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Just a thought: could cycling actually be the most effective strategy in terms of keeping people happy and healthy?

Senator Nancy Greene Raine and Canada Bikes think so.

Last month, the senator led a group parliamentarians, community leaders and everyday cyclists on a ride around the nation’s capital in celebration of Bike Day on Hill. The ride was preceded by the first-ever bike policy summit on the Hill, where cycling advocates called for a national cycling strategy and fleshed out what that might look like. The event also seeks to raise awareness for National Health and Fitness Day — a celebration held on the first Saturday of June, every year, with the goal of making Canada the fittest nation on Earth.

Where does such a strategy start? Getting more people on bikes.

Only 2% of adults in Canada bike to work — a figure startlingly low compared to some countries in Europe, but actually twice as high as the rate in the United States. It seems that cold weather is no excuse.

Habits start young and, today, fewer children bike to school than in previous generations. There is also a noticeable gender imbalance on the road, with roughly 70% of riders being men.

Building more and safer bike infrastructure is undoubtedly the key. More Canadians will chose cycling when it’s safe.

Panelists said that biking would not only improve the physical and mental health of Canadians, it would also help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, while saving Canadians money. It’s a win-win-win situation.

Bike infrastructure moves more people in a smaller space with lower construction and maintenance costs than equivalent roads for cars. Also, the only tank that needs filling is your stomach!

Kristin Schwarz of Culture Link also told panelists and attendees that biking has proven to help newly arrived Canadians improve their sense of belonging and comfort in the community.

Many municipalities and provinces have decided not to wait for the federal government and have already started putting in place local or regional cycling strategies, panelists Lisa Helps, mayor of Victoria B,C., and Jamie Stuckless of Share the Road Ontario told the audience.

But Canada is an immense country, with some regions more capable of making these investments than others. According to Senator Raine, all Canadians deserve equal access to the joy of biking.

“It’s time for a national cycling strategy,” said the senator.


The bike policy summit was also hosted on Parliament Hill by Canada Bikes and their chair Anders Swanson, seen here explaining bikenomics.

At the bike policy summit, Senator Nancy Greene Raine, Victoria, B.C. Mayor Lisa Helps and MP Gord Johns call for a national cycling strategy.

Bike Day on the Hill took place on Thursday, June 1, 2017, starting at the steps of Parliament. Participating cyclists gather around Senators Nancy Greene Raine, Chantal Petitclerc and Dennis Patterson.

’Bike day on the Hill is a great event to get together and inspire others to get out there and exercise. Whether it’s biking, running or swimming, what’s important is the health of Canadians. Unfortunately, with obesity rates at an all-time high in Canada, getting fit is now more important than ever. Just move! The exercise you do doesn’t just make you feel good — it’s beneficial for our whole country!” said Senator Petitclerc.


Cyclists cross back from the Quebec side of the Ottawa River via the Alexandra Bridge.


Senator Raine hangs out with La grande traversée bike crew. The crew stopped by Ottawa for Bike Day on the Hill, on their journey from Victoria, B.C. to Bathurst, N.B.


"National Health & Fitness Day is pleased to help connect Canadian cycling advocates with federal legislators for a discussion on the promotion of cycling.  Active transportation is an excellent way to increase overall physical activity of Canadians and help reduce traffic congestion,” says Senator Raine, seen here riding up the Portage Bridge over the Ottawa River en route to Gatineau, Quebec.


Senators Patterson and Raine share a moment with Parliament in the background.


“I’ve been biking all my life.  My experience biking from Vancouver to Halifax over 40 days in 1972 remains one of my fondest memories.  I truly believe that biking is one of the best, low-impact exercises available and I am always happy to support Bike Day on the Hill,” said Senator Patterson, seen here riding down Mackenzie Avenue’s new protected bike lanes.


The Public Gallery

Josh Shaw, Lightfoot Bike Shop

A national cycling strategy does help preserve the environment for future generations. Not just our kids or grandkids, but even further down the line. If the infrastructure is there, it will be ridden. As they say “if you build it, they will come.”

Sierra Heffernan-Wilker, youth cycling advocate

Unfortunately, sometimes riding is not all sunshine, lollipops and owls on the side of the bike path. Sometimes the route to school includes really busy intersections. Please consider bike paths, separated bike lanes and traffic-calmed routes to elementary and high schools… A national cycling strategy […] will make Canada a healthier, greener, and awesomer country…

Jean François Pronovost, Vélo Québec

The summit was brief but fantastic. The quality of people here and the energy they bring with them are crucial in getting the federal government to commit itself to a national cycling strategy. I bring the Quebec perspective, showing just what can be achieved by taking a bicycle-friendly approach. I hope we’re able to spread that success across the country.

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