Spring is approaching, and with the warmer weather come the cyclists. Windsor boasts some of the mildest weather in the country, as well as some of the flattest terrain, so cycling as a primary mode of transportation should be prevalent in our city. It’s not, however, compared to other cities in the province like Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and Ottawa.
Some may chalk this up to Windsor being a motor town, and this excuse is a pretty good one. We have the automobile to thank for most of the city’s previous success, with the “Big Three” employing thousands of workers, not to mention the plethora of mold, tool and die shops. But as the fiscal feasibility of owning a vehicle wanes, new opportunities are born. One of these opportunities is making the personal decision to ride a bike to work.
First, there is the health benefit of getting a bit of exercise while transporting yourself. The average car commute to work in the city is only two or three kilometres, a distance that would take about 20 to 30 minutes to ride. Cycling to and from work would add close to an hour of exercise to your daily routine. Riding is also a great way to blow off steam after a tough day at the office. You could cancel your gym membership, fire your therapist, and save a tonne of cash on gas.
Then there are the environmental benefits to riding a bike. Windsor has been named the Smog Capital of Canada by The Weather Network, and in 2011, our city suffered through 81 days with moderate, poor or very poor air quality index readings. More people cycling means a decrease in the amount of fuel emissions spewed into our direct environment. It also means less wear and tear on the city’s streets, and less construction (read: fewer headaches).
In addition to improving our personal health and the health of our environment, cycling could make your neighbourhood a nicer place. People who cycle experience the community face-to-face, rather than from behind the windshield of a car. They interact with their neighbours, and as a result, build a stronger community. When you’re cycling, you notice the niceties. You also notice the not-so-nice things, and may feel more inclined to do something about them.
None of this is rocket science. So why don’t more people commute by bike in Windsor? In a survey performed by Odette Business School students in 2010, the top reason Windsorites chose not to cycle was their fear of sharing the road with cars. More and better-planned bike lanes would remedy this, but the city’s Bicycle Use Master Plan (BUMP) has been the victim of budget cuts in the past.
As a result, we’re a few years behind schedule according to BUMP. The plan calls for $1 million per year to be spent on Bikeways Development, over 20 years. Ten years in, and the city has set aside close to $1 million for cycling facilities in total. Fortunately, the city doubled the Bikeways Development budget from $200,000 to $400,000 in 2011, and due efforts are being taken to get more lanes installed.
Needless to say, it would help our cause to have even more money spent on bike lanes. It’s up to the cycling public to let councillors know that municipal support of cycling is not only desirable, but necessary. Write your councillor and give them your opinion on the matter.
You can also show your support by attending a Town Hall discussion taking place tomorrow at the Capitol Theatre, beginning at 7 p.m. The conversation will revolve around the various transportation modes in Windsor.
Pat Delmore, Director of Operations for Transit Windsor, will be on the panel touting the merits of the bus system. Andre Capaldi, President of UWindsor’s Student Alliance, will be speaking on behalf of those in favour of the proposed Transit Windsor U-passes that may soon be included in their tuition fees. Ed Bernard, Chair of the Research and Development Committee for the Canadian Association of Mold Makers, will be there backing the defending champ – the car.
And I’ll be up there stirring up dust on behalf of the bike.