Much like many North American cities London, Ontario is dealing with a transition from single-unit, automotive priority to mass transit and “active transportation”. The past one hundred years has seen the birth of the North American road network based on relatively uninhabited territories that existed over long/wide distances, new advancements in mechanization and mass production of automotive units operated on a vast supply of cheap fuel and a lack of concern for efficiency and environmental consequences. That period has been slowly evolving due to changes in all these factors.
Mass transit and active transportation are seen as the future methods of transport. Yet, due to the quick evolution of the digital age, there is a parallel development of inter-connectivity and artificial intelligence that will revolutionize transportation as well as all of what we do. In the present and near future it becomes difficult to plan for what is upcoming because no one has a good grasp of how rapidly-evolving new technology will affect us and what path we will eventually follow.
The City of London Ontario provides an example of this struggle with prolonged debates over the planned development of a bus rapid transit system while also dealing with the need for increased infrastructure of active transportation.
Within the narrow issue of providing an efficient and safe environment for those wishing to use a bicycle, there has been much concern over how future paths for that motion will be developed. To date there has been a patchwork of incomplete paths that either follow the lines of previous roadways, or move along natural areas such as the forked Thames River. Whichever path system is considered, one can only observe that it is patched, incomplete and therefore substantially inefficient.
While all these upheavals continue, the most compelling matter has to be the safety of cyclists. Primarily this must mean keeping cyclists separate from larger cars and trucks but also ensuring that the paths of motion are sufficiently signed, maintained and designed so that cyclists are not involved in single cycle crashes or crashes with pedestrians or other cycles.
The signage, maintenance and design are of lesser expense and more easily rectified. Yet, in the City of London, there still remains a medieval understanding that cycling involves small tricycles being ridden by children in the vicinity of a household like it did before the 1960s. It has been more than 50 years ago, since the Arab oil crisis of the 1970s, that those children have jumped off their tricycles and onto their ten speeds and eventually discovered modern cycling. Cycling speeds and travel distances have increased such that they provide true competition to motorized vehicles in urban transport. In fact the grand tours of European racing have recently demonstrated that is it very feasible to develop cycles that are hybrids, with “engines” hidden in small crevices that make them semi-motorized and could become helpful to the mobility-challenged population of the future. It is time therefore to revisit the tricycle mentality and produce proper signage, maintenance and design that is current with the times.