active transportation / Active Transportation Infrastructure Fund / active transportation strategy / canada / innovation / investment

Investing in an active future: Recommendations for the Canadian National Active Transportation Strategy

Cycling in Montreal, QC Photo: Melissa and Chris Bruntlett

Canada is joining the ranks of walk and bike-friendly countries like the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Finland. Well, at least we’re on the way. Canada’s cycling mode share pales in comparison to these countries as fewer than 2% of Canadian commuters travel by bike. Compare this to mode shares in the countries listed above – where between 8% and 27% of all trips are made by bike – and we see there is plenty of room for improvement.

Despite the low national mode share, the potential for greater levels of cycling has been demonstrated in communities and neighbourhoods across the country. Victoria, BC has the highest share in the country at the city level with 6.6% of commute trips made by bike. Looking at the neighbourhood level, there are many more examples of cycling hotspots such as Grandview-Woodland in Vancouver (17.1%), Wolseley and West Broadway in Winnipeg (13.9%), and Old Ottawa South in Ottawa (16.9%).

On March 12 the federal government announced the launch of stakeholder engagement for Canada’s first-ever Active Transportation Strategy. This is a major step for the country and will serve to coordinate AT investments across all levels of government, Indigenous communities, and the non-profit and private sectors. The strategy is intended to represent best practice in planning, design, regulations, and standards ensuring Canadian municipalities continue to grow into healthy, connected communities that are safe and inviting for those travelling on foot, by bike, and by other sustainable means.

The launch of the AT Strategy engagement was accompanied by the announcement of a new $400 million Active Transportation Infrastructure Fund. This funding, distributed over 5 years, aims to support municipalities across the country seeking to improve active transportation in their communities. Substantial on its own, the funding is part of a $14.9 billion Permanent Transit Fund that will be distributed over the next 8 years and will aid in the COVID-19 recovery while transitioning to a more sustainable, multi-modal transportation system.

At Mobycon, we’re excited to learn of the upcoming strategy and funding and are eager to contribute to the federal government’s vision for a sustainable transportation system. Over the past nine years, we’ve worked with partners from coast to coast to bring Dutch knowledge of walking and cycling planning and design to Canadian communities, making them less dependent on the automobile. We asked our team members what they would like to see in the Active Transportation Strategy and how they would like to see the $400 million of funding spent.

Justin Goulding, Integrated Mobility Consultant – Ottawa, ON

I would like to see the federal government leverage this funding to promote the building of high comfort, high quality active transportation facilities. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Government to ensure the funds are allocated to projects that meet the highest design standards in terms of user comfort and safety to really move the needle in Canada in promoting all ages and abilities AT infrastructure.

Wayne Gong, Integrated Mobility Specialist/Transportation Engineer – Ottawa, ON

The national strategy and funding provide a great opportunity for communities to strengthen their measures and make lasting impacts by adding safe and comfortable public space for active users. I hope the strategy pays extra attention to smaller communities in Canada because they tend to be in a position of playing catch-up, as compared to large cities that have existing active transportation networks and resources in place.

Mary Elbech, Integrated Mobility Consultant & U.S. Lead – Durham, NC, USA

Way to go, Canada! Most of the funding should naturally be spent on practical bang-for-your-buck improvements in AT safety – especially at intersections. Nevertheless, I do hope that some of the funds will be directed toward creating a handful of innovative world-class examples, like the Indianapolis Cultural Trail or Pedestrianized Times Square: model facilities that inspire more people to engage with active transportation, as well as more local governments to commit to slower and more pedestrian-friendly spaces.

Erik Post Junior Integrated Mobility Consultant at Mobycon

Eric Post, Junior Integrated Mobility Consultant – Ottawa, ON

I would like to see the strategy support the development of connected networks on a city-wide basis so Canadians can feel confident that when they head out on their bike, there will always be a safe and coherent network that connects them to any destination – not just their workplace. I believe there is huge potential in small and mid-sized cities and hope to see significant funding in these communities.

Melissa Bruntlett, International Communications Specialist – Delft, NL

This strategy is an incredible opportunity for governments at all levels to be ambitious, especially in Canada’s small and mid-sized cities. The challenge is to ensure investments enable all the trips people take in a day. With most investment so far focused on recreation and the commute to work, this is the time to expand the planning and design to encompass how everyone across age, ability, race, and economic means travels in our communities, giving them more sustainable, active options.

As the national strategy is developed and funding is distributed over the coming years, Mobycon will continue to support Canadian communities seeking to become less dependent on the car. We can hope to one day achieve the cycling mode shares seen in the top European countries and, who knows, maybe one day we’ll even reach the Netherlands.

Eric Post

I believe one of the most effective ways for us to reduce our impact on the environment is to transition to more environmentally sustainable forms of transportation. Building cities where walking and cycling are safe, easy, and enjoyable is a win for all community members and the planet.

Junior Integrated Mobility Consultant