As a long time island cyclist it is very encouraging to hear Capital Regional District (CRD) Director Gary Holman announce new cycling infrastructure to be built in the next year. Especially notable is a 1.5 meter shoulder going up the Ganges Hill from Seaview Avenue to Beddis Road, and while I applaud such moves, much is still needed to make our island safe for cycling.
I have seen lately a big increase of cyclists on our island roads and with ebikes making hill climbing much easier, I believe we are going to keep seeing more cyclists for the next few years. Many are rediscovering the joys of bicycling because of COVID and social distancing; it is an activity that remains safe, that is as long as no one gets hit by a car.
The reason there is poor cycling infrastructure on Salt Spring is that for many years, local cyclists have been told that bike paths are very expensive and in this part of the world, where bicycles are often looked at as a toy rather than a viable mode of transportation, it is not so surprising to notice that people in power have been slow to make changes when it comes to developing safe cycling routes.
I am not sure if the folks that design paths along our island roads are local cyclist themselves, but I often wonder what makes them decide where to allocate the money. I understand that providing a broad paved shoulder is the best desirable outcome, however if making our roads safe for cyclists is truly a priority, maybe there are ways of doing this that are simple and don’t involve huge expenditures. It does not mean that providing the best possible type of bike paths for the whole island should not be considered, but if a lack of adequate financing in the short term is an issue as I have repeatedly been told over the years, maybe there are other things that can be done that would help make our roads safe.
One thing to start with, would be to figure out all the blind corners, local cyclists know them all, it is the place where your blood pressure starts going up at the sight of pick up trucks and cars getting way too close to you as they are zipping by as if you did not exists. Maybe providing adequate signage reminding drivers that it is not only unsafe but also illegal to pass cyclists in curves would be a good start. Of course the next step would be to provide an adequate shoulder in those spots, it would probably make everyone’s life easier whether driving or cycling.
The next thing that is inexpensive would be to provide proper signage for alternate bike routes; for example Vesuvius Bay Road is to me the most dangerous section of road on Salt Spring, it is narrow, heavily used by cars racing to or from the ferry and an important chunk of road for the missing link of the Salish Sea bike path.Interestingly enough by redirecting the bike traffic coming from the ferry onto Chuan and Elizabeth Drive, then onto Woodland and Mobrae, we could easily provide safe cycling for island visitors, it is not as fast as having a bike path along Vesuvius Bay Road but in the absence of such a thing, this could be a viable alternative for now, I personally always choose that route when cycling to and from Vesuvius.
Another way to make our roads safer for cycling would be to convert some of the already existing pedestrian, but sometimes underused paths that run parallel to the road into multipurpose paths. For example, the same Vesuvius Bay Road has a footpath on the North side that is often overgrown that could well be turned into one of those and maybe there are a few other paths on the island that can be adapted that way.
Ideally it would be very nice to have a paved bicycle path running the length of the island along the main roads, but since that may not happen soon enough, having the most dangerous places identified and a solution figured out to keep everyone safe would be the best starting point.