Cycling enthusiasts in the Halifax Regional Municipality, including its mayor, Mike Savage, are welcoming new federal funding for active transportation infrastructure across the country.
Over the next five years, Ottawa will spend $400 million on active transportation infrastructure in communities nationwide, including bike lanes, trails, pedestrian bridges and more.
It’s unclear how much of the pot Nova Scotia will receive, but Savage said he’d like to prioritize accessible, active transportation in the rural parts of the HRM.
“We have a lot of projects we think we can accelerate to bring into this program, but I would like to think that some of this money would come to Halifax for things that I haven’t even imagined yet,” he said. “Things that people would say, ‘That’s crazy, that’s next generation.’ Well, next generation comes a lot more quickly than we ever thought.”
Savage attended the funding announcement on Friday in Halifax, along with Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, Central Nova MP Sean Fraser, Halifax West MP Geoff Regan and members of the Ecology Action Centre.
Fillmore confirmed the $400 million is part of the eight-year, $14.9-billion public transit investment announced by the federal government last month. As parliamentary secretary to the minister of infrastructure and communities, he’s leading the creation of Canada’s first national active transportation strategy.
Public consultation on that strategy, he told reporters, will begin online on Friday afternoon and will help inform the government’s active transportation investments.
“There will be lots of surprises and interesting new things that we learn in here, but for sure we’re going to hear things about equity, equal access, physical accessibility, affordability, safety,” he said.
“A big piece of this for me is opening a door to communities that so far have not opened the door to active transportation so they can get into the game.”
Simone Mutabazi, community cycling activation officer for the Ecology Action Centre, said research has shown access to safe cycling infrastructure helps newcomers feel welcomed and a part of their communities.
“Some research that we’ve often used and that is integral to some of what we know about the newcomer community, is that when newcomers arrive in the country, usually their health levels are above the Canadian average, but after five years it falls,” she explained.
“So it’s about ensuring that active transport is there and accessible to newcomers and having people that are with them and part of the community, and involving them in that part is really important.”
Underscoring both the federal government’s and the HRM’s commitment to active transportation, said Savage and Fillmore, is a commitment to healthier populations and environments.
Public transportation is the second-highest emitter of climate-polluting carbon emissions in Canada, after the oil and gas sector.