By Jordan Merkley and LaShaina Blair-White
BELLEVILLE – It took less than 18 hours in Belleville for the former mayor of Madison, Wis. , to come up with a long list of changes the city could make to create a more bicycle-friendly community.
Dave Cieslewicz, the keynote speaker at the Quinte Region Bike Summit Wednesday, told about 60 people gathered at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre that he had spent the past day walking through the downtown area and saw many potential opportunities for improving it for cyclists.
The 2014 Quinte Region Bike Summit brought together residents of Hastings and Prince Edward counties to talk about cycling issues and solutions. Councillors, educators and cycling advocates gathered to share and learn about cycling and what it can do for the region.
“When we talk about cycling we are not just talking about bicycling; I’m really talking about a city,” said Cieslewicz. “When you mould a community to a form of transportation you get a certain kind of community.”
Under Cieslewicz’s direction, Madison became recognized throughout North America for its efforts to encourage cycling.
At the Quinte summit, he showed slides illustrating areas of Belleville where he had found room for improvements.
For one thing, Cieslewicz said, there is far too much parking space downtown, which discourages “active transportation” such as cycling and walking. Space along the Moira River should be used for attractions rather than parking, he added: “Anything named Riverside Parking Lot (one of the lots in downtown Belleville) is a bad idea.”
He also pointed out signs indicating no biking in downtown alleys, and said those alleys are in fact ideal places for cycling.
The lack of bike racks is also a problem, he said, adding that it is very cheap to install them.
A community that aims to put pedestrians and cyclists first should have urban development that works for all types of transportation, he said.
In Madison, “by 7 a.m. after a (snow)storm, we clear the bike paths. We treat them as legitimate transportation facilities.”
Belleville councillor and mayoral candidate Pat Culhane, who attended the summit on behalf of council, said she hopes to see these kinds of changes in the city.
“An event like this bike summit opens your eyes. Dave Cieslewicz is an inspiring speaker, and has been able to do so much in his own city,” said Culhane.
“We can put in parking for bicycles. We can begin to focus on how important cycling is to your health and to your community,” she said.
“We’re living in an era where there is an epidemic of childhood obesity, and an epidemic of adult obesity. If we’re going to counteract that, we’ve go to go back to our roots. We’ve got to go back to walking and cycling, and we’ve got to condition our children to do that.”
The city is already taking steps to make improvements as part of its 20-year transportation master plan, Culhane said. Those steps include bike lanes on Yeomans and Bridge streets; construction on them starts this fall.
“I would like to live long enough to see Belleville as cycle-friendly as Madison, Wis.,” she added.
Tom Lafferty, another Belleville councillor, said there are many barriers for cyclists in the region, including potholes and a lack of bike racks and designated bike lanes.
Rick Phillips, the warden of Hastings County, also attended the summit.
“I’m happy to have an event that explores the opportunities we have to enhance cycling and recreation,” Phillips said.