By Anne Jardine
Special to the Pioneer
Wayne Stetski goes beyond talking the talk, and walking the walk. He rides the ride. As our Member of Parliament for Kootenay-Columbia, he has started a quiet movement in Ottawa – an all-party caucus to advance the cause of cycling. One way to move Canada in a healthier direction is to pedal it that way. The physical and mental health benefits of cycling are well known. Recreational cycling reduces stress as it strengthens leg and core muscle groups. Cycling as a mode of transportation is economic, and in times of traffic congestion, it can be more efficient. The environmental benefits are also clear: a reduction in fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and a lighter impact on roads and infrastructure. The social and cultural benefits include a more direct inter-action with other cyclists and pedestrians, and a sense of shared appreciation of the landscape and streetscape that strengthens social bonds.
Stetski took to riding his bike as a way to counterbalance hours of sitting in legislative sessions and committee meetings, a way to keep fit during his busy House of Commons schedule. In spring of 2016, he noticed a few other parliamentarians doing the same, and reached out to them. The idea of creating a bicycle caucus began, and it evolved as conversations about cycling developed. Bike racks, safe routes around the Legislative complex and from Ottawa’s busy downtown streets to the Parliament became topics of mutual interest. Soon the little community began to grow, and over twenty members from all parties pedaled in, including MPs and Senators. The All-party Cycling Caucus was born. Founding members Wayne Stetski and Oakville-North Burlington MP Pam Damoff were elected Co-Chairs. The caucus rides across party lines and builds stronger working relationships among law makers of all stripes.
The purpose of the caucus has evolved to become an advocacy channel for Canadian cyclists. Stetski seeks to go beyond the basics of safety, and general awareness about cycling. In an interview with reporter Sam Cawkill in Momentum Magazine, he sketches out his vision: “We have a number of goals. First, to help educate other parliamentarians on the importance of cycling and why it should be supported. This includes organizing and participating in cycling events and improving the cycling infrastructure on Parliament Hill. We also want to work with cycling organizations and programs and help them reach MPs and Senators. Finally, we want to discuss any legislation that concerns cycling and try to find common ground on those issues. I believe most members support expanding and connecting Canada’s network of cycling facilities where environmental assessments allow. We need to expand the culture of cycling – it needs to be part of planning and funding for all levels of government.”
To move their agenda forward, the All-party Cycling Caucus held a National Bike Summit event in 2018 to connect cyclists and cycling advocates with political decision makers and to learn about innovations in cycling infrastructure and new opportunities for cycling in Canada.
Back here in Kootenay-Columbia, look for Stetski at the September 2019 Kootenay Rockies Gran Fondo based out of St Eugene near Cranbrook, the inaugural Kootenay Lake Gran Fondo based out of Creston, and anywhere mountain bikes can go.