January 23, 2017

Looking at Moncton's Cycling Scene

While on vacation in Moncton, I wrote about my experience cycling there for the first time in a decade. It turned out new infrastructure (e.g. Northwest Trail, bike racks, bike lanes) wasn’t the only thing that changed. Thanks to some productive conversations with Krysta Cowling of La Bikery Co-operative Ltd and Benoît Leblanc of NB Biking Advocacy Group, I found out there have been some positive developments on the social and advocacy fronts.

La Bikery

Think of La Bikery as Moncton’s answer to Toronto’s DIY (do-it-yourself) bike clinics such as Bike Pirates and Bike Sauce; first open in 2012 along the Riverfront Trail with over 600 members. When asked about what inspired La Bikery’s founding, Executive Director Krysta Cowling said, “The founding board members left Moncton for school and/or work, where they were part of their respective cycling communities. Since such a community was missing from Moncton, they sought to create one via a community bicycle centre.” In addition to providing a DIY space and skills training, La Bikery has their Recycle A Bike program – where eligible people can volunteer to cover part or all of the bicycle costs – and runs a Gear Swap.

Several challenges facing Moncton cyclists Cowling brought up include people new to cycling (or haven’t cycled since childhood), people having insufficient knowledge of the rules, and insufficient infrastructure in a car focused city. To help address these challenges, La Bikery worked with the City of Moncton to provide bells, locks, and helmets (which are mandatory in New Brunswick), as well as take pictures of people’s bicycles and serial numbers to reduce theft. They organize at least two group rides annually to promote cycling safety; last year’s consisting of a Tweed Ride with a penny farthing and a Disco Ride that was part of the Festival Inspire art festival and is similar to Toronto’s Bike Rave. Stay tuned for this year’s events on their Facebook page.

NB Biking Advocacy Group

While the cycling social scene is taking root, cycling advocacy is still in its infancy and was recently mobilized with the death of New Brunswick cyclist Ellen Watters on December 27, 2016. As a tribute, New Brunswick’s cyclists – including NB Biking Advocacy Group established in October and Vélo NB – called for a one metre passing rule (a.k.a. Ellen’s Law) which already exists in Nova Scotia and Ontario. Recently, the city councils of Saint John, Moncton, and Edmundston passed resolutions demanding the provincial government to bring in this law.

“We have momentum with lots of media attention and support of three cities,” said Benoît Leblanc of NB Biking Advocacy Group, “There are two steps to pursue which are to organize in order to get Fredericton’s support and to introduce Ellen’s Law to the provincial government.”

Leblanc mentioned legislation such as Ellen’s Law is one of the group’s four primary mission objectives. The other three are education such as including cycling education in the school curriculum province-wide, infrastructure such as separated bike lanes on arterial roads, and developing a cycling culture via events such as the Tweed Ride.

When asked about cycling facilities elsewhere in New Brunswick, Leblanc said, “Fredericton’s cycling network is more developed than Moncton’s with bike lanes downtown and a beautiful pedestrian and cycling bridge, which sometimes makes it faster to get around than cars.” As for Moncton, Leblanc said Moncton has a recreational focus with only the Riverfront and Northwest trails being dedicated, as well as no connections to key places such as Mountain Road. Leblanc made a reference to the huge sidewalk under the railroad bridge at Vaughan Harvey Boulevard, where Moncton could learn from Germany by painting a line separating pedestrians and cyclists and replacing concrete with asphalt.

Some of the work done by NB Biking Advocacy Group so far include the current development of a vision and mission, participation in budget discussions, and advocating for legislation such as Ellen’s Law as concerned citizens, given the group is not yet firmly established. Simon Dubé also helped establish the group, with both Dubé and Leblanc reaching out to municipalities, cycle commuters, and event organizers.

Northwest Trail Revisited
Before returning to Toronto, I sneaked in another bike ride to complete the Northwest Trail. From the Moncton Coliseum, the paved and separated trail crosses Wheeler Boulevard to the Industrial Park at Edinburgh Drive. After crossing Berry Mills Road and a brief switchback, the trail is unpaved and a direct shot to Magnetic Hill. A restroom (with bike rack), playground, and several benches are provided along the route. Two feeder trails connect the trail to residential areas. At the end of the ride, I saw a beautiful hawk along Berry Mills Road and here’s a picture to close off this post.
Happy Monday!
Rob Z

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