British Columbia promotes active transportation (e-bikes! scooters! skateboards!), Vision Zero, $850 incentive for e-bikes

Vancovuer bike lane
CC BY 2.0 Vancouver bike lane/ Lloyd Alter

There is so much in their new strategy that I can't get it all in the title.

Many jurisdictions do not get e-bikes or scooters. (See New York, here and here.) British Columbia, Canada, is a different story altogether. The province has just introduced a new "active transportation strategy" that is designed to get people out of cars and on to alternatives. The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Claire Trevena, wants the things that all active transportation advocates want:

By designing and creating routes that are well-connected, accessible, safe and enjoyable, we are giving more people the opportunity to choose an active mode of travel. We want our children to have safe paths to school. We want to have good sidewalks, bike lanes and trails in place to make active transportation a viable choice when traveling through neighbourhoods, communities and city centres.

The Provincial Health Officer, Bonnie Henry, says it's good for you.

Systematically moving B.C. toward active transportation, including in related infrastructure, education and access, has the potential to simultaneously increase physical activity of British Columbians, reduce motor vehicle crash injuries and fatalities, and improve environmental health.

The goal of the plan is to double the percentage of trips taken with active transportation, which is already pretty high in cities like Vancouver. They are adopting Vision Zero (the real thing, with the first point being "working with communities to build and improve safe active transportation infrastructure"). They also have an expansive definition of active transportation.

Active transportation does not have a single definition. At its most basic, it refers to all human-powered forms of travel. Walking and cycling are the most common, but running, scootering, skateboarding, in-line skating, using a wheelchair, paddling, skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding and using electric bicycles or scooters are all types of active transportation.

The horses might argue the point about it being human powered, but I won't complain. Others might note that e-bikes are not entirely human-powered, but the drafters of the document get why they are an important part of active transportation, and are supporting it with serious money.

Although active transportation is a very affordable way to get around, the cost of equipment (such as bikes, scooters, electric bicycles or helmets) can be an obstacle. We live in a large province that is known for its mountainous geography and distances between communities. These realities of steep hills and snowy or rough terrain can sometimes make choosing active transportation a challenge. Technology improvements, such as e-bikes, have helped to make cycling more viable over long distances and provide a cycling option for people of different ages and abilities. E-bikes help transition people to more active forms of transportation—especially drivers of single-occupant motor vehicles. However, e-bikes are significantly more expensive than regular bicycles. To address this, the Province developed the Transportation Options Program under Scrap-It, which provides an incentive of $850 toward the purchase of a new e-bike to people who scrap high-polluting vehicles.

Shared bikes in VancouverShared bikes in Vancouver/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

They are going to work with the tourism sector to promote active transportation "as an enjoyable, healthy and sustainable way to explore our province." That will take some work; cyclists often have to ride on highways that have no paved shoulders. But a bike is a great way to see Beautiful British Columbia; I did it as a teenager and still remember the experience.

The government is also planning to revise the Motor Vehicle Act to acknowledge all road users and emerging active transportation modes. "Although cycling is one of the most popular types of active transportation, provincial policies must be broadened to be inclusive of other types of active transportation, such as walking, rollerblading, skateboarding, or wheelchair use." They are even going to address "the appropriateness of driver education content that includes rights and responsibilities of all road users."

It just keeps getting better. They are going to promote "complete streets."

A complete streets approach supports strong, safe active transportation networks. Complete streets are streets that work for everyone—not just drivers going from point A to point B, but pedestrians and cyclists as well. Complete streets need to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities, and work well not only for commuting but also shopping or recreation.

The British Columbia government has produced a remarkable plan that should be emulated across the country. It recognizes that the world is changing, that micro mobility is here to stay, that getting people out of cars has so many benefits.

Hippie elitists cycling in VancouverHippie elitists on bikes in Vancouver/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Of course, the right wing conservative governments that are getting elected everywhere are supported mostly by people who drive cars and trucks, not the downtown elites and hippies on their bikes, and they try to roll back any kinds of changes that might slow down their F-150s. Commenters on CBC immediately say, "What a waste of time and a plan to abscond with taxpayer's money designed for road infrastructure. Cars are never going away." But who knows, in British Columbia they might actually make this happen.

British Columbia promotes active transportation (e-bikes! scooters! skateboards!), Vision Zero, $850 incentive for e-bikes
There is so much in their new strategy that I can't get it all in the title.

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