Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Greenbelt Bike Route

This interesting development came to light today. Someone is finally realizing that Ontario could replicate Quebec's Route Verte with only a modest investment in signage, planning and marketing by focusing on the Greenbelt. Ontario is full of 100 km rides that are disconnected by rail lines and expressways, leaving only the most intrepid cyclist to endure. Providing a planned route through the Greenbelt will make bike touring easier and bring tourists to locations they might not go to.

All of this makes perfect sense. Cycling is a popular tourism activity. To my knowledge a recent report suggested some 80% of tourists in Canada are domestic (that is, from other regions in Canada). As the number of Canadian tourists rise, the number of international visitors have dropped. Promoting an Ontario bike touring route around 600 km could prove a popular week long visit. At a glance the Greenbelt tour could easily be extended by joining up to the existing (though questionably supported and signed) Waterfront Trail thus making Niagra Falls a Western end point, and Kingston an Eastern node. Which might tack another 150-200km to the route and make interesting connections to Via rail links.

How much would such a plan cost? About $500,00 apparently. For an industry that generates almost $400 million that means an additional outlay of about less than 1/100th of a percent. That's the way tourism works right? You spend a little on advertising and you make a bit more when you attract more customers. This "additional" funding isn't even new but comes from existing money from the Greenbelt Foundation. Win, win, right?

Then I made the mistake of reading the comments section. Don't know why I did that. Sort of like stepping in dog shit even though you saw it there and told yourself to watch out for that. While there are many positive comments there are the typical snarky ones as well. In that mix are people who inevitably believe:
  • This will cost a lot of money to maintain
  • It will be paid for by new taxes
  • Cyclists will be getting a free ride, because "tax payers" are paying for it thus cyclists should pay a licensing fee.
Let's go point by point, here.

No New Funds Required
They are spending $500,000 of existing funds. No new money required. When was the last time any new tourist attraction cost as little as half a million anyway? Toronto Aquarium anyone? Most transit studies won't even get out of bed for less than a million.

No New Taxes
See above. Why would you have to raise revenue for something that isn't using new money?

Cyclists Get a Free Ride
We already pay for those roads and their maintenance. Not to mention, if the ministry of transportation widens the road shoulder, which could accommodate cyclists free of charge, these roads will last up to a decade longer before needing remediation. These roads aren't even toll roads so that means drivers are the ones getting a free ride (or heavily subsidized rides at least). By the way, who do people think cyclists are? Tax-free nobility? Cyclists are tax payers too, so they are in fact, paying for the roads they use. If drivers believe fuel taxes pay for their roads, they are mistaken. Property taxes, HST etc. pay for these roads, which are taxes everyone pays. Even people on inline skates pay taxes (I assume).

Bicycle Licensing
Do you require a license to walk down the street? A license for ice skating? A license for skiing? A license for skateboarding? Rollerblading? Of course not. That's silly. I do believe if you are operating a thing with a motor, you need a license. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats – all need a license. E-bikes? Please, yes. But a bicycle? Back in the day when Beaver was leaving whatever Beaver was being left to, someone tried to introduce bicycle licenses. In the end, police forces said, "This is stupid" and so everyone agreed.

I'll never understand this way of thinking other than those opposed to everything are opposed to everything. I mean, "Lighten up, morons." A thing that you don't have to pay for and you won't even notice will bring revenue to your town and the province. Let it be.