When you talk to most local politicians, they will tell you that walking and cycling are important parts of the transportation system. They will likely also tell you that they support walking and cycling in their communities, but how deep does that support actually go?
Cycling and walking are key to creating healthy and accessible communities. Active transportation infrastructure that supports walking and cycling can be built at a fraction of the cost of infrastructure for other transportation modes.
Most municipalities in the South of Fraser build multi-modal streets and greenways as part of new development, with major roadwork upgrades, or when active transportation money is available from regional, provincial, or federal governments and agencies. Unfortunately, cycling and walking infrastructure rarely gets improved in existing parts of communities, resulting in major gaps in cycling and walking networks. These gaps reduce the effectiveness of the new infrastructure and reduce travel choice. The perfect example is the City of Langley and Fraser Highway. Cycle lanes exist on Fraser Highway in the Township of Langley and City of Surrey, but in the City of Langley the vast majority of Fraser Highway is without cycling infrastructure.
As I said earlier, most local politicians are very good at talking about sustainable transportation, but do they put the money where their mouth is?
Last October, I posted that the Township of Langley Engineering department was looking to increase cycling infrastructure funding from $160,000 to $280,000 per year to fund the Township's Ultimate Cycling Network. Unfortunately, I have been informed that Township Council did not approve the cycling funding increase. As a result, the implementation of the cycling plan will be delayed. The Township is not just missing out on an additional $120,000 for cycling infrastructure, but also matching funds from TransLink, the province, and the federal government which could have easily tripled the Townships return on investment.
Considering how much Council talks about sustainability, it is very disappointing to know that Township Council only supports spending about 1% of their transportation budget on dedicated cycling infrastructure that supports a healthy community. It seems that some on Township Council are still of the mindset that auto-oriented infrastructure is the only way to go.
I have to wonder what it will take to move Council from talking about the importance of active transportation, to actually doing more to encourage active transportation. Building active transportation infrastructure should be a no-brainer.