• John Jantak

Beaconsfield resident asks city to consider adopting cycling as year-round transport alternative


Beaconsfield resident Tomas Ersson, who hails from Umea, Sweden, would like municipal council and citizens to begin regarding bicycling as a practical year-round mode of transport in addition to being an enjoyable recreational activity.

Most West Island residents might regard bicycling as nothing more than a leisurely summertime activity, but recently transplanted Beaconsfield resident Tomas Ersson who comes from Northern Sweden would like to see the city and more people to begin thinking about and perhaps adopting cycling as a practical year-round mode of transport as well.

Ersson made his point to Mayor Georges Bourelle during the Tuesday evening council meeting, October 20, the second consecutive session where Ersson again called on the city to find to ways improve cyclist safety on Lakeshore Boulevard and add more lanes to further expand the city’s existing bicycle path infrastructure.

It’s about getting the city and people to change their perceptions about cycling through building the proper networks that would enable people to begin using it as a viable year-round transportation system, said Ersson who comes from Umea, in Northern Sweden near the Arctic Circle.

As an avid biker who cycles seven kilometers each way from his home close to Beaurepaire Village to his job in Pointe Claire near Boulevard St. Jean where he works as a Silvicultural Researcher, Ersson said bicycling is a way of daily life in Umea, Sweden, and he wants more area residents to consider it as a practical alternative to the car.

Ersson said about 25 per cent of the city’s 120,000 residents bike each day – even throughout their average five-month long winter – and he would like Beaconsfield to take a more proactive approach in promoting biking as it’s done in Scandinavian countries.

“It’s because the municipalities there view cycling as a mode of transport,” Ersson told Your Local Journal. “The bus lanes are cleared first after it snows, then the bike paths and then the rest of the road network. This shows you how they prioritize snow clearing which shows you why 25 per cent of the population still cycle in the winter.

“My biggest complaint is that cycling here is viewed as a recreational activity rather than a mode of transport,” Ersson added. “Everything is designed for the car but if cycling was also viewed as a mode of everyday transportation, it would change a lot of things. I feel that if you build the paths, people will use them.”

Despite Ersson’s enthusiasm, he concedes he may be facing an uphill struggle because many councillors and citizens may mistakenly think that cycling is practical only in the summer when it’s actually a suitable year-round activity. Ersson says he is working with an area colleague who has pedalled to and from work for the past 25 years.

“He’s a new resident and he’s finding out things about Beaconsfield,” said Bourelle after the meeting. “Ersson is obviously very adept at bicycling but what he’s doing is comparing what we do in Canada and in our city to what he’s seen in Europe. They’re way advanced when it comes to using bicycles and public transportation.”