More than 150 people offered ideas to improve cycling in Ottawa, from introducing bike licences to simply having more bike lanes, at a summit in St. Giles Presbyterian Church in the Glebe.
Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar hosted the event and offered his own personal ideas for improving the infrastructure.
“We need to fill in the gaps [in service], particularly in the core and particularly in Centretown,” he said, “We have a wonderful opportunity to promote cycle-tourism.”
Dewar said cycling-based tourism can be an economic boon for communities, as people from across the world will travel to cycle different paths and experience new areas. A nearby example of this is Quebec’s La Route Verte, selected as the world’s top biking trail in National Geographic’s travel guide.
Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes was in attendance and outlined her ideas.
“I’m interested in the establishment of advocacy groups,” she said. “The City of Ottawa has a wonderful plan that has never been operational.”
The plan includes a network of trails and the ‘rack and roll’ program on some OC Transpo buses.
Holmes said she needed help from suburban and rural citizens to make cycling a serious issue at council. “We need suburban and rural councillors understanding the needs of their constituents,” she said, “which means people have to talk to their councillors.”
Many people’s major concern was the relationship between motor vehicles and cyclists.
“I just do it recreationally,” said Mary Hill, “because I’m actually scared because of the traffic; I find drivers don’t respect cyclists.”
Dave Higgs-Vis said he thinks cyclists should do some basic training courses to understand the rules of the road and that the lack of respect is a vicious cycle.
“Cars aren’t respecting bikes because bikes aren’t respecting cars,” he said.
A lack of infrastructure downtown was also an issue for some.
Prema Himawan immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands seven years ago.
“We used to bike everywhere [in Holland],” she said, but in Ottawa “it’s terrifying.”
Her daughter Arunima , who also attended, said she found she couldn’t bike from her home on Bronson Avenue to Lisgar Collegiate for school. “There’s not enough space,” she said.
The suggestions made by participants will be compiled in a report to be published on Dewar’s website. Dewar said he will work to have federal infrastructure money directed to cycling-related spending the in the Ottawa area.