OTTAWA, Ontario (BRAIN)—The Share the Road Cycling Coalition, (SRCC) an Ontario-based non-profit organization which promotes bicycling as a mode of transportation, recreation and fitness through provincial advocacy, has unveiled the latest Ontario Bicycle Friendly Communities Awards.
The announcement was made at the Association of Municipalities (AMO) of Ontario annual meeting in London, Ontario by Share the Road Cycling Coalition CEO Eleanor McMahon and Janet O’Connell, executive director of the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada. AMO is a non-profit organization representing almost all of Ontario’s 444 municipal governments. More than 1,600 participants from hundreds of municipalities across Ontario are participating in this year’s conference.
The Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) Program, an initiative of the Washington-based League of American Bicyclists, provides incentives, hands-on assistance, and award recognition for communities that actively support bicycling. The League is the largest bicycling advocacy organization in the U.S. and represents the interests of the nation's 57 million cyclists. With a membership of 300,000 affiliated cyclists the League works to bring better bicycling to communities across the U.S.
The program was launched by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition in Canada in August 2010 at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario annual meeting in partnership with the Washington-based League. The Bicycle Friendly Communities program requires that municipalities complete a thorough application. They are then judged in five categories often referred to as the Five “ Es.” These are Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, and Evaluation & Planning.
A community must demonstrate achievements in each of the five categories in order to be considered for an award. Communities with more significant achievements in these areas receive superior awards. Applications are assessed by a team of experts who receive input from local officials. The Award categories are: Honorable Mention, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
The following communities were awarded Bicycle Friendly status: Hamilton – Silver; London – Bronze; Oshawa – Bronze and Town of the Blue Mountains – Bronze.
“Share the Road is proud to announce these four award-winning communities. They join the cities of Ottawa (Silver), Waterloo (Silver), Ajax (Bronze) and Windsor (Bronze) as communities whose investments in making their communities more bicycle friendly were recognized by our panel of experts as worthy of this Award,” said Share the Road Cycling Coalition CEO Eleanor McMahon.
McMahon noted the importance of highlighting the growing number of communities who are investing time as well as financial and human resources, in the interest of becoming more “bicycle friendly”: “What we are seeing in our discussions with municipalities across Ontario – and indeed here at AMO – is that there is a burgeoning interest on the part of municipalities who want to learn how to become more bicycle friendly. This program provides them with not only with recognition for their efforts, but an evaluation of their progress, and advice on how to improve. Indeed we encourage municipalities to apply because the application process itself promotes discussion and provides the impetus for improvements.”
“It is important that we recognize their accomplishments, while at the same time, provide municipalities with the kind of feedback that will take them to the next level of achievement. In the context of this positive, constructive discussion, we are seeing a healthy competitive dynamic emerge as municipalities celebrate their successes thus far and begin to think how they can leverage this award to have a conversation locally about how they can, working with community stakeholders, build on their success. This civic pride dynamic begins to change the conversation from one of perpetual conflict – the “motorists vs. cyclists” dynamic, to one where, communities are recognized and rewarded for embracing the positive benefits of cycling,” McMahon added.
McMahon also noted that the awards process has provided a snapshot of the burgeoning interest in bicycling in Ontario: “When I meet with Ontario’s municipal leaders to discuss how to enhance cycling in their communities, some clear themes emerge. Many are struggling to retrofit their infrastructure and accommodate cyclists in cities and towns that particularly in the last half a century, were built primarily for moving motorized vehicles – not people. Many are concerned about the lack of education for motorists and cyclists alike. Municipal leaders recognize that their citizens want to ride their bicycles, and walk more often – for reasons related to improved physical health and well being, a desire to lower their impact on the environment and because of rising fuel costs.”
“An equally important emerging dynamic is the growing interest in bicycle tourism as a mechanism for increased economic development. Ontario’s municipalities want to leverage their natural assets to attract bicycle tourists to their area. In short, they want to encourage bicycling and it is our hope that this program will provide them with the advice they need to leverage the numerous benefits bicycling provides,” McMahon noted.
“We are very encouraged by recent announcements from the Ontario Medical Association recommending that the province enhance their investment in municipal infrastructure. Further, the NDP ($60 M) and the Ontario Green Party ($200 M) have both announced support for municipal infrastructure in their platforms. We look forward to, through our Active Communities Pledge initiative, keeping healthy and active communities on the provincial election agenda, in support of communities across Ontario,” McMahon added