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  • Gayle Baker

A Party in the Meadow to Welcome Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming and Staff

June 2

The atmosphere at the ASK Salt Spring gathering in the Mouat’s Meadow (one time location) had a celebratory party atmosphere, markedly-different from our more serious times together each Friday.


Energized by enthusiastic cyclists, led by the Island Pathways Cycling Group, there were toddlers and preschoolers on tiny bikes cavorting, smoothies, and a huge carrot cake graciously-donated by County Grocer and proclaiming The Chamber Welcomes ASK Salt Spring.


What was different? Once again, our MLA, Adam Olsen, brought a special guest to his regular monthly visit to us: Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), Rob Fleming. Normally accurately reporting how many gather each week, we stopped counting at 60. Instead, we simply enjoyed a meadow full of engaged Salt Springers.

Not only did Minister Fleming and Sophia Brownsey from the Ministry join us, but MoTI managers Mike Pearson, Vancouver Island, and Shawn Haley, South Island Operations, came as well. Adam was also well-supported by Laura Parker, Outreach Coordinator and Constituent Advocate Jerram Gawley.

Serious about the transition from a vehicle-centric to multi-modal transport, Minister Fleming began by speaking briefly about some significant positive changes impacting transportation and, specifically, active transportation.*


*Active transportation is defined by the Canadian government https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/being-active/active-transportation.html as: using your own power to get from one place to another, including walking, biking, skateboarding, in-line skating/rollerblading, jogging and running, non-mechanized wheel chairing, and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.


According to Minister Fleming, Legislatively, Bill 23 (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023MOTI0046-000449)is designed to make our roads safer for everyone while enabling new and emerging transportation technology, especially personal mobility devices, is changing the way people and goods move safely around our cities and towns.


Of great interest to the cycling community is the provision of this proposed law placing rules and responsibilities on motorists to share the road. Specifically, there will be a one-metre minimum safe-passing distance and a three-metre minimum following distance that drivers of motor vehicles must observe when sharing roads with pedestrians, cyclists, e-bikes and other active transportation users.


Minister Fleming told us that multiple partners, including ICBC and the RCMP, will be involved in educating folks about this new law, collecting data, and enforcing it. In preparation for the law, one metre flags were given to participants at this Ask Salt Spring gathering to visually remind drivers of this required distance.


Minister Fleming noted the major changes in our transportation as a result of eBikes. This shift is illustrated by the popularity of the just-released eBike Rebate program (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023MOTI0071-000804). While very exciting, we also learned that it was over half subscribed the first day it was announced. A suggestion was made later in our conversation that, given the changes in how we get around, buses should be modified to accommodate more bikes - both regular and eBikes. Minister Fleming responded that in Vancouver there is some progress modifying buses to accommodate bikes inside. He noted the option may be something that could help better accommodate all bikes both locally and on Vancouver Island.


A small, immediate step toward making our roads safer may just happen this summer: Signage at strategic locations reminding all to share the road, centerline and shoulder line painting, and thermoplastic renewal for our crosswalks. Even though a fair amount of painting was done last summer, the water-based paint has faded and our visiting MoTI managers noted the need for painting again. Hopefully, Salt Spring major roads will be safer this summer with cautionary signage as well as repainting.


Additional good news is that there are increased funding opportunities to improve our infrastructure to accommodate active transportation. Added to the existing, $24 million in competitive infrastructure grants is an additional $100 million in competitive grants, expected to be available early 2024. We learned from Minister Fleming that MoTI is experiencing sweeping and very positive changes, clear that proactive legislative action, enforcement, funding, education, and partnerships led by MoTI are essential to addressing BC climate action goals by altering the way we travel.


Locally, MoTI has just released its Salt Spring Cycling Safety Study (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/driving-and-transportation/reports-and-reference/reports-and-studies/vancouver-island-south-coast/2023-04-21_salt_spring_island_cycling_safety_review.pdf). This report, combined with the soon-to-be-released Ganges Active Transportation Plan, should give us a roadmap of both short-term and long-term MoTI-supported recommendations. High on the list of short-term recommendations are reduced speed limits and better signage/safety markings. As Minister Fleming noted, we have no shortage of passionate advocacy on Salt Spring. Our task will be to embark on a community dialogue to identify our top priorities and partner with MoTI to get them done.


A bit later in the conversation, a mother of teens spoke of her family commitment to be without a car. Her children have no intention of getting a drivers’ licence. Clear that private ownership of electric vehicles (evs) is not practical, she envisions a world of shared evs and a road used largely by pedestrians, cyclists, and other active transportation users instead of clogged by motorists. Minister Fleming responded by speaking briefly about an exiting new concept, Transit Oriented Development (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/driving-and-transportation/transportation-infrastructure/engineering-standards-and-guidelines/traffic-engineering-and-safety/traffic-engineering/active-transportation/bcat-tod-design-guide-mobile.pdf) linking land use and transit.


More locally, Adam spoke of his vision of having a car-sharing option such as Evo (https://evo.ca/) in Swartz Bay, allowing us to walk on the ferry and borrow a car at the terminal to do our Vancouver Island errands.


We learned that the Ganges Hill project, on Fulford-Ganges Road from Drake to Cranberry, is moving forward, despite unexpected complications and costs. A major unexpected complication is drainage, forcing the design to replace ditches with covered culverts. Engineered designs for the project are expected to be completed this month. A large BC Hydro project of moving poles should begin soon as well as contracting for the road construction. If all goes as hoped, some work should begin this fall - wahoo!


When completed, this road repaving project will also include 1.2 metre bike lanes as well as a 1/2 metre gravel shoulder on both sides. While not the hoped-for (and recommended) 1.8 metre bike lanes, most agree that this is a huge improvement, especially as it will, hopefully, set the precedent for continuation all the way to Fulford.


Also, as a result of the flooding from the 2021 atmospheric river that battered Salt Spring, the inadequately-culverted area near Blackburn Lake will soon be repaired with a bridge! When asked if bike lanes would be included on this bridge, the answer was Yes.


Together, these two Fulford-Ganges projects will be an important step toward the completion of bike lanes between Vesuvius and Fulford, a top priority for many, including the Salish Sea Trail Working Group (https://www.islandpathways.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/IP-newsletter-Fall-2022_compressed.pdf). This group is intently advocating for the completion of the 250 km Vancouver Island trail network by addressing Salt Spring’s 20 km gap.

A participant asked whether these improvements would take funding from the maintenance being done by Emcon. Minister Fleming assured us that maintenance was in a separate budget from improvements and that Emcon was well-funded to address our maintenance needs.


When a participant reminded us of the Climate Action Plan 2.0 (https://transitionsaltspring.com/responding-to-climate-change/), we also learned that a report card of the over 250 recommendations will soon be released. BC Ferries received a failing mark. When Minister Fleming was asked if there was hope for ferry electrification, he responded that BC Ferries was doing well picking up the pieces and recovering from the impacts of COVID. We also learned that batteries for the Islander class vessels are being made in the Vancouver area. Unfortunately, most battery production emphasis and funding is upon vehicles rather than those of ferries. Minister Fleming suggested we contact Elizabeth May to encourage federal investments in electrification of our ferries and to copy Adam for his advocacy help. Adam reminded us that electric ferries also need the shore infrastructure, something for which we also need to be advocating.


Minister Fleming had optimism about the new BC Ferries leadership under Nicolas Jimenez. Adam committed to try to get him to join us at ASK Salt Spring sometime this summer. We were also reminded of the preliminary BC Ferries fare cap: (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023MOTI0040-000425).


When a participant suggested Bill 7 (https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/) be brought back, Minister Fleming responded that it was his assessment that the essence of Bill 7 had been addressed. Adam agreed - as he has also previously stated at an earlier ASK Salt Spring gathering. While there is some support for someday reverting to a Crown Corporation, it was the opinion of both Adam and Minister Fleming that BC Ferries had come a long way serving us from its 2003 perspective as a commercial - rather than service - organization.


Locally, there continues to be great concern about dangers at both the Fulford and Vesuvius terminals due to waiting traffic parked on the road. (Minister Fleming noted it upon his arrival that morning.) The recently-released Salt Spring Cycling Safety Study should provide the needed imperative to the multiple agencies needed to address this concern.


As our time together drew to a close, Adam challenged us to initiate a conversation about whether all our roads have to be paved. With the skyrocketing costs of asphalt - made even greater by transporting it to Salt Spring - are there other non-asphalt options that should be considered?


As Minister Fleming prepared to catch the ferry for a still-full day of meetings and Adam for other Salt Spring meetings as well as his monthly interview with CHiR.FM,(link here: https://chir.fm/answered/ep12-transportation), we expressed our appreciation for the time both of them took to make the journey here to give us some very valuable information, listen to our concerns, and remain open and optimistic about making progress implementing our highest priorities. Kudos, also, to all participants who upheld the ASK Salt Spring commitment to respectful conversations no matter how charged the subject.


As he left, Minister Fleming noted that the time was perfect for positive active transportations improvements and that Salt Spring was certainly blessed with plenty of energy for advocacy :). (A sincere thank-you, Minister Fleming, Sophia Brownsey, MLA Adam Olsen, Mike Pearson, Shawn Healy, Laura Parker, and Jerram Gawley!)


Please join us this Friday, June 9, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) Lobby to welcome CRD's Gary Holman.


What would you like to ask him?

  • Now that the Local Community Commission (LCC) election is over, what are the first few things you would like to accomplish when the LCC begins meeting Tuesday, June 20 at 9:00 in the SIMS Boardroom?

  • What can you tell us about the Alternate Approval Process underway?

  • As you have been attending a number of CRD water and sewage district AGMs recently, what takeaways do you have concerning our water services?

  • What are your top priority projects for the rest of 2023 and early 2024?

  • What do you know about the HarbourWalk design project?

  • And?

Please join us to welcome Gary this Friday!


Big News:

ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!


***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.


Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings and

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings?


Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15


Our Partners. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings’ Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!


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