Time for Nova Scotia to have a Provincial Bicycling Strategy

Investing in bike-friendly communities makes sense. Places with good cycling options support healthy productive lifestyles, comfortable communities, and carbon free low cost transportation. They also attract bicycle tourism business to rural and urban areas. Not surprisingly, demand for bike-friendly communities has never been higher. Policy makers and legislators across Canada and some here in Nova Scotia are taking steps to respond.


It is time for Nova Scotia to create a Provincial Bicycling Strategy to coordinate investment across government departments and levels of government to create a bike-friendly province. To spring this plan into action we recommend steps be taken immediately in the following areas and built into Nova Scotia’s bicycling strategy:


1. Invest in safe bicycle infrastructure on streets, highways and trails.

The lack of safe infrastructure is the biggest barrier to bicycling for most people. As part of efforts to support active transportation in Nova Scotia, we are asking the Province to commit $11 million dollars per year until 2025 to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects that advance Active Transportation Plans and the Blue Route Provincial Cycling Network, with half of the spending invested in bicycling projects. This level of spending combined with Federal and Municipal support could complete a province-wide cycling network connected to high quality bicycle facilities in cities and towns across Nova Scotia by 2025. At less than 5% of the 2016-17 highway budget, the benefit of these investments far exceeds the cost. Spending from bicycle tourism and related economic activity could cover the full cost in a matter of years, saying nothing of potential reductions to health care costs, increased workforce productivity and personal savings on transportation.


2. Ensure bicycle facilities are designed to increase safety and encourage new riders.

Studies show that upwards of 60% of people want to bicycle more often, but are afraid to ride on streets. If we design bicycle facilities for families, seniors and children bicycling to school we can dramatically increase the number of people who enjoy the benefits of bicycling. Paint on the road won’t cut it for most people – all ages and abilities facilities protect riders from vehicles with physical barriers or techniques that prioritize the movement of bicycles over vehicles by diverting and calming vehicle traffic. Future investment in bicycle facilities should be guided by best practices to ensure projects increase safety and ridership.


3. Take bicycle education seriously.

Although bicycles have the same basic rights and responsibilities as vehicles on most streets and highways, little attention is paid to bicycle education. Whether a person is behind the steering wheel or the handlebars, ensuring they understand the correct operation of bicycles in traffic is an easy way to promote road safety for everyone. A simple way to address this issue is to make bicycle education part of standard public school curriculum.


4. Modernize legislation to protect vulnerable road users.

Nova Scotia was one of the first provinces to introduce rules for bicyclists being passed by motor vehicles with the introduction of the “1 Metre Rule”(bill 93). Now, more work is needed to shift the focus of Nova Scotia’s laws from “motor vehicle” regulation to laws that give equal consideration to all road users. A review and renaming of the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act is required to identify barriers to improving the safety of vulnerable road users and to introduce now common legal protections, such as “dooring” legislation.


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