NDP's Singh says Canada needs a national cycling strategy

OTTAWA — NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is a well-known cycling enthusiast whose folding bike seems to travel almost everywhere he does.

Singh now wants to bring his love for two-wheeled-transportation to Canadians everywhere with a national strategy to make cycling safer for everyone.

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On Thursday, Singh led a bike tour of downtown Ottawa with several of his party's local candidates to highlight the need for better cycling infrastructure.

NDP MP Gord Johns has a private member's bill before Parliament to establish a national cycling strategy that would commit Ottawa to set targets for expanding cycling infrastructure, encourage more Canadians to use bikes to get around and create a public-education campaign on cycling safety for cyclists and motorists.

A national cycling strategy was also a promise in Singh's 2017 run for the NDP leadership.

Singh says investing in transit and cycling infrastructure is not only helpful to reduce the amount of time Canadians spend stuck in traffic, it's also better for the environment.

"We're determined to make it easier and safer to ride," Singh tweeted before embarking on the four-kilometre bike from an Ottawa bike store to the Parliamentary district.

According to the Inrix global traffic scorecard, Toronto residents spent the equivalent of nearly seven days stuck in traffic in 2018, Montreal residents nearly six days, and Vancouverites more than four days.

Statistics Canada data says about 7,500 cyclists are injured in Canada every year.

Building dedicated bike lanes that are separated from traffic has been found to reduce accidents and deaths but doesn't eliminate them.

Bike Ottawa, an advocacy organization lobbying for more segregated cycling lanes and lower speed limits on residential streets, said it has survey results that suggest up to one-third of Ottawa residents want to bike but are waiting for safer infrastructure to do so. Bike counters on segregated bikes lane built through Ottawa's downtown in 2011 found the number of bikes on the route almost doubled over the first four years.

But the segregated lanes are not perfect, with as many as five cyclists struck every month along that lane, often by drivers making right-hand turns in front of cyclists they fail to spot coming up beside them.

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