Canada’s first ever federal strategy for active transportation, which includes a $400 million dedicated fund, prioritizes investments in infrastructure, such as bike lanes, pathways, and trails to be used for walking, cycling, and wheeling in communities across Canada. The strategy, announced 28 July 2021, comes after years of tireless advocacy work from members of Vélo Canada Bikes, Green Communities Canada (Canada Walks), Canadian Automobile Association, Heart & Stroke, and Active School Travel Canada. Green Communities Canada is proud to be part of the efforts that contributed to this historic announcement. “A comprehensive national strategy, and a commitment to advancing the priorities through funding, is critical to ensuring all levels of government work together to improve community and environmental health,” says Green Communities Canada Executive Director, Brianna Salmon. “As we work together to confront the climate crisis, strong federal direction and consistent resourcing will be essential to our momentum.”

Active Transportation Strategy

The strategy is to be implemented between 2021-2026, and lays out the following vision: “For Canadians of all ages, ethnicities, abilities, genders, and backgrounds to be able to safely and conveniently access active transportation in their communities and to significantly increase the ‘modal share’ of active transportation” The strategy was approached through a framework called A-C-T-I-V-E, which consists of awareness, coordination, targets, investment, value, and experience.

1) Awareness

ACTIVE Framework identified in National Active Transportation Strategy

The strategy aims to raise public awareness of active transportation, which will be pursued by:

  • Launching a user-friendly National Active Transportation Online Hub
  • Working with partners to support community engagement and awareness raising activities
  • Producing signs and displays for projects

2) Coordination

The strategy aims to support improved coordination of planning, design, regulations, standards, and active transportation investments across levels of government, Indigenous communities, not-for-profits, and the private sector by:

  • Engagement sessions and continued coordination with stakeholders
  • Increasing the reach of projects, programs, and good practices being advanced throughout Canada by sharing data and stories on the Online Hub
  • Hosting Canada’s first national summit on active transportation in 2022, with all orders of government and all relevant departments in attendance.
  • Enhancing whole of government collaboration among federal partners supporting active transportation (e.g. Transport Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Regional Development Agencies)

3) Targets

The strategy embraces targets and indicators beyond mode share, including greater diversity and inclusion, health and wellness, benefits on the environment, and business and tourism. The strategy supports the adoption of targets and data by:

  • Establishing funding opportunities for research that will grow the data and knowledge foundations for active transportation in Canada
  • Working with Statistics Canada to collect disaggregated data that will ensure the adequate and appropriate monitoring and reporting
  • Supporting the development and use of data collection tools
  • Leveraging data for the continuous improvements of planning and infrastructure

4) Investments

Federal funding can drive investments and help leverage funding from other orders of government and partners. The strategy is committed to:

  • Implementing the Active Transportation Fund
  • Coordinating active transportation investments across government programs
  • Supporting place-based projects which are initiated in the non-profit sector

5) Value

In this context, value means ensuring the investments and policies also promote social, economic, and environmental benefits (i.e. triple bottom line). The strategy will ensure that investments maximize benefits for all Canadians by:

  • Deploying all active transportation funding with an eye towards value
  • Tracking our progress by monitoring and transparently reporting
  • Regularly updating the online hub with a catalogue of active transportation projects

6) Experience

Designing active transportation networks and infrastructure with all ages, abilities, and backgrounds in mind will help to create a safe and welcoming user experience. The strategy will support a positive user experience by:

  • Placing an emphasis on connected communities, strong first-and-last mile connections, and social equity
  • Providing resources for high level guidance for design guidelines and planning
  • Including planning and design as eligible costs under the active transportation fund

Active Transportation Fund

The Active Transportation Fund (ATF) is the first dedicated fund supporting the expansion and enhancement of active transportation infrastructure across Canada. It is a $400 million fund that is designed to support the expansion and enhancement of active transportation infrastructure over the next 5 years (2021-2026). The funds can support capital projects (Contribution Program), including multi-use paths, bike lanes, footbridges, new lighting, and wayfinding signage. These projects would build or enhance the following:

  • Active transportation infrastructure
  • Active transportation design considerations and quality improvements
  • Design features and facilities which promote active transportation
  • Safety features which promote active transportation

The funds can also support projects (Grant Program) for planning, design, education, and outreach programs. These projects could include the following:

  • Research
  • Public and/or stakeholder engagement and outreach
  • Policy development
  • Feasibility studies

Eligible applicants include municipalities, Indigenous communities, provinces, territories, public sector bodies, and other eligible partners, such as non-profits and NGOs. Non-profit organizations are eligible to receive funding when an application to lead a project on behalf of an ultimate eligible recipient is submitted. Project applications will be considered based on how the proposed project will:

  • Create community connection
  • Improve user experience
  • Assist in mode shift
  • Increase equity

Applications will be accepted through Infrastructure Canada’s online and accessible application portal that will be released at a later date. Some applications are welcomed during designated intake periods and other applications qualify for rolling intakes with continuous assessment. Proposals must provide a thorough description of the project, objectives, benefits, workplan, as well as risk and mitigation measures.

How to Use it

How you can use this strategy and fund depends on who you are. If you work at or with one of the eligible recipients, you can submit an application. If you are a community member, you can:

  • Raise awareness with your friends, family, and community that funding is available for active transportation in Canada
  • Contact your local representatives with project ideas or support for an application
  • Organize your community to collaborate with eligible recipients on projects
  • Lead by example by using active transportation infrastructure and sharing it with others. This will encourage more people to use the infrastructure and, hopefully, lead to more funding in the future!

The big thing here is that these are firsts – the first active transportation strategy and the first earmarked funding – both of which are crucially important first steps in building better communities in Canada. This is an exciting development in Canadian active transportation, and we encourage everyone to get involved in growing it in their communities, however they can!

Feature photo: Sherbrooke St. Protected Bicycle Lane, Winnipeg, MB (Photo by Green Communities Canada)