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Cyclists, transit users, a growing voice in Greater Sudbury

'Green' groups working towards sustainable mobility

by Naomi Grant

Photo from Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury
Photo from Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury

Which of these statements is true?  Greater Sudbury has a car culture.  Greater Sudbury has a groundswell of support for active transportation and better transit.  Many citizens live in areas where driving is the only option.  Many citizens (around a third) do not have driving as a transportation option.  The answer is all of the above!

Sustainable mobility is not the norm when it comes to getting around town.  According to the recently released Greater Sudbury’s Vital Signs 2013, only 4.5% of workers travel to work via public transit, compared with 14% province-wide.  However, starting with repeated calls for safe and convenient cycling infrastructure, and more recently adding strong calls for better transit, there is growing public support for sustainable mobility. 

Sustainable transportation is a focus of current environmental work, and one of the top four priorities agreed to by local environmental groups at the Spring 2012 Green Gathering.  The aim is for walking, cycling, and transit to be safe, accessible, and convenient throughout Greater Sudbury.

Advocacy is an important part of this work.  Sustainable mobility groups such as the Sustainable Mobility Advisory Panel, Sudbury Cyclists Union, Friends of Sudbury Transit, Rainbow Routes Association, and Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury have focused recent efforts on input to the Official Plan Review.  Official Plan policies that are more supportive of sustainable mobility would make a big difference in completing infrastructure such as cycling routes, acheiving neighbourhood design that makes it easy to get around without a car, and incorporating best practices into every day municipal  operations and decisions. 

There has been a particular focus on the Transportation Plan, which will inform the Official Plan.  There are many concerns on the material presented so far, most notably the omission of public transit, the lack of an implementation plan for cycling routes, and the lack of dialogue and meaningful opportunities for input.  At the provincial level, the Sudbury Cyclists Union has joined others in advocating for positive changes, with better results (e.g. with the recently released Ontario Cycling Strategy).

Impatience is growing to see some real changes on the ground.  “People are tired of waiting for the implementation part of the whole process,” said Rachelle Niemela of the Sudbury Cyclists Union.  “There is a dire need for better bike lanes,” says Ursula Sauve, who recently helped organize a rally asking for safe cycling infrastructure on Kelly Lake road.  She shares the frustration of many cyclists, that cycling infrastructure is not being incorporated when roadwork is done.  “A couple of years ago they redid Paris Street, and they’ve redone Regent Street, and they said, ‘Well, sorry, we didn’t have time to put bike lanes in,’  but we all know, once they redo the road, they’re not going to redo it for another 25 years … If they don’t do it the first time, and do it right, it won’t be done.” 

Councillors appear to agree.  At a meeting last month, the Finance Committee (consisting of all members of Council) voted to include a budget option specifically for cycling infrastructure.  This option will be decided on as part of budget deliberations.  There is reason to be optimistic.  Support was high around the table.  “We have to put some money aside to do this, otherwise it will never get done,” affirmed Councillor Frances Caldarelli.  “We’ve talked about it, now it’s time to do it,” agreed Councillor Joe Cimino.  “We have to put our money where our mouth is,” finished Councillor Dave Kilgour. 

While maintaining strong demands for cycling infrastructure, cycling advocates have widened their goals.  They are shifting to a strong emphasis on complete streets, which are designed with all users in mind:  pedestrians, wheel-chair and scooter users, cyclists, public transit, and private motorized vehicles.  Complete streets also recognizes streets as a public realm, and not just a route from ‘A’ to ‘B’.

Advocacy has also focused on improvements in public transit.  Council recently voted to implement a pilot project allowing parents and caregivers to keep babies and toddlers in their stroller on the bus.  This is an improvement for parents, who have explained the difficulties of juggling children and bags, while attempting to fold the stroller and safely hold their infant.  The Sustainable Mobility Advisory Panel brought this measure forward, supported by Friends of Sudbury Transit, Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury and others.  Friends of Sudbury Transit has also worked with transit authorities on realizing other small but important changes, such as improved information on transit day-care passes in the transit guide and website.  They will soon present a petition to Council requesting improvements to Sunday service, and are following up on other requested changes such as transit service for students in night class, and greyhound drop-off at the downtown transit station.

Public education and events is another important component of the work being done.  Both drivers and cyclists need to be better educated on how to share the road.  Several members of the Sudbury Cyclists Union have taken advanced CAN bike courses, and are qualified to teach the course to other cyclists.  Further public outreach by the Sudbury Cyclists Union has included written media articles and presentations to Community Action Networks.  Rainbow Routes and Sudbury Cyclists Union have partnered effectively on a number of initiatives.  These include bike valet parking at large community events, public and school bike rodeos to teach basic cycling skills, and CAN bike courses to teach cyclists the skills they need to be comfortable on busy roads.  A temporary full time Rainbow Routes staff postion devoted to cycling ended this summer.  The board has decided to refocus on their core mandate, which does not include on-road cycling.  This has prompted concern that these type of public education activities will have to be scaled back.  The Sudbury Cyclists Union is advocating for a full time City staff position to fill this gap.  City staff have recommended exploring hiring an intern,  .

In addition to promoting sustainable transportation through such events as Share the Road, and the Commuter’s Challenge, Rainbow Routes has directly increased childrens’ access to affordable bicycles.  Their highly successful bike swaps have provided helmets and used (safety checked) bicycles to many children and youth.  Rainbow Routes has also been responsible for increasing the number and length of off-road multi-use trails, used by both pedestrians and cyclists. 

Find out more about local environmental groups active in sustainable transportation here.

See a summary of current work by these groups here.

To receive updates on green space issues and other local environmental issues, contact clsudbury@live.com to request the Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury e-newsletter.

 

Naomi Grant chairs Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury, and is an organizer of the bi-annual Green Gatherings.

 

 

 

 


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Naomi Grant (Naomi Grant)
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About the Sudbury Working Group

The Sudbury working-group of The Media Co-op was formed to create independent media in the North, to speak to our issues and outlooks on our communities as well as the world around us. Independent media provides an avenue for people who are wishing to gain critical perspective on the issues that matter most to us, and to give a voice to those people and stories that you won't find in the mainstream media.

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