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Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

Unused bike lanes offer no benefits, waste tax money

The same provincial government that has cut transfers to Woolwich Township by $110,000 is able to turn around and find $4 million for bicycle lanes in the region, projects that have pretty much no value to the public.

When you factor in the stated goal of reducing pollution, every dime spent on cycling is essentially wasted – more bike lanes will do nothing to get people out of their cars, or even buses.

That Woolwich had its Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund grant cut isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s if the province were moving to control its runaway spending, but that’s not case – the Wynne government continues to mismanage provincial coffers. The Woolwich cut is relatively minor in comparison to the tens of billions Wynne is wasting in an effort to be re-elected next year – no amount of your money is too much for that goal.

But the cycling initiatives are indicative of the same kind of wishful thinking that applies to many of its social/nanny state experiments, all the way up to pushing public transit in areas where large expenditures  make little sense – the $4 million given to Waterloo Region for cycling pales in comparison to the waste on light rail here, for instance.

Still, the rush to appear “progressive” when it comes to cycling and bike lanes is not borne out by the numbers – Statistics Canada reports that about one per cent of people in the region use bikes to commute to work, a number that is little more than a rounding error. The eye test shows that even few kids, typically the largest user group, are opting to use their bikes to get around. You need only see the predominance of parents dropping off their children at school to see where the trend is headed.

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.

In Europe, 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.

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.

Here, putting money into cycling simply does not make economic sense. That goes double where government is concerned, as there’s every reason to believe projects will cost much more than they should, and will be rife with errors. Worse still, the cost overruns, deficiencies and poor usage will be hidden from the public.

Unless success – low cost, high usage – can be guaranteed, each is just one more needless and wasteful pet project.

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