Sherbrooke Candidates petitioned for position on active transport
For many, a bike ride sounds like a nice way to spend a sunny summer afternoon. The members of one citizens group in Sherbrooke, however, want to see bicycling and walking take off as a major form of public transportation in the city and are asking those individuals who are running for a position on the city’s municipal council to take a position on the matter.
Representatives of local organizations ranging from the FEUS, the University of Sherbrooke’s student union, to the CRE, the Eastern Townships’ regional council for the environment, gathered together to present the results of an online petition on the subject of developing active transport in the city gathered at Sherbrooke’s Carrefour de Solidarité Internationale earlier this week. While forming no unified group, the different organizations were brought together by their collective concerns and managed to solicit more than 1000 signatures for their petition in less than one month’s time.
The four demands laid out in the petition, entitled “Élections municipales 2017 : Faire du transport actif une priorité à Sherbrooke” are for candidates to commit to:
1) Implement, as soon as possible, safe and practical bicycle routes to the city's major centers, such as the CHUS Fleurimont and the Université de Sherbrooke campus, primarily along major transit routes like King Street, Galt, Portland, and 12th Avenue.
2) Integrate infrastructure that support active transport into all future road work and major construction projects.
3) Prioritize the international “vision zero” approach to road safety, which aims for a road network with no fatalities or serious injuries, though the installation of more sidewalks, speed bumps, reduced speed zones, buffer zones, and narrowed roadways.
4) Focus new development projects within the existing city limits to help concentrate population and bring people and services closer together.
Sherbrooke already has a master plan for active transport development, but those speaking on Monday explained that they do not feel the city has prioritized the option, and that the failure to do so has a negative effect on many aspects of local society.
“We are not alone in thinking that Sherbrooke should make this a policy priority,” said Laurence Mailhiot, spokesperson for the signatories of the petition.
The groups backing the petition argued in favour of active transport using positions that ranged from the fact that walking and cycling is better for peoples’ health than driving, to the fact that it is better for the environment and just takes up less space than cars.
Dr. Éric Lampron-goulet of the public health department of the CIUSSS de l’estrie-chus, the regional healthcare institution, underlined the health benefits of active transport.
“Active transport is a well known and proven public health strategy,” Lamprongoulet said pointing out that adopting more physical ways of getting from point a to point b has measurable positive impacts on a person’s physical wellbeing.
Arnaud Messier-maynard of the Sherbrooke collective for sustainable urban planning noted that active transport systems are best suited to close-knit urban environments. He suggested that by investing in the necessary infrastructure to link the city with bike paths and sidewalks, the community of Sherbrooke would grow closer together and stronger as a whole
Rémi Proteau, who spoke on behalf of the La Déraille cycling cooperative, explained that having an accessible cycling network also means committing to safe and reliable infrastructure. He underlined the need for adapted paths and the installation of speed bumps and other mechanisms to slow traffic in the name of bringing the number of serious or fatal road accidents in the city to zero.
“Municipal governments are the ones that have the most influence on our daily concerns,” said François Pronovost, Vice-president of development and public affairs with Velo Quebec, explaining the reasoning behind bringing the issue up during a municipal election campaign. “When it comes to bicycles , it is undeniable that everything, or nearly everything, happens at the municipal level.”
Genevieve Pomerleau of the Conseil regional de l'environnement de L'estrie, Remi Proteau of the La Deraille cooperative, Gabrielle Letarte-dupre of the University of Sherbrooke Student Federation, petition spokesperson Laurence Mailhiot, Dr. Eric Lampron-goulet of the CIUSSS de l'estrie-chus, Arnaud Messier-maynard of the Sherbrooke collective for sustainable urban planning, and petition signatory Vincent Boisclair