City Must Embrace & Invest in Cycling Now.

The following was presented by Executive Director Lori Newton at a Special Meeting of City Council today in response to the Mayor’s recent Windsor Works, An Economic Development Strategy for the City’s Future Growth.

“Bike Windsor Essex welcomes this economic development strategy that recommends the improvements that we have spent years advocating for and working toward. 

This report tells us we must “pivot to a green economy and improve the quality of life infrastructure to retain workers, especially young professionals” and that “more needs to be done on everyday infrastructure to improve residents’ quality of life and make Windsor more liveable for young working families”. 

This report demands that skills and talent retention and attraction be a key piece of Windsor’s strategy and that good jobs alone will not retain young professionals – who want to live in vibrant, walkable, cyclable cities – not suburbs – And so we urgently need to address the lack of space for pedestrians and cyclists, the elements that make sought after cities. We have a long way to go.

My colleagues in Detroit are moving forward at breakneck speed, with millions invested in cycling infrastructure, multi-use trails and separated bike lanes that connect across the City and the greater Detroit area. When the new Gordie Howe International Bridge opens in 2024 with the bike hike lane, will Windsor be ready for the cycling tourists from the US? 

The City has been presented with numerous reports, studies and plans that identify cycling as a vital element of a vibrant, attractive city where people want to live, and still development of bikeways and cycling infrastructure has been painfully slow here. 

This latest study supports what we’ve been hearing for years – the importance of mobility options, active transportation and of placemaking to attract and retain skilled professionals.

We acknowledge the City’s good intentions in approving an active transportation plan but have seen no urgency, no budget and no momentum in the development of the infrastructure the AT plan recommends – the same infrastructure this report tells us we need to have in place to achieve our economic goals.  

Despite schemes for creating job opportunities, we continue to see the outmigration of our youth and an inability to attract young professionals.

This is urgent. Windsor’s lack of cycling infrastructure is punishing the city every day — and here a just a few examples:

Our Bike Kitchen Program Manager came here from Winnipeg for her dream job. She’s just advised that she’s made the decision to go back. “If this job was in Winnipeg, I’d probably stay here forever,’ she says. But she misses living in a city where car ownership is not a requirement, where she and her partner can ride for kilometres along a safe, connected cycling network. She misses the ‘vibe’ of Winnipeg that she says comes from having all kinds of people outdoors walking and cycling. Winnipeg! Her partner has two Masters degrees, his most recent from U Windsor, and he’s fed up with the city’s dangerous streets, lack of connected cycling infrastructure and lack of maintenance of what we do have. 

My Vice Chair Jennifer Escott, a geomatics professional, recently made the difficult decision to pull up her roots here to move to Halifax. She wants to live in a place with more tree cover and natural areas and a robust network of protected bike lanes.  She wants to ride her bike more than drive her car – and she hasn’t time to wait for Windsor to catch up. So she’s moving to a city that already has the infrastructure in place. A city that boasts 17% mode share in the south end of town. 

Councillor Mckenzie, you’ve got about a decade before your daughter is going to make a decision to stay or to leave Windsor. 

My youngest son left at 19. At 29, he’s a master brewer who was recently nominated ‘brewer of the year’ in all of the UK. He wants to come back to Canada. But not to Windsor. The lifestyle he and his partner are looking for — clean air, outdoor spaces, a vibrant downtown cafe culture, people cycling and walking — is simply not here.

And so here we are with another plan that identifies our steps to prosperity. It’s heartening to see the word mobility mentioned throughout the document. We all seem to now recognize that bikes bring business — a fact many Windsor business owners and BIAs get. But BIA requests for better cycling infrastructure — a road diet on Wyandotte East, and much more designated bike parking —  are not being met. Seven of the City’s nine BIAs have little or no cycling infrastructure. 

The LIFT strategy can be achievable. I urge you to consider moving infrastructure up on your priority list. To identify an annual budget for reimagining our streets for people – not cars. 

Don’t underestimate the power of the bicycle. 

The joy of cycling is that doing it doesn’t just benefit the person cycling. It doesn’t just make the cyclist happier and healthier. It means less pollution, less noise, less stress on our streets for everyone. It means more trade for street-front businesses. It means fewer cars in front of you at lights. 

More bikes means a cool, more connected ‘vibe’ that benefits everyone, attracts, and more importantly retains, young people, families and seniors.”

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