Cornwall receives bicycle-friendly award

In this May 2016, file photo, Erika Oeggerli from Bainsville checks her odometer while her cycling partner, Louise Sommers from Lancaster, looks on during the Children's Treatment Center Bike-A-Thon Plus. Cornwall has received an Ontario cycling-friendly award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – On this Valentine’s Day, there’s something more to love about the City of Cornwall.

It’s one of five Ontario communities awarded for investments in cycling infrastructure.

The Share the Road Cycling Foundation announced Tuesday, Cornwall is receiving a bronze level designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC).

Cornwall joins Cambridge, Collingwood, Timiskaming Shores and Whitby in this latest round of awards. Kingston, London and Markham had their bronze designation renewed.

It’s the first level of five award categories: bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond.

While being judged, Belleville, Essex, Midland and Norfolk County only received honourable mentions.

The awards are judged based on the so-called five “Es” of being bicycle friendly: Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Encouragement and Evaluation and Planning.

“We were really impressed to see progress in Cornwall across all five Es in a very coordinated level. I think that goes back to that Active Transportation group and to council and staff’s commitment to implementing the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan in Cornwall,” said Justin Jones, BFC program coordinator, in an interview with Cornwall Newswatch.

Cornwall has made a number of investments in cycling infrastructure, adding bike lanes to key connecting routes like Second Street. The developments haven’t come without pushback and complaints from the driving community as the municipality works through its Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

Jones said the controversy surrounding bike lanes is not just a Cornwall problem. “No, this happens everywhere.” During the Winter Cycling Congress in Montreal, Jones said he heard the same problem at the meeting of 400 delegates from 10 countries and nine provinces. “We need to take a data driven approach and like Cornwall did with the Second Street project, they monitored and reported there was no significant backup to traffic. There was one section that needed to be tweaked and they tweaked it.”

“If you’re only listening to the reactionary voices and you’re not ever finding out how things actually work, in reality, it can lead to some paralysis. It leads to a status quo that we know it hurting our cities, it’s hurting our health it’s hurting our economies and the more people we get on their bikes the better it is for everyone,” Jones said.

In November 2015, the city received $325,000 from the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program to complete a 2.4 kilometer “urban loop” near Twelfth Street and McConnell Avenue. The city, in conjunction with the health unit, has also promoted cycling through the summertime Commuter Challenge.

The cycling coalition said there were 15 applications in this latest round of BFC applicants, the largest since the program was launched in Ontario in 2010.

“It highlights the fact that Cornwall is…in good company when it comes to promoting cycling. We now have 36 communities (of 444 municipalities) across Ontario that are bicycle-friendly communities,” Jones said. “You’re not doing it alone. It’s a trend we’re seeing all seeing all across Ontario.”

Jones pointed to their research showing 54 per cent of respondents want to ride their bikes more often but 70 per cent feel they’re not safe on the road and want more bike lanes and paved shoulders.

He said people looking to relocate to a new community are looking for a higher quality of life and this recognition is an indicator of a good quality of life.

In addition to the awards, Share the Road, supported by the CAA, provides incentives and hands-on assistance to bicycle-friendly communities with a goal of building an Ontario bicycling network.

Jones said Cornwall will be profiled in a 2018 Bicycle Community Friendly Yearbook, of which 1,000 copies will be distributed to Ontario municipalities through such groups as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

Cornwall will also get a “highway quality” road sign to display in the community.