Cycling Master Plan Review

How Cycling Could Help Address the Climate Emergency

Cycling Master Plan Review

Jessica Singer

London declared a climate emergency back in April, in response to the UN Special Report on Global Warming.

The UN calls for a 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 to avoid the life-threatening effects of climate change. But if London follows the current cycling and transportation master plan, the city will surpass its greenhouse gas emission budget by 45 per cent.

In response, the Cycling Master Plan Review, approved by London’s Cycling Advisory Committee, was created to improve cycling infrastructure, and hold city staff accountable for the climate emergency declaration.

The report gives clear targets about transportation in London, and how to adjust and respond to the current transportation plan.

“We wanted to study how the city’s targets in the transportation master plan, which filter down into their cycling master plan, affect the city’s ability to take action on the climate emergency,” said Chris DeGroot, Engineering professor at Western University, and co-author of the report.

“And we realized there was an intimate relationship between the climate emergency, and our ability to actually address that through cycling.”

Last week, the report’s recommendations weren’t received well in terms of being too ‘bold’ or ‘ambitious’ for the civic works committee.

But during a council meeting this Tuesday, city council voted to refer the report to all staff departments associated with the climate emergency and transportation.

“It’s probably the best possible action that could have happened, because all staff departments will review the document and take action as appropriate,” said DeGroot.

“We were [at the council meeting] to show support for the report, to say yes, we want this to go into the city system and for them to review it,” added Daniel Hall, executive director of London Cycle Link.

“This is an important report that needs to be reviewed fully.”

Auto trips account for around three-quarters of transportation trips in London.

And as one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, “automobile trips would have to be reduced to one-quarter if London is to reach a 45% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030,” explained Hall. 

At the same time, transit would have to rapidly increase, along with walking and cycling.

Although a large population in urban centres are interested in cycling, there are concerns about the safety in doing so. The report focuses on creating a city-wide bike grid, and safe infrastructure that would encourage citizens to use other modes of transportation.

“Basically, we tried to argue that by focusing on cycling infrastructure, you’d be able to access the interested, yet concerned rides,” said DeGroot.

Another solution is freezing road-widening projects.

Widening roads not only encourages more driving, but it is also quite costly.

“Why would we widen roads in a climate emergency to make this problem worse?” explained Hall. “Taking money away from roads, we will also discourage car use, and can invest more in cycling and transit.”

Although cycling isn’t the only solution to solving a climate emergency, it's a necessary change needed to meet London’s carbon goals.