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Safety is fine, but cycling doesn’t warrant spending

Bicycle safety for kids. That’s pretty much spot-on in the definition of a motherhood issue. It’s an idea with which nobody can take issue.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it makes sense for Woolwich to spend money on such training, though council decided to do just that.

The dollar amounts aren’t huge – though not inconsequential – and the cause is fine, but that’s true of the work of many groups in the township, most of whom don’t receive funding from the municipality.

Likewise, school boards strapped for both cash (largely the result of years of poor fiscal management) and teaching time (the result of mission creep beyond the now-suffering basics) may not be ideally placed for that kind of thing.

While the safety aspects speak for themselves, the onus may best fall on the parents.

It’s as part of an increased demand for cycling resources that the idea starts to fray at the edges. In that regard, it can be likened to bike lanes and bicycle-share schemes where municipalities have invested heavily for little return.

A bicycle is an essential part of childhood. Aside from being fun, a bike is a key part of a child’s growing independence. More than recreation, it’s transportation. But, like so many parts of childhood, it’s left behind as we grow up. So, yes, safety is an issue for kids, but their childhood experience is unlikely to see an expansion in the number of adults using bikes for transportation down the road.

Some people stick with biking as a recreational pursuit later in life. A handful get out of the student years still using a bike to get around. Trying to boost those numbers is the rationale for many so-called active transportation plans, to little avail.

We know cycling is good for us in that it provides exercise, and if more of us did it there would be a net benefit to the environment, taking us out of our cars in favour of non-polluting transportation. If we were more like Europeans, for instance, we’d be better off for it.

There are, however, a long list of reasons why that’s not the case, safety being a huge issue.

Denser cities make getting around by foot and by bike much easier, as does the more temperate climate. The price of cars and fuel make alternatives more desirable. Crowding means smaller is better when it comes to a vehicle for getting around. Theirs is a culture accustomed to walking, biking and public transit. And the older cities were not built around automobiles, as opposed to what we find in North America. Policies actively discourage automobile use, particularly in city centers.

Because of sprawl and car-centric design, our communities are largely unfriendly to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. We walk and bike less often here, largely because it’s neither safe nor convenient to do so. And that’s not just perception: our car-centric planning in North America makes it much safer to travel by car than by foot or bicycle.

While not a township expense, rider safety makes sense for those kids who’ll take to the road. Extrapolating anything behind that can’t be justified given the universal lack of success with other government-funded cycling initiatives.

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