Ottawa has been given a "Silver Designation" for being a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists, it was recently announced at the Ontario Bike Summit.
On the surface, a "Silver Designation" may sound pretty good for Ottawa. However, in the larger scheme of things, it demonstrates that Ottawa has fallen behind many other cities in terms of being a bicycle friendly community.
The Washington-based League of American Bicyclists has been rating US communities for bicycle friendliness for the better part of a decade. It now has a list of approximately 80 cities and towns which is divided into four categories: platinum - gold - silver - bronze. (Ontario cities became eligible to be rated under the system last year through an arrangement with the Share the Road Cycling Coalition.)
When looking at the list, we see that there are two categories ahead of the “Silver Designation”, and that cities such as Portland, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Seattle are all rated as being more bicycle friendly than Ottawa. We also see that Ottawa shares its category with cities such as Denver, Chicago, Boston, and New York.
To put all this in context, it be should remembered that 10 or 15 years ago, Ottawa would have probably rated as being the most bicycle friendly city in all of North America. Relative to everyone else, it might have received a "Platinum Designation". Back in those days, cities like Denver, Chicago, Boston, and New York were considered hostile to cycling, and it would have been heresy to even compare them to Ottawa. The bottom line is that in the past decade, many cities have caught up or passed Ottawa.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. At least Ottawa has its "Silver Designation". More importantly, the mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau, and the CEO of the NCC, recognize that the region can no longer live off its old reputation as being bicycle friendly, and they are prepared to take action (however haltingly) to promote cycling.
Click here for the League of American Bicyclists' list of bicycle friendly communities.
Click here for story in the Ottawa Citizen about Ottawa's "Silver Designation".