Lack of cycling infrastructure leaves Mississauga far behind global movement
There is a growing community of cyclists in Mississauga, but the city’s lack of infrastructure is a major obstacle for those who want to ditch their cars for better commuting options.
While many residents of all ages destroy local dead ends and croissants every weekend, rain or shine, for a fun ride, according to 2016 census data, only about 1,140 people use the bicycle as a mode. transportation in Mississauga. This represented only 0.15% of the city’s population. In all of Canada’s census metropolitan areas, the percentage of people who used bicycles as their primary mode of transportation was more than ten times the rate for Mississauga.
Toronto had about thirty times as many cyclists who use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation than Mississauga, although its population is only four times as large.
Can that change, in a city that seems reluctant to move away from its car addiction?
The Mississauga Cycles organization is trying to increase participation across the city. (Natasha O’Neill / The Pointer)
The Mississauga Cycles Project hosted a bike competition on October 17 with the Peel Multicultural Council (PMC) and Culturelink. The event, now in its third year, handed out 45 refurbished bikes from community recycling centers in the Peel Region to families who have recently moved to the area.
But many bikes, especially for children, are intended for occasional use, usually near their homes, and while they inspire more serious cycling later in life, without the proper infrastructure, many locals around the city do not use their two wheels beyond the neighborhood.
Sol Avalos brought two of her four children, Megan, 4, and Nathan, 3, to pick out bikes for them. Avalos is an active cyclist and often rides with her older son, Megan and Nathan look forward to joining their mom and older brother on longer rides.
“It’s really awesome,” Avalos said of the event. “It is very nice for them to have the opportunity to have a bicycle and to learn how to use it.”
The family recently moved to Mississauga from Mexico. Events like these connect newcomers to their community and are hugely beneficial for children not only to feel welcome and introduce them to new social networks, but also to teach them the importance of contributing to a clean and green environment for everyone.
Sol Avalos, left, with children Megan and Nathan and Ward 9 Councilor Pat Saito, who is a strong advocate for bicycle safety. (Natasha O’Neill / The Pointer)
Making cycling accessible will increase the cycling base.
But Mississauga will need to update its cycling infrastructure to make people feel safe and provide a real alternative to the car, even for local commutes. This requires that roads, bridges and other surface infrastructure operate at full capacity, while new designated cycle paths and local trails form the backbone of a future transportation network that will only emerge if it is. built… and maintained.
Roads are a centerpiece of the infrastructure that make up one of the two largest groups of assets the City must maintain. With a replacement value of $ 2.9 billion and a length of 5,640 kilometers, the causeway appears much more valuable than residents realize. Under the aegis of roads, the culvert and bridges that connect the various neighborhoods of Mississauga have a replacement value of $ 978 million.
Anyone who lives and works in the city knows how auto-centric Mississauga is. As soon as a road begins to show its age, residents report it to their municipal councilor.
It is increasingly important to keep roads maintained also for cyclists, who are more likely to lose control of the bike due to a pothole or other obstacle than a driver. But with the pandemic causing cycling to explode in cities across Canada, with people looking for more opportunities to get out and stay healthy, Mississauga’s lack of infrastructure or poorly maintained surfaces in parts of the city are a barrier preventing residents from joining the global cycling movement.
This becomes a problem when the city has to prioritize some projects over others, leaving potholes to multiply.
Another obstacle is the lack of cycle paths. According to the City’s 2018 Cycling Master Plan, Mississauga had 51 kilometers of cycle lanes and plans to add 56 more in the coming years. This compares to about 587 kilometers of street bike infrastructure in Toronto in 2018, with plans to add more than 500 kilometers as part of a 10-year plan launched in 2016.
Despite being criticized for delaying her cycling plan, the City of Toronto’s designated infrastructure has overtaken Mississauga on several occasions. (The picture of the Pointer file)
Both cities have come under fire for failing to meet their approved commitments to expand cycling infrastructure, although Mississauga’s failures come at a time when so many young residents seem interested in finding alternatives to the car, but have little options.
In effect, the city adds project after project to a list called “when we have more money” and prioritizes hopelessly dilapidated infrastructure first, leaving some infrastructure projects for another day when the money can be found.
The resulting infrastructure deficit continues to grow.
The 2021 budget totaled the variance at $ 291 million, the amount the City needs just to replace or repair old infrastructure; an amount that Mississauga does not have.
The figure has grown rapidly over the past decade. Seven years ago, Mississauga had a $ 60 million infrastructure deficit.
The addition of cycling infrastructure, in addition to the need to replace the aging roadway, is a decision for elected officials who are already grappling with strong budgetary pressures.
To keep all of the city’s infrastructure in good condition and invest in new assets from 2019 to 2028, the city plans to spend $ 2.8 billion on the capital program.
It is not known what percentage of this will benefit cyclists, whether by improving roads that can be used or adding more designated lanes for biking.
Despite the disturbing numbers, Mayor Bonnie Crombie is optimistic about potential transfers from the newly elected federal government as a way for the city to reduce its infrastructure deficit.
The Mayor of Mississauga reiterated her statement on how funding for senior levels of government should be “sustainable, long-term and reliable.” But it’s unclear how such potential sustainable funding could be used to tackle issues like cycling and climate change, which are directly linked.
Mississauga has pledged through a council resolution to dramatically reduce emissions from municipal services and operations, but visionary plans around initiatives such as increased participation in cycling, with funding commitments to achieve these. objectives, have not been met.
In a city designed for the car, with vast swathes of asphalt that move large volumes of traffic across multiple lanes, cyclists have been squeezed out.
The use of commercial trucks on urban arteries has presented a particular challenge, especially in the absence of reserved lanes for cyclists who instead find themselves competing with these giant transport vehicles in a dangerous balancing act, for those who are brave enough to even try.
Councilor Pat Saito expressed disappointment at the slow pace of work to add bike lanes, especially in parts of town where cyclists find it most difficult.
Commenting on cycling’s master plan this summer, she said the pandemic presented a real opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of cycling.
“I’m really disappointed with what we’ve done or haven’t done to provide safe access for cyclists on the roads,” she told The Pointer. “I have been asking for terminals to be installed along the 10th line for over a year now because every time I drive on this road, there are cars driving on the cycle path.
Saito also mentioned the southern parts of Derry Road where the bike path is very narrow, forcing cyclists to ride on the sidewalk.
“I can’t blame them. I don’t feel safe with my bike on the 10th row, due to the behavior of the traffic, ”she said.
Enforcement of the small portions of bike lanes that the city maintains is an issue that could potentially improve uptake.
But for the Avalos family and many others like them who want to use their bikes in Mississauga, without adequate infrastructure and with deteriorating roads, they will not be able to join the global movement towards a much greener way to travel.
E-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @ taasha__15
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