Cycling gains momentum in Mississauga

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As Mississauga continually moves forward to become a leading edge, complete and world class city, there are many moving parts to be considered, with cycling being a key component.
We’re in the midst of a pivotal moment of forward motion as the Cycling Master Plan is being updated through studies and community feedback and will be presented in early 2018, the upcoming massive LRT project just may have raised cycle tracks (that decision is happening much sooner than later), there’s an increased  number of cyclists on our roads and there’s been funding allotted to increase the networks of bike lanes, which will help ease the existing congestion on our roads.
Currently, we enjoy 454 km of cycling infrastructure in the city, with plans to develop more than 900 km of on and off-road cycling routes in the next 20 years.
Ambitious? Of course. Can we do it? Absolutely. 

I spoke with Pauline Craig, Cycling Master Plan Project Lead, and asked the simple question of “why is cycling so important to Mississauga?”
Her response was: “Cycling is a key part of developing a transportation network that supports and encourages people to walk, cycle and use public transit. We’re building our cycling network to connect to key destinations and transit facilities so that Mississauga residents will have active, healthy and affordable travel options that are as convenient as, or more convenient than driving.”

Why is Craig’s quote so important? Well, as we continue to develop and grow, we most likely won’t have the road capacity to accommodate more cars. The Hurontario LRT is a key example. Could the city have made it an eight lane street? Possibly in some places but there are businesses, houses, buildings, etc. that would’ve made it nearly impossible to retrofit. Instead, we’re marching forward with a transit option that will ease congestion, despite the short-term growing pains.  With or without the proposed dedicated bike lanes along the LRT, or any other major artery for that matter, having more bike lanes that connect further throughout the city and to transit stations and hubs will make a positive impact. 

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480 – Number of kilometers in Mississauga for multi-use trails, paths, bicycle lanes and signed bike routes (including projects being implemented this year )

24 – Number of scheduled community bike rides in 2017

10 – Number of years the Tour de Mississauga has been in operation for as of 2017

2010 – The year the first Cycling Master Plan was adopted  
 
 

Ward 3 Councillor Chris Fonseca, who we also spoke with, says “We’ve come a long way in the past few years and we’re hearing from residents that both want to ride and are riding more and more. We’re also hearing from those that are ‘interested but concerned’ that there are gaps in safety, infrastructure and end of trip facilities. Meaning are there enough bike racks at their end destination (schools, work, city buildings, etc.) for them to utilize the existing and upcoming cycling lanes/paths?”

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Safety-wise, there’s much work to do as Mississauga is by far a car-based city. On roads without bike lanes, right lane drivers will possibly pass too close to cyclists or dip into the next lane to ensure zero bike contact is made but risking clipping any vehicle in that neighbouring lane. We’re not catastrophic by any means on the safety side but as long as there are cycling accidents on roads, there’s always work to do. And dedicated bike lanes are a strong solution to reducing that risk. 
Plus, it’s much easier to incorporate bike lanes into new plans opposed to trying to retrofit them.
Her other point of “end of trip facilities” is something that will be addressed in the upcoming 2018 Cycling Master Plan and the upcoming Transportation Demand Management Plan.

80 – Combined number of kilometers of bike trails, bike lanes and shared bicycle routes added between 2010 and 2016

1998 – The year the first bike lane appeared in Mississauga

2011 – The year the City’s Cycling Office was created

900 – The number of kilometers of on and off road cycling routes proposed in the 2010 Cycling Master Plan by 2037

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With cycling no longer being an afterthought and the city planning for an increase in cyclists moving throughout Mississauga, there simply must be an increase in bike racks/storage to help complete the proverbial loop.
With all of this positive talk about cycling and helping it shape our city, there are a few hurdles to clear.
One of them is how to handle the existing landscape.
There are existing highways, river ways and rail corridors that pose a challenge for creation and in some cases, can be significant barriers to expanding the cycling network.
Another is finding safe and strategic locations for crossing those barriers and added the potential added expenses of creating cycling/pedestrian bridges where necessary.
Furthermore, focusing on which pieces to add, when and how to add them and how to do it best is crucial with this expansion. Yes, the network will provide facilities across our city but the building process must be carefully planned one brick at a time.  And of course, the financial aspect; are there cost savings to be had in this expansion and if so, how much? 
In short, prioritization is a challenge in any aspect of city building. 
The good news is that there have been funds allotted for this.
The Federal government has kicked in $3,757, 000 for cycling infrastructure via the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, there’s $350,000 set for creating bike lanes on Thomas Street to help connect with the Streetsville GO Station on the provincial level. There’s also up to $42.5 million for eligible municipalities for cycling projects throughout Ontario from the province as well.

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The cycling community has grown significantly in recent years in part through the citizen led Mississauga Cycling Advisory Committee (MCAC) consisting of 12 citizens, including cycling advocate Dorothy Tomiuk, who also wants to see Mississauga’s cycling network grow both smartly and safely.  Their five pillars are “Move, Belong, Connect, Prosper, Green” and have done their part to increase visibility of cycling by hosting their now popular free (ice cream included!) “Community Rides” that happen every Thursday and Saturday from May to October in various parts of the city. It’s grown from 280 riders in 2013 to 3,100 in 2016! This smart initiative allows residents to connect with each other (as well as Councillor Fonseca, who’s on the committee) and have their voices, ideas and suggestions heard. Included in these rides are safety lessons and is open to any age group and skill level.  In addition to getting some outdoor time, exercise and connecting within your community, it’s a great way to truly see our city. 

86 – Percentage increase of on-road bike lanes in Mississauga since 2010

1 – Number of trees planted for every 150km cycled by Mississauga residents participating in the 2017 BikeChallenge

With Mississauga growing quickly from numerous aspects (M Town, LRT, Malton, Lakeview, Dundas Connects, etc.) cycling is going to play a key role in how our city is shaped going forward. 

You can participate in the Does Cycling Move You project to update the City’s Cycling Master Plan by visiting: DoesCyclingMoveYou.ca – share your ideas and take the city’s Cycling Survey.  There will also be a public meeting this fall / winter to check out the draft plan to make Mississauga more bicycle friendly.
We’ve already come a long way from being built as a car-city to embracing cycling. Between the Cycling Master Plan, engaged community groups like MCAC, public feedback and a willingness to opt for two wheels instead of four when possible, the “if you build it, they will come” adage rings true. 
We’re ready for the next phase of “if you continue to build it, they will continue to come.”