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Canada - Cycling

In the urban areas of Canada cycling is a popular means of getting about. As the authorities in each area work hard to promote green issues, the cities are gradually becoming more cyclist-friendly. Cities such as Vancouver have dedicated bike lanes around the city to make it easier to get around.

In Ottawa and around the Gatineau area there are more than 200 km of cycle paths and cyclists can access the maps of the cycle paths on Google Maps. This was the first area in the country to provide the information in this format and Canada was only the second country to launch information on this Google feature. Since this area of Canada was added others have followed and include Winnipeg, Vancouver, Waterloo, Calgary and Toronto.

To make use of the Google feature you simply enter the starting and destination points and it will tell you exactly where all the cycle paths are for the journey you need to take. It can also make you aware of all the roads which you are not able to use and all the roads which are bike-friendly. You can also give feedback on the accuracy and helpfulness of the information that is given.

The authorities in Ottawa have worked closely with those in other cities around the world that have managed to achieve a ‘cycling city’ status in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. By taking inspiration from their infrastructures, the planners are able to create cycling facilities which will benefit the population and not simply take up space.

However, when information was collated for the 2006 census, relatively small numbers of people stated that they regularly used a bicycle as a method of transport. Across the cities in Canada, an average of 1.4% of people regularly cycled to work. This number is higher than shown in previous surveys and the actual percentage in each city is variable. In 2006, 5.6% of workers in Victoria stated that they used a bicycle for getting to and from work. Ottawa had a percentage of 2.1% and Vancouver had 1.7%. The programmes which have been put into place in the meantime are encouraging these numbers to rise steadily, particularly as improvements are made to the cycling infrastructures across the country.

There are a few regulations that cyclists should be aware of and while these differ from province to province, the basics are the same. All cyclists should wear a helmet while riding a bike. In some areas this is law but this should be common practice even if it is not in your area. Some areas have only made this law for those aged below 18. The laws in some areas give cyclists the same responsibilities for road safety as drivers, so if you are in a busy area you need to make sure you are aware of the local driving regulations. As a result of the regulations that are in place for cyclists there has been a severe drop in the number of accidents involving cyclists and therefore a drop in the number of cycling related fatalities.

In many areas it is essential to ride in single file as some cycle paths are also for pedestrians and cyclists are expected to keep to the right. Many roads in busy areas will have restrictions on cyclists using them if there is no dedicated cycle lane, but this information will be posted. In some areas bikes are not permitted on pavements, but this will also be signposted. There is a requirement for lights on bikes although this also varies according to the province.

Most areas will have an office at the local provincial government that will answer questions for you on cycling in the area and give information on cycle routes. There are also many cycling organisations across Canada which cover cycling as transportation as well as a sporting activity. For example, the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition is working on improvements to the cycling infrastructure in the city. The Canadian Cycling Association also works hard to promote cycling in all its forms across the country.

There are bike shops in nearly all towns and cities so purchasing a bike is fairly easy and obtaining spare parts or having repairs carried out should not be a problem either.

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