THE MEMORIAL LINK
Tell us about your project/initiative:
The Memorial Link is a proposed 5 km physically protected lane for bicycles and active transportation along Memorial Ave. through the heart of Thunder Bay. It is designed to join the South and North downtown cores with a safe, direct bicycle route that provides access to all of the businesses in the intercity area.
Many people do not feel safe riding in bike lanes because cars are able to drive in them, but for the Memorial Link we, are proposing a cycle track which would provide a physical separation from cars. It would feel more like riding on the paved trail system that exists in other parts of the city.
Thousands of cities around the world have discovered that the greatest way to get people to leave their cars at home and ride bicycles as a sustainable form of transportation is to create protected bike lanes that go exactly where people need them. This usually means building protected bike lanes along city’s busiest corridors.
We’re hoping to have our project included in the upcoming Transportation Master Plan and implemented during regular reconstruction of Memorial Avenue along with wider sidewalks and street trees.
What motivated you to start this project/initiative?:
Travelling around the world and seeing that other small snowy cities don’t depend on cars nearly as much as we do in Thunder Bay made me realize that we’ve built our city in a way that makes us less healthy, less wealthy, and less sustainable. Thunder Bay isn’t as spread out as people think. The average commute is less than 4.7 km which is a 13-minute bike ride. The problem is that people don’t feel safe. I’m trying to change that.
Is this project primarily the result of a group or individual effort?:
I started this campaign with a group of friends and I’m now managing it and have become the voice pushing it forward. We have a petition with almost 1000 signatures from people living in Thunder Bay.
How does this project support sustainability in Thunder Bay?:
Our goal is to make a city that treats the bicycle as a primary mode of transportation year-round. By giving people a reasonable option to reduce the use of their cars, we will become a much more sustainable city.
Have you encountered barriers to the success of this initiative? If so, what were they?
There is a huge pile of red tape that requires negotiating to get anything done with regard to infrastructure. There’s the Active Transportation Plan (the Memorial Link route isn’t currently on it), the old Transportation Master Plan, dealing with the political optics of major projects, educating the public on the economic benefits etc. When a city has such a strong dependency on cars like Thunder Bay, it takes a lot of energy to educate people about alternatives that are already successful in other places.
What is your greatest desire or need for moving forward?:
I need ordinary citizens to continuously call, email or write letters to all city councillors and administrative staff in Engineering and Active Transportation and express their support for this project. Administration and Council act based on what they hear from people. When ordinary people don’t speak up the chorus of “just fix the potholes” is all they hear all the time.
How much money was needed to launch/complete this initiative/project:
The marketing and time so far has been donated by me and a few friends. We’ve spent a few hundred dollars mostly through social media. Ultimately the implementation of the project should cost much less than $4M for the entire 5km. But the economic spinoff is huge. Eighty-five percent of the money spent on car ownership leaves the local community. If we can reduce car ownership even slightly by building infrastructure the amount of extra money funnelled into the local economy will be huge. Countless studies back this up.
Is there anything else you want to share about your story?:
Advocacy is hard, and it’s even harder when you’re the one doing almost 100% of the work and shouldering the psychological burden in an environment where it feels like the deck is rigged against you. Thunder Bay devotes a significant portion of its land area to cars rather than to people and as a result the city is much less beautiful than its setting. It doesn’t have to be that way. People who support this need to speak up now and start participating.
To get more information please check out this link: http://memoriallink.ca