Vancouver Island MP pedals across riding in push for national cycling strategy

Gord Johns plans to ride across his 8,500 square kilometre riding to bring attention to his push for a national cycling strategy.

"We need to do better," says Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns of bike safety and infrastructure

Member of Parliament Gord Johns, seen here at an event in the Comox Valley, is about to log up to 60 kilometres a day biking around his Vancouver Island riding. (Candace Wu)

An NDP MP from Vancouver Island is hoping to pedal his way to better bike safety in his riding and across the country.

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns is preparing to ride across large swaths of his 8,500 square kilometre riding to bring attention to his push for a national cycling strategy.

Some parts of the riding are known for steep, twisty roadways that are far from bike-friendly — but Johns says that's the point.

"We need to do better at creating more safe cycling opportunities, not just here in Courtenay-Alberni, but across Canada," he said.

It's not uncommon to see Gord Johns on a bike. He also commuted on two wheels through the winter in Ottawa.

During the 12-day bike tour of his riding later this month, Johns will log up to 60 kilometres a day and will visit more than 30 communities.

Some of the days will also be spent on water taxis to reach remote villages on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The riding of Courtenay-Alberni strentches across central Vancouver Island. (Elections Canada)

Push for national safety standards

"There are areas of our riding where our cycling infrastructure is good, and some of it that it is very weak. So it's something that we are going to be working with local communities on," he said.

Johns hopes the ride will also draw attention to his push for a national cycling strategy.

He wants the federal government to commit to targets for expanding cycling infrastructure and improving safety standards.

Research shows other countries have been successful at getting more people out of cars and onto bikes through similar national plans, he said.

A national strategy in Canada could help the federal government play more of a role in funding and developing safe infrastructure, said Kay Teschke with the Cycling in Cities research program at UBC.

"The federal government can put out model standards," she said. "They could provide matching funding in the same way we get matching funding for transit."

Private members' bills rarely become law, but promoting more cycling fits with some of the priorities of the federal Liberals, such as increasing transportation safety and decreasing carbon emissions, she added.

More federal funding could also help speed up cycling projects that local governments are already trying to tackle, said Richard Campbell, executive director of the British Columbia Cycling Coalition and board member for Canada Bikes.

"In B.C. we have added up what communities and regions have estimated they will need for their cycling networks and it comes to $2 billion," he said. 

Following the bike tour of his riding, Johns will return to Ottawa to try to convince fellow MPs to support his private member's bill to create a national cycling strategy.