care and infrastructure costs and, in urban centres, traffic congestion,” he said.
“For every kilometre cycled, society enjoys a net profit of 23 cents. Whereas, for every kilometre driven by a car we suffer a net loss of 16 cents. We weigh in health, green house gas emissions, impact on the environment, infrastructure, air quality; all of these things add up that cycling is a net gain for the economy.”
He said other countries like Germany and Sweden, have put national cycling strategies in place with positive results and he suggested Canada is lagging behind in terms of active transportation.
He suggested only 2 per cent of Canadian youth are riding a bike to school compared to 15 per cent in Germany, 20 per cent in Sweden and 50 per cent in the Netherlands.
“A lot of the reason children aren’t riding as much is because of safety, so we need to create more safe places for children to travel,” he said.
“It makes sense to look at models that are working around the world in whatever we do and make a ‘Made in Canada’ model. It’s not something that can’t be done. It’s being done in other countries around the world.”
He added tackling global warming should be a top priority for his Courtenay-Alberni constituents.
“We’ve got to always remember that we’re part of this planet. We have to have strategies that are going to move us forward, that are progressive, because we’re not alone. We’re not in a silo. We are very much connected,” he said.
“We need to change the way, all of us, we do things if we’re going to take on the greatest challenge that we’ve ever seen and that is a warming planet and the impacts of a warming planet. We are seeing huge changes in our rural communities as a result of climate change so, when we take on the huge challenge of this there are so many facets that we have to take. This bill is just a step forward.”
He added a boost in cycling could boost tourism numbers.
“As we know on the West Coast, Canada’s landscape provides a unique opportunity to encourage cycling tourism,” he said.
“The opportunities are endless in terms of a tourism perspective on Vancouver Island to create trail networks to link our communities through cycling.”