BY: STEFANIE AWRONSKI
Cycling has long been seen as one of the healthiest modes of transportation. It gets you away from being inactive and sedentary behind the wheel of a car to being physically active and connecting with the beauty of nature. Cycling is also a far more environmentally friendly mode of transportation that appeals to many looking to do their part for the environment. Europe is a continent known for its strong commitment to the cycling culture, and now Norway is hopping on the cycling bandwagon -in a very big way.
Earlier this month the Scandinavian nation announced that a monumental $923 million dollars was being pledged to the development of a new network of bike highways throughout its nine most populated cities. With ever increasing environmental concerns in the industrialized world, should Norway’s and other European cities dedication to the cycling culture become the norm around the world?
Norway’s new cycling plan is being implemented to make the nation completely carbon neutral by 2050. Norway is located in Scandinavia, which is a region that is very much in tune with the cycling culture. Norway however falls at the end of the spectrum. In comparison to Denmark (one of the most bike friendly nations in the world), which boasts an impressive 17% of its traffic via bicycles, in Norway it only amounts to five percent.
Norway’s new super bike highways will be designated bike routes that will allow cyclists to pedal easily between inner cities and outer suburbs. The routes will be lofty twin lane tracks and allow cyclists to safely ride up to 40 km per hour, which will result in the ease of taking long trips. Norway’s goal is to take pressure off public transit and roads, and drastically lower its fossil fuel use. Norway has set out quite a lofty goal as it plans by 2030 to increase its percentage of cyclists from five per cent to between 10 and even 20 per cent. Interestingly between now and 2030, Norway also plans to produce absolutely zero growth in car use to further ensure their impressive cycling plan and other notable transit plans will succeed.
A similar plan of a super network of bike highways is being implemented elsewhere in cycling friendly Europe – in Germany. The plan there is to create a route that will at some point in the future cover a very impressive 100 kilometres between the northwestern cities of Hamm and Duisburg. Currently just five kilometres of this cycling route is in action.
Every two years since 2011, the Copenhagen Design Company has released a list called the Copenhagenize Index, which ranks the most bike friendly urban cities worldwide. The company is an urban design consultancy based in Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam and Zurich. The index considers factors such as cycling advocacy, infrastructure, safety measures, facilities, and societal tolerance. Since its creation, the top 20 bike friendly cities are almost completely (not surprisingly) located across Europe.
However, here at home in Canada, Montreal has cracked the top twenty of the Copenhagenize Index each time the list has been released. Montreal is often regarded as one of the North American cities for cycling. Since the late 1980s, the sprawling city located in Eastern Canada has produced a strong amount of protected bike lanes, and very adequate infrastructure that allows a solid number of cyclists to use each and every day. The city also importantly has a fantastic bike share program and consistent advocacy. Last year after the 2015 Copenhagenize Index was released, which saw Montreal take the 20th spot, City Hall launched a new cycling plan. Last year Vancouver not too shabbily placed in the top 50. Canada is slowly but surely showing it is not a slouch in the cycling world.
Toronto, the largest city in the country, is currently gearing up to make this year very productive for cycling. Earlier this year Canadian Cycling Magazine reported that this year a brand spanking new bike lane would be installed running along Bloor St. The street is one of the most congested streets in the city for car and bike traffic. This new bike lane alone has generated a lot of positive support from cyclists and businesses seeing the importance of Toronto embracing the cycling culture.
As of 2014, Toronto has had a slew of exciting and important cycling related plans due to move forward this year. As well, toward the end of 2014, newly installed bike lanes on Richmond and Adelaide streets in the downtown core were an immense hit with local cyclists.
Here in Toronto 54 per cent of residents cycle. Of that 54 per cent, 25 per cent cycle for recreation, and 29 per cent for transportation purposes. The city is currently committed to a ten year cycling plan that will help to improve and further grow all the progress the city has made thus far.
Toronto has a strong cycling advocate in Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati who last year was featured in The Globe and Mail as a prominent Torontonian to watch this year. She remarked to reporters with The Globe and Mail, “It’s a really great time to be working on cycling in this city. There’s a recognition that major urban cities are building [infrastructure] for cycling.”
The Copenhagenize Index surmises that investing in sound cycling infrastructure is not only a modern, but more importantly wise investment for any city.