How Can You Help Cyclists Advocate for a Safer Salt Spring?
Thirteen joined this ASK Salt Spring conversation about cycling led by enthusiasts Bob MacKie, Luke Campbell, and Simon Rompre. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, each of our special guests told us a bit about themselves and their passion for cycling. All are members of Islands Pathways’ (https://www.islandpathways.ca/) Cycling Salt Spring Committee. They are also members of the Salish Sea Trail Network Working Group, an advocacy group also comprised of MLA Adam Olsen, a representative for Elizabeth May, CRD’s Gary Holman, Islands Trust staff, a Transportation Commissioner, and, whenever possible, a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). representative. Luke, Bob, and Simon are also involved in a number of other groups advocating for safer cycling on Salt Spring.
Simon began by telling us that he has been cycling on Salt Spring for over 30 years. Among the many reasons he has cycled daily for decades are:
Health: Simon has noticed the health benefits and wishes that our aging population and youth had safe roads so that they, too, could partake in this healthy exercise. (We learned later in our conversation that studies have shown that often residents of rural communities are less healthy than those in urban areas. A bit of a surprise, it has been concluded that most urban areas offer safe cycling and pedestrian options; rural communities simply do not offer these options.)
Economics: For Simon, like so many others on our island, cars are simply too expensive given the skyrocketing housing and living costs.
Environment: Cycling is simply good for our environment. Every bike that replaces a car is an important climate win for all of us.
Simon concluded by reminding us that there are many economic benefits of a cycle-friendly Salt Spring; worth mentioning is that car-free tourists take less ferry space and do less damage to our roads. In his opinion, creating a safe cycling island is so very doable. . . Let’s get on with it!
Luke, also a CRD Transportation Commissioner, then told us that his cycling is the recent rekindling of an old passion. Fueled by a cycling trip to Europe, this passion for cycling is continually reinforced by his recent acquaintance with a 75-year old who rides 40 miles every day. Young now, Luke is committed to also be that 75-year old who maintains his youth through daily cycling.
When Luke recently moved part-time to Salt Spring, he realized what a small percentage of Salt Springers report feeling safe on their rides around our island. While most prefer a dedicated bike pathway, he learned that cyclists also feel safer with a bike lane separated only by road markings than our current norm. Luke is committed to use his strong advocacy skills to increase cycling safety on Salt Spring.
Bob, new President of Island Pathway, is a lifelong cyclist. Proud of the pedestrian pathway network created by Island Pathways (in collaboration with CRD’s Transportation Commission), Bob believes that now may be the time to focus efforts on safe cycling. He is pleased that its Cycling Salt Spring Committee is rich and lively with young, enthusiastic members committed to making cycling safer.
Bob gave us a quick - and discouraging - summary of decades of studies and activities going back as far as 1985, all advocating for safer cycling options. Despite the fact that study after study has concluded that safer cycling is needed on Salt Spring, it is only now that Bob feels that great progress is within reach. In addition to other signs of progress, the recent $50,000 federal grant awarded to Islands Pathways to develop a solid plan for bike lanes on Fulford Ganges Road holds promise, according to Bob.
The focus of cycling advocacy is the route between Vesuvius and Fulford, finally completing the Salish Sea Trail (https://www.saltspringsolutions.com/updates/2021/12/19/salish-sea-trail-brochure), with Salt Spring the only gap in this amazing and well-utilized cycling loop. Despite this focus, Bob asked if other cycling routes should also be high on cycling advocacy priorities. While most participants agreed that this major route should be the focus, other areas of interest included:
Safe residential routes surrounding schools so that students can ride safely;
The heavily-traveled North End Road loop; and
Lowering speed limits on all our heavily-cycled major roads.
So, where are we now? Especially with the imminent release of three (!!!) more studies (Ganges; Vesuvius to Fulford route; and our major roads, with an emphasis on our three ferry terminals), the sentiment of this ASK Salt Spring gathering was to stop studying to discover what we already know and begin making our roads safer for cyclists.
As our roads - and bike lanes, in most cases, - belong to MoTI, most seemed to agree that it is now time to convince MoTI to prioritize cycling safety. While one Transportation Commissioner reminded the group that there were many, many road safety issues needing attention, this group remained intent upon making cycling safety MoTI’s priority.
It was agreed that there were a number of simultaneous initiatives needed:
Cycling advocacy leaders should continue to develop strong, respectful relationships with MoTI decision-makers, recognizing that bike lane infrastructure requires extra cost.
Both nonprofits and local government should prepare to apply for the plentiful federal and provincial grant opportunities by funding shovel-ready designs with bike lanes.
All should join Islands Pathways, an amazing deal at $10 for a lifelong membership (https://www.islandpathways.ca/history/membership/).
Cyclists should make themselves heard: Get out and ride - don’t forget your helmet! The more on bikes, the more decision-makers will listen.
In addition to getting on the road on your bike, join the almost 2,000 who have signed the petition requesting safe bike lanes from Fulford to Vesuvius: (https://www.saltspringsolutions.com/action).
Encourage visitors to bring their bikes instead of their cars and provide the way-finding information they need: Island Pathways volunteers are committed to continuing production of its cycling map (https://www.islandpathways.ca/committees/maps/). These volunteers are also considering producing free handouts for cyclists at ferry terminals detailing safer alternate bike routes.
Even if you are not a cyclist, support cyclists by advocating for safe infrastructure. Remember: cyclists are helpful to drivers as more bikes result in less car traffic and more parking.
Be aware and respect the rights of cyclists. It is the law and . . . quite simply, a matter of life or death.
While it was agreed that advocacy focus should be safe cycling infrastructure along the route from Vesuvius to Fulford, it was also understood that this will simply not happen overnight. So, while efforts along this route will continue, many felt that seeking alternate safe cycling routes may be an important immediate measure to explore. Did you know that there are two marked alternate cycling routes, one along the dangerous curves on Vesuvius Bay Road and another directing cyclists via Beaver Point and Stewart Roads while journeying to and from Fulford?
As 1:00 was fast approaching, participants wondered: Are there other safe alternate cycling routes to consider? What about the Old Vesuvius Bay Road, an unused roadbed diverting north east of St. Mary Lake and meeting North End Road near St. Marks Anglican Church? Still a MoTI right-of-way, could this be a scenic, safe cycling route? What about other forgotten MoTI rights-of-ways? A participant promised to try to identify promising MoTI rights-of-ways as alternatives, while, of course, never losing sight of the need for continued advocacy for safe bike lanes on our major routes.
As we got ready to depart, participants agreed that, especially given the exponential increase in cycling due to eBikes, the time is right to make it safer for cyclists on our lovely, scenic - but dangerous - island. And, that our three amazing cycling advocates were just the ones to help us get there. (A heartfelt thank-you, Simon, Luke, and Bob!)
Please join us this Friday, February 3, 11-1, in the Middle School Lobby to MLA Adam Olsen.
What would you like to ask Adam?
What do you hope to accomplish in 2023?
Are there particular bills that we should be watching?
Are you pleased with Premier Eby’s recent announcements?
Do you think the requested Islands Trust Act review will be approved?
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the province?
How can you see addressing them?
And. . . ?
Please join us this Friday, February 3, to welcome Adam.
Remember: the Middle School Lobby!
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