Public Health Agency of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Share this page

Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation

The Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT) is a collaborative project that aims to gather and share knowledge that accelerates effective approaches to active transportation across Canada. The project supports the recognition that designing communities to support active transportation is key to fostering physical activity and producing a variety of public health benefits.

Acknowledgements

Table of Contents

What is active transportation?

Active transportation is any form of human-powered travel—most commonly walking and cycling, but also in-line skating or skateboarding. In the context of this project, the term also includes public transit because virtually every transit trip starts and/or ends with an active transportation journey

Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation: Project Briefing

Background

Active transportation has many tangible benefits for healthy communities. It can improve public health by reducing rates of chronic disease such as heart disease and cancer, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and easing traffic congestion. Levels of walking and cycling in most communities are low compared to automobile use, but there is considerable room for growth and even some positive trends. Since 2001, three-quarters of Canadian census metropolitan areas have seen an increase in cycling to work.

Across Canada, there is growing momentum among governments and non-governmental organizations as they develop policies and programs to support active transportation and healthy built environments. While community planning, design and implementation are largely the responsibility of municipal and regional governments, provincial and territorial governments can also lead valuable initiatives. However, despite current momentum there are gaps in the ways that evidence and effective practices are shared across Canadian jurisdictions.

To help gather and share knowledge that accelerates effective approaches to active transportation across Canada, the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention of the Public Health Agency of Canada (the Agency) is leading a collaborative project called Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT). The project reflects the Agency's commitment to promote healthy living and curb childhood obesity, and supports its recognition that designing communities to support active transportation is key to fostering physical activity and producing a variety of public health benefits.

MKAT's overall purpose is to strengthen evidence-informed work that supports active transportation. The following figure illustrates the project's three main goals.

Project Approach

Research Phases

The first phase of the MKAT project involved an Internet scan, 20 interviews with provincial government staff and follow-up questionnaires to identify recent and current strategies, policies and programs that support active transportation, both within provincial/territorial governments and bridging with municipalities. Work focused on identifying recent developments, innovations, lessons learned and the potential for adaptation by others. Multi-sectoral collaboration was a recurring theme.

The second phase of the project involved two focus groups with 33 participants and 14 other interviews with key players in active transportation across Canada, including municipal and regional governments, public health units and non-governmental organizations, to gather perspectives on enabling factors, challenges, opportunities and knowledge needs in the pursuit of more supportive environments for active transportation.

Stakeholder Involvement

MKAT work has been guided by a Reference Group of key stakeholders who represent federal and provincial governments as well as non-governmental organizations from a range of sectors working in the field of active transportation across Canada. The research phases ensured broad coverage of relevant sectors, regions and orders of government.

Documentation

This Project Briefing summarizes MKAT's key scan findings. It will help readers understand key active transportation successes and challenges through a pan‑Canadian lens: which strategies, policies and programs have been effective, and what opportunities exist to engage stakeholders and advance efforts at multiple levels. This briefing also identifies a support framework for active transportation based on provincial/territorial experiences to help all jurisdictions expand their multi-sectoral efforts. It includes six key action areas: collaboration, strategy, infrastructure, legislation, information and promotion. A series of seven highlight sheets provides more detail on this framework and its action areas, and includes some examples from provinces that have actively incorporated elements of the framework.

Research Findings

Phases 1 and 2 of MKAT research found that the level of priority given to active transportation varies among provinces. Where it does receive priority, its policy emphasis and program resources differ considerably. Active transportation initiatives also vary widely (see the appendix that lists recent initiatives in each province), with tremendous potential for further development and expansion.

MKAT research identified a range of factors that may motivate work on active transportation, enable that work to be effective, or limit its effectiveness. These factors are referred to as catalysts, facilitators and barriers, in turn, and are discussed below.

Catalysts

Key Motivators

Provincial stakeholders cited public health concerns about escalating rates of chronic disease and obesity as the most common catalyst for measures that support active transportation. In contrast, local/regional and non-governmental stakeholders cited transportation system costs and congestion, then consumer demand, as their principal motivators.

Diversity of Issues

In general, stakeholders view active transportation through the lens of their own priorities—for example, environment ministries are concerned with air emissions, education ministries work to improve the safety of school travel, municipalities focus on traffic congestion and recreation, and public health units promote active living. This diversity can be a strength, as illustrated by cases when stakeholders and sectors that seek different outcomes come together to pool resources and collaborate on initiatives.

Shifting Priorities

Stakeholders reported that the importance of specific catalysts has changed over time. For example, the non-governmental organization Vélo Québec was originally founded to support tourism and economic development, but it has recently shifted priority to the health benefits of active transportation. This is a trend also observed elsewhere, and might be fuelled by recent provincial strategies and funding programs that combat childhood obesity and promote physical activity.

Necessity of Leadership

The fact that active transportation is not the domain of any single stakeholder at the provincial/territorial level means that strong, engaging leadership is critical. In most communities, stakeholders see effective leadership emerging from local/regional governments and non-governmental organizations, rather than from other orders of government. Stakeholders felt that the degree to which governments are involved in active transportation often reflects the personal involvement of senior management, and sometimes of elected officials, as champions.

Facilitators

Governance Factors

Other facilitators related to government action include the presence of supportive organizational structures or networks, the creation of formal plans or strategies with clearly identified goals, the existence of guiding policies that encourage key priorities or actions, and availability of staff resources and funds to implement programs and projects.

External Factors

Outside the realm of governance, other observed facilitators of active transportation included the presence of supportive infrastructure, public perceptions, advocacy groups, socio-demographics, and local geographic and weather conditions.

Barriers

Lack of Coordination

The principal barrier to effective active transportation initiatives was found to be a lack of awareness, coordination and collaboration, both within and between various governments (federal, provincial, regional and local). In particular, stakeholders noted conflicting goals between provincial transportation departments and municipal governments.

Lack of Evidence

A key barrier that emerged repeatedly from stakeholder input is the absence of data (e.g. to describe travel behaviour) and knowledge (e.g. to identify and understand best practices). Participants strongly voiced the importance of and need for national and provincial-level data on active transportation activity that are statistically dependable, comparable across jurisdictions, and traceable over time. They requested economic analyses presenting a business case for investments in active transportation that can be understood by elected officials and other key stakeholders. They also cited the importance of measuring and documenting the outcomes of specific initiatives, and of sharing lessons from their implementation through case studies or similar means.

Governance and External Factors

Several other barriers simply represented the flip side of the key facilitators discussed above: a lack of political will or support, absent or conflicting policies, inadequate staffing and funding resources, a lack of infrastructure, negative public perceptions of the safety of active transportation, challenging topography or demographics, and a culture that is auto-dependent.

Support Framework and Action Areas

Support Framework

Lessons learned through active transportation research conducted across Canada informed the development of a support framework for active transportation that can help stakeholders expand multi-sectoral efforts. The framework includes six action areas, with collaboration as a central hub that connects the other areas of strategy, infrastructure, legislation, information and promotion. The support framework can strengthen the role of provinces and territories, inform active transportation work in other sectors, and enhance opportunities for delivery of local and regional initiatives.

Collaboration

  • Effective provincial/territorial collaboration models tend to share four key components: a lead ministry, a cross-departmental working group, a plan or strategy that commits to collaboration, and the active involvement of municipalities and non-governmental organizations.
  • Allocating responsibility for active transportation issues to designated staff in each provincial/territorial ministry, particularly transportation, can accelerate progress.
  • Involving representatives from all levels of government and all relevant departments in planning projects can leverage resources and expertise, and prevent duplication.
  • Synchronizing land use and transportation planning organizations within municipalities and regions maximizes the potential for people to meet everyday needs using active transportation.
  • The most suitable approach to collaboration varies for each community and project, and could involve existing mechanisms or new ways to engage various interests.

Strategy

  • Establishing a clear mandate for active transportation in all orders of government provides a cue for different departments to identify their own role.
  • Comprehensive provincial/territorial active transportation strategies tend to:
    • Emphasize linkages between active transportation and provincial land use policies specifying the locations and minimum densities of new development
    • Require road construction projects to serve active transportation needs
    • Identify funding sources for active transportation elements within infrastructure projects
    • Urge designation of "rails to trails" or other active transportation corridors to link communities
    • Identify policies to promote active travel to schools and workplaces

Infrastructure

  • Cost-sharing by provincial/territorial and municipal levels of government can overcome financial barriers to new infrastructure and programs.
  • Line items for active transportation and public transit in federal and provincial budgets can ensure those modes receive a fair share of investment.
  • Clear communication of provincial strategies and funding opportunities helps communities take advantage of available funding while meeting local goals.

Legislation

  • Legislation or regulations can improve safety for active transportation users.
  • Legislation or regulations can encourage innovative approaches to infrastructure design and traffic control.

Information

  • Developing and sharing a business case for active transportation that identifies multi-sectoral benefits (e.g. for economy, environment, health) and a realistic return on investment would accelerate investment and collaboration.
  • National or provincial/territorial surveys of active travel are needed to provide reliable and comparable data for planning and monitoring in communities of all sizes, regions and climates.
  • Developing and sharing best practices can inspire active transportation practitioners and stakeholders.
  • Stakeholders can benefit from sharing knowledge using understandable, compelling formats and mechanisms such as websites, newsletters and conferences.

Promotion

  • Education and awareness campaigns on active transportation benefits can aim evidence-based messages at specific audiences, thereby building interest and support among the general public, elected officials and public servants.

See Highlight Sheets No. 1 through No. 7 for more discussion and Canadian initiatives in each of these action areas.

Appendix: Current and Completed Provincial Active Transportation Initiatives

Alberta

  • Alberta Sustainable Transportation Framework
  • Active Alberta Policy
  • Land Use Framework
  • Healthy U
  • Municipal Grants
  • GreenTRIP

British Columbia

  • Cycling Policy
  • Provincial Transit Plan
  • Healthy Families BC
  • Bill 27: Opportunities and Strategies for Green Action
  • BC Advisory Cycling Committee
  • Bike BC: Cycling Infrastructure Partnerships Program (CIPP)
  • Provincial Cycling Investment Plan (PCIP)
  • Gateway Cycling Program
  • LocalMotion
  • Canada-BC Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund
  • Towns for Tomorrow
  • TransLink Sales Tax Exemption for Bikes
  • Gas Tax Fund
  • Cost Sharing

Manitoba

  • Provincial AT Policy
  • Provincial Planning Regulation Guidelines for the Construction of Rec Trails on or in Proximity to a Departmental Road
  • Bill 32 - Cycleways Bill 3 - School Zones
  • Bill 37 - Helmet
  • Border to Beaches (B2B) Working Groups
  • Manitoba's 3-Year, 4-Point Action Plan
  • Tomorrow Now: Manitoba's Green Plan
  • Manitoba in Motion/Communities in Motion
  • Injury Prevention Strategy
  • Greater Strides: Taking Action on AT
  • AT Advisory Group
  • Cycling Safety Awareness Campaign
  • AT Web Portal
  • WinSmart Showcase
  • Winnipeg AT Advisory Committee
  • Low-Cost Bicycle Helmet Initiative
  • Healthy Schools Campaign
  • Community Planning Assistance Grants
  • Small Communities Transit Fund (2010-2014)
  • Small Communities AT Fund (2012-2014)
  • City of Winnipeg Bike Path Projects (2007-2012)
  • Physical Activity Coalition of Manitoba
  • Recreation Connections and the Green Action Centre Active and Safe Routes to School
  • Trails Manitoba Healthy Together Now Bicycle Safety Video Series

New Brunswick

  • Live Well, Be Well: New Brunswick`s Wellness Strategy 2009-2013
  • Climate Change Action Plan 2007-2012
  • Strategic Plan - Active Communities
  • Wellness Strategy Action Plan 2012-2013
  • Pilot Project related to signs on designated highways
  • Active community Regional Consultants
  • Active Communities Grant Program
  • Environmental Trust Fund
  • Reinvesting in the NB Trail System - A Long-Term Management Strategy
  • Community Alternative Transportation

Newfoundland and Labrador

  • A Recreation and Sport Strategy for Newfoundland and Labrador (2007)
  • Regional Wellness Coalitions
  • Achieving Health and Wellness (Phase 1: 2006-2008)
  • Provincial Wellness Grants Program

Nova Scotia

  • School Zone Speed Limit Reduction
  • Bill 93 - 1m Rule
  • Rails to Trails Policy
  • Choose How you Move
  • Thrive! Healthier Plan for NS
  • NS Pathways for People
  • Strategy for Positive Aging
  • Active Kids Healthy Kids
  • Provincial Active Transportation Team
  • Integrated Community Sustainability Plans and Municipal Climate Change Action Plan
  • Planning for Blue Route
  • Municipal Physically Activity Leadership Program
  • Tourism Visitor Data Collection
  • Tourism Development Programs
  • NS Moves
  • Planning Assistance Grants
  • Regional Development Grants
  • Trail Maintenance Program
  • Provincial Recreation/Physical Activity Project Funding
  • Tourism Development Investment Fund
  • Gas Tax Funding

Ontario

  • Provincial Policy Statement and Regional Transportation Plan
  • Places to Grow
  • Bicycle Policy
  • Make No Little Plans - Ontario's Public Health Strategic Plan
  • Transit Supportive Guidelines
  • Preventing and Managing Chronic Disease: Ontario's Framework
  • Ontario's Cycling Strategy
  • Ontario's Action Plan for Healthy Eating and Active Living (2006)
  • No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy
  • Ontario Bikeways Planning and Design Guidelines
  • Taking Action to Prevent Chronic Disease: Recommendations for a Healthier Ontario
  • Municipal Planning and Development Tools
  • Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure Case Studies
  • Metrolinx
  • Ontario Transportation Demand Management Municipal Grant Program
  • Ontario Healthy Communities Fund
  • Sales Tax Exemption for Bicycles and some Accessories

Prince Edward Island

  • Physical Activity Strategy for PEI 2004-2009
  • PEI Strategy for Healthy Living

Quebec

  • Bicycle Policy
  • Public Transit Policy
  • Sustainable Mobility Policy
  • 2009-2013 MTQ Action Plan
  • Plan d'action gouvernemental de promotion des saines habitudes de vie et de prévention des problèmes reliés au poids 2006-2012
  • Route Verte
  • Green Paper
  • Table Québécoise de la securité routière (Quebec Highway Safety Table)
  • Bicycle Coordinators
  • Kino-Quebec
  • Bicycling in Quebec Reports
  • Quebec Ministère - Infrastructure Development
  • Financial assistance programs for public transit

Saskatchewan

  • The Framework for Comprehensive School Community Health
  • Healthy Weights Framework
  • Healthier Places to Live, Work and Play: A Population Health Promotion Strategy for Saskatchewan

Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation: Support Framework Highlight Sheets

Highlight Sheet No. 1 - Overview

Rationale

Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT) is a collaborative project led by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Through national research and consultation with active transportation stakeholders, the project identified key lessons that can accelerate effective approaches to active transportation across Canada.

The project also identified a support framework to facilitate action and expand multi-sectoral efforts. Using the framework can strengthen the role of provinces and territories, inform active transportation work in other sectors, and enhance opportunities for delivery of local and regional initiatives. The framework includes six action areas: collaboration, strategy, infrastructure, legislation, information and promotion.

The pentagonal figure, above, illustrates the six action areas. The central position of collaboration reflects its vital role within and among the other five areas.

See Project Briefing – Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation for more information on this project.

Action Areas

Each action area within the framework supports progress toward active transportation by being a catalyst for action, by facilitating action, or by overcoming barriers to action.

Collaboration

Collaboration is an important means to accomplish other action areas within the support framework for active transportation. MKAT research found several types are needed:

  • between levels of government
  • between departments and agencies within a single order of government
  • between sectors by organization type
  • between sectors by theme or interest

MKAT research also led to a recommended four-part model for collaboration at the provincial or territorial level.

See Highlight Sheet No. 2 – Collaboration for more information and examples from across Canada.

Strategy

The provinces that are most active and effective in active transportation tend to have related plans or policies. Strategies can fill high-level needs such as building political will, identifying shared stakeholder objectives, setting governance frameworks and leveraging collaborative funding. They can also highlight more technical needs such as data collection.

See Highlight Sheet No. 3 – Strategy for more information and examples from across Canada.

Infrastructure

Canadian communities are working to improve infrastructure that encourages people to use active transportation. Modifying infrastructure in existing areas can be more challenging than building new facilities, and the linkages between transit and active modes tend to be poor. Municipalities are responsible for building most active transportation facilities, but provinces and territories can also play a key role by offering grants or cost-sharing mechanisms that help shift local priorities and encourage investment.

Infrastructure funding mitigates capital cost burdens that can be significant, particularly for smaller communities. The direct provision of infrastructure by provinces and territories can also improve walking and cycling conditions on bridges, rural roads, and in major urban highway corridors.

See Highlight Sheet No. 4 – Infrastructure for more information and examples from across Canada.

Legislation

Laws and regulations are important tools to improve active transportation. Even though municipalities may lead most implementation activity, provinces have an important role in providing supportive and consistent rules and guidelines.

Legislation and regulation can validate the use of roads by cyclists, clarify expected on-road behaviour by all road users, enable innovation in the search for operational solutions, and provide tax exemptions that make bicycles more affordable.

See Highlight Sheet No. 5 – Legislation for more information and examples from across Canada.

Information

Canada faces gaps in data collection on active travel behaviours, analysis to build understanding, the presence of practitioners responsible for building organizational knowledge, and opportunities for them to share knowledge and experience.

Remedying these information gaps would improve performance measurement, our understanding of active transportation's many benefits, and our ability to make better decisions. Communities need more trained practitioners to build and exchange knowledge, and to educate other active transportation stakeholders. When communities are unable to independently gather the information they need, provinces and territories can help by coordinating collective efforts.

See Highlight Sheet No. 6 – Information for more information and examples from across Canada.

Promotion

Education and awareness campaigns and programs promoting active transportation can build public support and political will by reflecting health, transportation, environment and tourism interests.

Promotional efforts can have many benefits. They can shift the perceptions and preferences of individuals, build the desire for change among stakeholder groups, engage the private sector, help offset the dominant car culture of many communities, and enable safer behaviours.

See Highlight Sheet No. 7 – Promotion for more information and examples from across Canada.

Highlight Sheet No. 2 - Collaboration

Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT) is a collaborative project led by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Through national research and consultation with active transportation stakeholders, the project identified key lessons that can accelerate effective approaches to active transportation across Canada.It also identified a support framework to facilitate action and expand multi-sectoral efforts. Using the framework can strengthen the role of provinces and territories, inform active transportation work in other sectors, and enhance opportunities for delivery of local and regional initiatives. See Project Briefing – Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation for more information on this project.

Rationale

One recurring theme of MKAT research is the essential role of collaboration in advancing active transportation in Canada. This can take several different forms:

  • between levels of government (e.g. federal, provincial, municipal)
  • between departments and agencies within a single order of government (e.g. transportation, health, environment)
  • between sectors by organization type (e.g. governments, non-governmental organizations, private sector)
  • between sectors by theme or interest (e.g. planning, engineering, education) 

Collaboration is not an end in itself. Rather, it is an important enabler of the other action areas within the support framework for active transportation. It is especially vital to the success of actions in the areas of strategy, infrastructure, information and promotion.

MKAT research led to a model for enhanced collaboration at the provincial or territorial level, which includes four parts:

  • a lead department in charge of active transportation
  • an interdepartmental structure for working together on active transportation
  • a plan or strategy that formalized the intent to work on active transportation
  • active leadership from advocacy groups

This model could help overcome key challenges to active transportation progress at a provincial or territorial scale. Implementing the model could enhance interdepartmental awareness of shared interests and objectives; improve interdepartmental communication and coordination around actions related to infrastructure, legislation and promotion; and help connect provincial and municipal intentions and actions related to active transportation infrastructure.

Highlight Initiatives

The following initiatives are examples of those that have supported active transportation through collaboration.

British Columbia

Creation of the was a commitment in the Ministry of Transportation's Cycling Policy. It brings together public and private sectors through the participation of government ministries, local governments, cycling coalitions and other groups. The committee provides a central review and vetting function for provincial issues such as monitoring and updating the Ministry's Cycling Policy and Guide, considering standards for design, construction and maintenance, and facilitating dialogue about cycling and the transportation network.

Manitoba

Manitoba has created four active transportation committees to support implementation of its Active Transportation Action PlanExternal Link:

  • Ministerial Steering Committee – establishes direction and approves departmental recommendations
  • Deputy Minister Advisory Committee – provides oversight and guidance of the Interdepartmental Working Group, particularly where interdepartmental coordination is needed to achieve key objectives and goals
  • Interdepartmental Working Group – improves coordination in priority areas and helps develop tools and resources to build awareness and support
  • Public Stakeholder Advisory Group – identifies and implements promotion, awareness and safety partnerships

The first three committees involve the Municipal Affairs, Healthy Living, Infrastructure and Transportation departments, as well as representatives from Manitoba Health, Housing and Community Development, Family Services, Conservation and Provincial Parks, and Manitoba Public Insurance.

Manitoba's efforts in active transportation have been aided by partnerships with municipalities as well as with advocacy groups (e.g. Green Action Centre, Chronic Disease Collaboration, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Manitoba Public Insurance, Winnipeg in Motion) that came together to form the Physical Activity Coalition of ManitobaExternal Link. This group developed proposals and advocated for creation of a provincial active transportation program and staffing.

Nova Scotia

The Provincial Active Transportation Task TeamExternal Link, created by the Department of Health and Wellness in 2010, is developing an active transportation policy and plan for Nova Scotia. It includes departmental representatives from Energy, Environment, Education and Early Childhood Development, Seniors, Tourism, Justice, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, and Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. It organized a Government Summit on Active Transportation to explore how departments and agencies could be building momentum in a more integrated way, and to consider the benefits for public health, road safety, climate change, transportation, community and economic development.

Quebec

Quebec collaborates extensively with Vélo QuébecExternal Link, a non-governmental organization. Together, they jointly launched and developed the Route Verte with the involvement of many municipalities, regions and provincial ministries. The provincial government also funds Vélo Québec's publication of Bicycling in Quebec every five years, a report thatquantifies changes in cycling behaviour and monitors progress toward the goals of the provincial Cycling Policy.

Highlight Sheet No. 3 - Strategy

Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT) is a collaborative project led by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Through national research and consultation with active transportation stakeholders, the project identified key lessons that can accelerate effectiveapproaches to active transportation across Canada. It also identified a support framework to facilitate action and expand multi–sectoral efforts. Using the framework can strengthen the role of provinces and territories, inform active transportation work in other sectors, and enhance opportunities for delivery of local and regional initiatives. See Project Briefing – Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation for more information on this project.

Rationale

MKAT research clearly identified the benefits of comprehensive provincial/territorial strategies for active transportation in Canada. It found that the most active and innovative provinces tend to be those that have developed active transportation strategies. Such strategies can include plans or policies, and have several key roles.

A strategy can be a catalyst for action by:

  • expressing a commitment that can build political will and attract champions and public support
  • highlighting strategic motivators and objectives shared by stakeholders
  • setting goals and accompanying targets

A strategy can facilitate action by:

  • allocating leadership mandates and roles
  • establishing a governance framework including mechanisms for collaboration and accountability
  • providing a focus for collaborative funding from government departments and the private sector

A strategy can overcome barriers by:

  • raising awareness of challenges and solutions among all stakeholders
  • identifying key efforts that require partnership and coordination
  • specifying measures such as data collection to fill information gaps

Because provincial/territorial interests in active transportation usually include multiple departments, the development of a strategy can build a shared sense of responsibility. It can also confirm whether having a single overall lead department is preferable to distributed (or shared) leadership.

It is helpful for strategies to address the importance of coordinated active transportation and land use policies, the inclusion of active transportation facilities in provincial/territorial road projects and the identification of funding sources for them, support for active transportation corridors to link communities, and policies promoting active travel to schools and workplaces.

Highlights Initiatives

The following initiatives are examples of those that have supported active transportation through strategy.

Alberta

The Active Alberta PolicyExternal Link (Ministry of Tourism, Parks, and Recreation) provides a ten-year vision for recreation, active living and sport. The policy has six key outcomes, and active transportation is a focus of four of them: Active Albertans, Active Communities, Active Outdoors, and an Active Coordinated System.

British Columbia

The Cycling PolicyExternal Link(Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure) describes how British Columbia will make provisions for cyclists on new and upgraded provincial highways, and how the Ministry will involve cycling interests in highway planning.

Manitoba

As part of TomorrowNow – Manitoba's Green Plan, Manitoba is moving forward with a three-year Action PlanExternal Link on active transportation. It calls for an online portal, a lead ministry and a director-level “point person.” It commits to integrating land use and active transportation planning, developing key infrastructure, and raising awareness of safety issues. It calls for a provincial Active Transportation Policy to articulate multi-sectoral benefits and link departmental efforts. Finally, it aims to develop active transportation design guidelines and promote existing infrastructure.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's Choose How You Move: Sustainable Transportation StrategyExternal Linkcoordinates work among many departments on a variety of mobility issues including active transportation. It sets 2 guiding principles, assigns provincial leadership and funding, commits to the development of supporting networks (both physical and human) including one for active transportation, and establishes baseline data and tracking indicators.

Thrive! A Plan for a Healthier Nova ScotiaExternal Link (Department of Health and Wellness) aims to make it easier for people to eat well and be active. One key direction, “Planning and building healthier communities,” involves creating a provincial active transportation policy and plan, working with municipalities on supportive land use policy, and helping people access places to be active. Implementation will include a task team to plan a provincial framework for teaching children and youth to bicycle safely.

Ontario

#CycleON: Ontario's Cycling StrategyExternal Link (Ministry of Transportation) includes a 20-year vision, supporting principles and goals. Its five main directions include designing healthy, active and prosperous communities, improving cycling infrastructure, making highways and streets safer, promoting cycling awareness and behavioural shifts, and increasing cycling tourism opportunities. The plan will be followed by work with partners to set performance metrics, report on progress, discuss emerging issues, and identify needed projects.

Quebec

Quebec's Bicycle PolicyExternal Link (Ministère des Transports) was developed in 1995 and updated in 2008. Its main objectives are to encourage cycling as a mode of transportation, promote road safety with cyclists and other road users, and improve cycling networks. Since 1995, the province has seen a significant drop in cycling injuries and deaths.

Quebec's Public Transit PolicyExternal Link (Ministère des Transports) aims to improve the quality of transit services and increase transit ridership. It highlights a range of partners and their roles in promoting transit use, identifies supportive fiscal measures, and mentions the important complementary role of cycling and walking. It will soon be replaced with a new, broader Sustainable Mobility Policy.

Highlight Sheet No. 4 - Infrastructure

Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT) is a collaborative project led by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Through national research and consultation with active transportation stakeholders, the project identified key lessons that can accelerate effective approaches to active transportation across Canada. It also identified a support framework to facilitate action and expand multi–sectoral efforts. Using the framework can strengthen the role of provinces and territories, inform active transportation work in other sectors, and enhance opportunities for delivery of local and regional initiatives. See Project Briefing – Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation for more information on this project.

Rationale

MKAT research reinforced the need for more and better infrastructure for active transportation across Canada. While municipalities are responsible for building most walking and cycling facilities, provinces and territories can also play a key role.

Infrastructure-supportive measures can facilitate action when provinces or territories offer grants or cost-sharing mechanisms. These can be very effective, in part because even the availability of funding can help shift local priorities. Cost sharing also encourages projects that meet the goals of multiple governments.

Measures can also overcome barriers by mitigating the cost burden of infrastructure (which can be high and distributed unevenly over time, especially in smaller communities), and by improving walking and cycling conditions where alternative routes are sparse or do not exist (for example, on bridges, rural roads that link communities, and urban roads at intersections with major highways).

Active transportation infrastructure still needs to be improved in many communities. Limited, discontinuous on-street and off-street routes of widely varying quality are more common than not. Cities find that modifying infrastructure in existing areas can be more challenging, both physically and financially, than building new facilities from scratch. Transit services and facilities tend to be better developed than those for walking and cycling, but the linkages between transit and active modes can be poor; that said, some cities have successfully funded active transportation facilities as part of large rapid transit projects.

One significant constraint found in MKAT research is a frequent “disconnect” between municipal and provincial governments in terms of their objectives and approaches. Provincial transportation agencies tend to focus on motorized traffic, including on rural roads that serve as the main streets of small towns. However, some provinces have put policies and staff in place to improve provincial road infrastructure for active transportation.

Highlight Initiatives

The following initiatives are examples of those that have supported active transportation through infrastructure.

Alberta

Alberta Transportation's GreenTRIPExternal Link funding program supports the construction of public transit facilities, and its Basic Municipal Transportation GrantExternal Link program helps cities, towns, and smaller rural settlements implement active transportation capital projects.

British Columbia

British Columbia has allocated $150 million for cycling since 2001. This includes work on new highways or highway upgradesExternal Link, which must include wide shoulders or designated lanes for cycling unless exempted.

The Cycling Infrastructure Partnerships ProgramExternal Link is a 50:50 cost-sharing program for local governments to improve commuter cycling facilities. Up to $2 million has been provided annually since 2004. Funding is conditional on performance measurement by local governments.

Manitoba

Manitoba's Small Communities Transit FundExternal Link supports cost-shared infrastructure projects in communities smaller than 50,000 people. It includes a component aimed at active transportation infrastructure, and is enabled through the Canada-Manitoba Gas Tax Funding Agreement.

The Tourism, Culture, Heritage, Sport and Consumer Protection department has funded work by Trails ManitobaExternal Link to build Manitoba's portion of the Trans Canada Trail, which is 90% complete and should be finished in 2017.

The department of Infrastructure and Transportation has issued Guidelines for the Construction of Recreational Trails on or in Proximity to a Departmental RoadExternal Linkthat discuss trail planning guidelines as well as issues pertaining to highway crossings and liability.

New Brunswick

The multi-departmental Reinvesting in the New Brunswick Trail System: A Long-Term Management Strategy supports trails that connect communities and provide access to jobs, schools and amenities. Abandoned rail lines are transferred as part of the trail system.

Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia MovesExternal Link program supports local and province-wide sustainable transportation initiatives, with priority for plan and pilot project implementation. It offers matching grants up to $200,000 to support active transportation, transit, vehicle efficiency, land use planning and community engagement.

The Blue Route initiative involves several provincial departments, municipalities and other organizations in developing and implementing a province-wide active transportation network, with the goal of completing a pilot project in 2014.

Quebec

Quebec launched the Route VerteExternal Link in 1995, in collaboration with Vélo Québec. It invested $88.5 million over ten years to develop the 5,000-kilometre network that serves tourists and commuter cyclists across Québec. Through funding and incentives, the program has been a catalyst for many rural, suburban, and urban communities to plan and build their own cycling facilities. Today, Vélo Québec receives about $400,000 annually to promote, plan and manage the Route Verte.

Highlight Sheet No. 5 - Legislation

Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT) is a collaborative project led by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Through national research and consultation with active transportation stakeholders, the project identified key lessons that can accelerate effective approaches to active transportation across Canada. It also identified a support framework to facilitate action and expand multi–sectoral efforts. Using the framework can strengthen the role of provinces and territories, inform active transportation work in other sectors, and enhance opportunities for delivery of local and regional initiatives. See Project Briefing – Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation for more information on this project.

Rationale

MKAT research and consultation identified legislation and regulation, particularly at the provincial level, as important tools to advance active transportation in Canada. Even though municipalities are at the forefront of implementation, supportive and consistent rules and guidelines at the provincial level can accelerate active transportation initiatives and behaviour change.

Legislation and regulation can facilitate action by:

  • validating the use of roads by cyclists, and articulating the safety-related responsibilities of cyclists and other vehicles in on-road situations
  • granting authority to various agencies to test and implement unique solutions, where appropriate, to operational problems involving active transportation users

Legislation and regulation can overcome barriers by:

  • improving road safety for pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users, such as by eliminating confusion and operational conflicts that arise from outdated rules or gradual shifts in road user behaviour and expectations
  • making bicycles and cycling equipment more affordable by reducing sales taxes on their purchase

Highlight Initiatives

The following initiatives are examples of those that have supported active transportation through legislation and regulation.

British Columbia

The Provincial Sales Tax Act exempts the purchase of new bicycles and safety-related accessories from provincial sales tax.

The Local Government Statutes Amendment ActExternal Link, known as the “Green Communities” legislation, supports British Columbia’s environmental goals. It requires local governments to set targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions, and to develop supportive policies and actions (e.g. promoting active transportation) in their Official Community Plans and Regional Growth Strategies.

Manitoba

Bill 32–CyclewaysExternal Link amends Manitoba's Highway Traffic Act to give municipalities the power to create cycleways for the exclusive use of bicycles. Associated regulations will permit bicycles to operate on highway shoulders.

Bill 3–School ZonesExternal Linkamends the Highway Traffic Act to allow local governments to determine whether the speed in a school zone should be reduced, and what the speed should be within the parameters set in regulations.

Bill 37–Helmet LegislationExternal Link amends the Highway Traffic Act and Summary Convictions Amendment Act to require cyclists under 18 years of age to wear helmets while cycling or riding in a trailer attached to a bicycle, except in private residences and farm yard. It sets a fine and offers first-time offenders the option of a short online bicycle helmet safety course.

Nova Scotia

The Innovative Transportation ActExternal Link amends the Motor Vehicle Act to permit easier testing of innovative ideas that would normally contravene legislation on roads in any jurisdiction.

Bill 93–The One Metre RuleExternal Link encourages safer road sharing between cyclists and motorists on provincial highways. Drivers must give one metre of space between their vehicle and cyclists when passing, and avoid driving or parking in bike lanes unless avoiding a hazard. Cyclists must ride single file unless passing other cyclists, use designated bike lanes when present, and ride on the right side of the road unless passing through a roundabout, turning left, or avoiding hazards.

Ontario

Bill 173–Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Keeping Ontario's Roads Safe)External Link proposes a number of pedestrian and cyclist safety improvements. It would require drivers to yield the entire roadway width at school crossings and pedestrian crossovers, and would allow new pedestrian crossing devices on low-speed and low-volume roads as municipalities have requested. It would permit cyclists to use paved shoulders on unrestricted provincial highways, and allow municipalities to create contra-flow bicycle lanes. It would require drivers to maintain a one-metre distance when passing cyclists, and increase the monetary and demerit point penalties for dooring cyclists. It would also permit flashing red lights as a bicycle safety feature, and increase the maximum fine for not using required bicycle lights and reflectors.

Highlight Sheet No. 6 - Information

Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT) is a collaborative project led by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Through national research and consultation with active transportation stakeholders, the project identified key lessons that can accelerate effective approaches to active transportation across Canada. It also identified a support framework to facilitate action and expand multi‑sectoral efforts. Using the framework can strengthen the role of provinces and territories, inform active transportation work in other sectors, and enhance opportunities for delivery of local and regional initiatives. See Project Briefing – Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation for more information on this project.

Rationale

MKAT participants highlighted the many gaps in information related to active transportation in Canada. These include a lack of data collection on active travel behaviours, a lack of analysis to build understanding, a lack of practitioners responsible for building organizational knowledge, and a lack of opportunities for them to share knowledge and experience.

Information-related measures can be a catalyst for action by:

  • monitoring and reporting on progress toward active transportation targets
  • documenting the outcomes of active transportation programs including health benefits and return on investment
  • making the business case for active transportation in a way that is accessible to elected officials and the public

Information-related measures can facilitate action by:

  • allocating responsibility for active transportation to trained practitioners
  • helping practitioners acquire and exchange knowledge, such as through case studies, best practice guides, webinars and conferences
  • equipping stakeholders such as planners, architects and engineers with the knowledge they need to support active transportation

Information-related measures can overcome barriers by providing the information agencies need to make better decisions on facilities and programs

A key finding of MKAT research and consultation is that while some cities have collected active transportation data for trend analysis, planning and evaluation purposes, many others have not due to insufficient resources and skills. Provincial and national surveys of active travel behaviour (beyond the National Household Survey which gathers information on work commuting every five years) are required to provide consistent comparative data across Canada. These data could be used to set provincial targets related to modal shift, health impacts and collision reduction and so on. A common framework would allow all provinces and territories to participate in a coordinated national effort supporting active transportation.

Another finding related to the need for a forum for active transportation information-sharing and networking in Canada. Such a forum would permit the exchange of technical information and collaborative models.

Highlight Initiatives

The following initiatives are examples of those that have supported active transportation through information.

British Columbia

The report Health and Active Transportation: An Inventory of Municipal Data Collection and Needs in the Lower Mainland of B.C.External Link identifies transportation and health data sources that can inform planning, and practices to assess health impacts of transportation decisions.

Manitoba

The Physical Activity Coalition of Manitoba has hosted provincial conferences on active transportation and recreationExternal Link, with supportive funding from Manitoba, and is actively developing resource information for communities.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Department collects data on the number of visitors who hike and cycleExternal Link. In partnership with Atlantic Canada Trails, it developed a tool to evaluate the tourism potential of trails and is working on a tool to assess the trail-user readiness of communities.

Nova Scotia's Municipal Physical Activity Leadership ProgramExternal Link supports more than 40 municipalities that have hired full-time physical activity staff to develop comprehensive physical activity plans. Participating municipalities must address walking and biking as part of daily living.

Ontario

Ontario's Transit Supportive GuidelinesExternal Link suggest transit-friendly land use planning, urban design and operational policies, drawn from experiences in Ontario, elsewhere in North America, and abroad. The guidelines help urban planners, transit planners and developers in communities of all sizes to create an environment supportive of transit and develop infrastructure and services that attract riders.

Ontario's Action Plan for Healthy Eating and Active Living External Linkcalls for active transportation and urban design forums for stakeholders including community planners, engineers and designers to raise awareness of how the built environment can affect health.

School travel planning projectsExternal Link coordinated by Green Communities Canada and a variety of partners methodically collect data on how children get to and from school.

Quebec

Quebec employs regional bicycle coordinators who spend up to 30 percent of their time on cycling projects.

Every five years, Quebec funds Vélo Québec to quantify changes in cycling behaviour by conducting a cycling survey and analyzing bicycle counts. The resulting Bicycling in Quebec reportExternal Link is intended for use by municipalities, universities, the provincial government and the general public. The report helps monitor progress toward the goals of the provincial Cycling Policy.

Highlight Sheet No. 7 - Promotion

Mobilizing Knowledge for Active Transportation (MKAT) is a collaborative project led by the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Through national research and consultation with active transportation stakeholders, the project identified key lessons that can accelerate effective approaches to active transportation across Canada. It also identified a support framework to facilitate action and expand multi–sectoral efforts. Using the framework can strengthen the role of provinces and territories, inform active transportation work in other sectors, and enhance opportunities for delivery of local and regional initiatives. See Project Briefing – Mobilizing Knowledge on Active Transportation for more information on this project.

Rationale

MKAT research and consultation both clearly highlighted the need for governments and their partners to undertake education and awareness campaigns and programs that promote various aspects of active transportation among the general public and decision makers in Canada. By reflecting various stakeholder interests including health, transportation, environment and tourism, such campaigns would attract a range of support and increase both public readiness and political will for change.

Promotion can be a catalyst for action by:

  • building awareness of and interest in active transportation among consumers, which can encourage the creation of groups and coalitions
  • demonstrating active transportation benefits and best practices from other communities to local groups, leading to a demand for similar services

Promotion can facilitate action by:

  • using branding, messaging and social marketing to mitigate the strongly car-dependent culture of many communities, which can discourage policies and programs that support active transportation
  • communicating the benefits of active transportation to the business community, and building strong support in the private sector

Promotion can overcome barriers by:

  • using special events, destination-based programs (i.e. at workplaces or schools), and residential marketing to motivate individuals to try active transportation options, leading to positive experiences that support further use
  • educating the public about new active transportation facilities and how to use them safely, so that new infrastructure, pavement markings and signs do not suffer from either low levels of use or high levels of misuse
  • providing user skills training (e.g. CAN-BIKE courses) to improve confidence and safety

Highlight Initiatives

The following initiatives are examples of those that have supported active transportation through promotion.

Alberta

Alberta's Healthy UExternal Link campaign provides access to information on healthy eating and active living, and offers funding opportunities and awards for efforts to create healthier communities.

British Columbia

The Healthy Families BCExternal Link website offers resources on healthy living, with sections related to active transportation including those targeted at youth.

Manitoba

Manitoba funded the Manitoba Cycling Association's production of a three-part series of bicycle safety videosExternal Link. The spots address helmet use, bike handling skills, and traffic negotiation skills targeted primarily at active commuters.

Manitoba Public Insurance, in collaboration with Manitoba, Bike Winnipeg, the Manitoba Cycling Association and the City of Winnipeg, provides extensive web-based cycling safety informationExternal Link. Its website promotes safe sharing of the road by drivers and cyclists, and promotes cycling as a healthy form of transportation.

Manitoba's Active Transportation Web PortalExternal Link provides users with a clearinghouse for information on AT, including policies, engagement opportunities, success stories, resources and tools.

Manitoba in motionExternal Link is a provincial program to help all Manitobans make physical activity part of their daily lives for health and enjoyment. The program includes components to encourage action by communities, workplaces, schools, families and individuals. It offers information, consultation, training, success stories, recognition, and tools for implementation and communication

Winnipeg's Green Action Centre received provincial funding in 2012 to support Active and Safe Routes to SchoolsExternal Link programming by school divisions and schools. This work includes targeted communications around active school travel and travel planning, capacity building through training, workshops and resources, and targeted special events promoting walking and cycling to school.

Ontario

Ontario supports the WALK Friendly OntarioExternal Link recognition program of Green Communities Canada, which encourages municipalities to create and improve spaces and places to walk. The program uses a comprehensive framework of walkability indicators to designate communities as Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum. The program encourages municipalities to set targets for ongoing improvements, and to achieve higher awards by transforming their built environments to support walking.

Quebec

The Kino-QuébecExternal Linkprogram was launched in 1978, and is managed by two departments in collaboration with health and social service agencies. The program promotes physically active lifestyles, and is centrally coordinated with a presence across Quebec's regions.