Making the Case for Safe Cycling with Alternative Options

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.

December 9, 2020 10:54 AM

Community Comments

  • Avatar evenSteven says:

    Greetings,

    I agree with the gist and may of the particulars of this letter. I'm one of a handful of dedicated SS cyclists and generally average around 150 on-island km per week. I'm absolutely in agreement about the signage, it's terrible, full stop. I've rescued many the grateful cyclist from the Fulford-Ganges over the past few years and showed them a better route; this is something my on-island cycling amigos also do on a regular basis.

    So signage first and foremost, but there should also be a basic website reference and matching flier for the ferries telling off-island cyclists what they should expect if they come here to bike and what they need to be properly prepared for biking SS(gear options and good lights front and back, at minimum). Proper signage and info about what to expect would make a huge difference. Most people get here with no idea about the amount of climbing.

    But the quickest and most cost-effective way to make the island more cycling friendly would be simply to declare Beaver Point Rd-Stewart-Beddis "Cyclist preferred" and make Fulford-Ganges "vehicle preferred" and enlist the local authorities to ticket accordingly to support this shift. This would slow down traffic on the Stewart corridor that some use as their personal expressway--which I can imagine would only please homeowners along those roads--and it would also help improve overall relations if drivers knew they could go take Fulford-Ganges without having to worry about getting stuck behind a pack of recreational cyclists on a winding, narrow road with limited visibility or options to pass, especially in the summer.

    You would still have the choice to cycle Fulford-Ganges--or drive Stewart-Beddis--but at least this way everybody knows what to expect. I love biking the Burgoyne valley too, but I only do it early in the morning on my way to Vesuvious to catch the 6 am boat because the only time the valley feels safe to bike is when there's no traffic on it. All summer long I see visitors biking F-G simply because they have no clue there's another route: lack of signage. Beaver Point Rd/StewartRd/Beddis is a great route to bike, there's less traffic overall, very little commercial traffic, and people tend to drive at a lower rate of speed.

    We don't need to wait for the stars to align to make the perfect bike path from one end of the island to the other; we could just use the resources we've already got with a few tweaks that would make things safer and more cost-effective for all in the meantime. My two cents!

    Saltspring Biker

  • Avatar Brenda Guiled says:

    Excellent! Thank you.

    Island Pathways and its formative group has been working to improve cycling on Salt Spring since the mid-1980s. We've done our best regarding the low-hanging fruit, including discussing what Simon has laid out so well, and we persist with on the big-money front.

    The reasons for not much happening getting a bikeway through the island has to do with Salt Spring having 265 km of roads on island, about 2.5 times more lane-kms per capita than other BC communities with populations for 8,000 - 15,000 residents. All of our public roads are looked after by MoTI, which spends much more than our rural tax inputs to keep them as we see them. From the late 1990s to 2017, MoTI was holding out for us to incorporate, hence they avoided upkeep and reconstructions as much as they could, so the new municipality could take over the growing problems and huge costs. The 2002 referendum didn't settle this; the 2017 referendum did -- for a decade or two, anyway. In the meantime, MoTI has to step up, because road-repair costs are rising exponentially after so many years of neglect

    This isn't to revisit old arguments or grit our teeth about how we got to here. We're where we're at, and things are looking promising. For those interested in initiatives to improve cycling on Salt Spring, Island Pathways "How to Build a Bikeway Through Salt Spring" is a vital read.

    https://www.islandpathways.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/How-to-Build-a-Bikeway-Thru-SSI.pdf

    The previous MoTI minister read it and really got it, hence pledged $2-million for the Ganges hill upgrade, with many more $-millions to follow to complete widening and repaving to the top of Fulford hill (with plans to negotiate with BC Ferries re: the 400m to the terminal). We'll be getting Minister Rob Fleming up to speed asap, including introducing him to this handy summary.

    Page 40-50 present the vision and reasons for tying Salt Spring into the fabulous Salish Sea Trail Network, which connects 9 provincial electoral districts, 5 federal ridings, 3 regional districts (4 counting Metro Vancouver), and 14 First Nations. We can do it! Please sign the petition, if you haven't already.

    https://saltspringexchange.com/2020/07/28/finish-the-salish-sea-trail-as-part-of-a-green-recovery/

    Brenda Guiled
    Island Pathways
    Chair, Regional Connectivity

  • Avatar S P says:

    I cannot seem to find any legal document that states it is illegal to pass cyclists on curves in BC If such a document exists, could you link it please?
    https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/traveller-information/routes-and-driving-conditions/drivers-cyclists

  • Avatar James A says:

    The preferred routing idea makes sense. It brought to mind that there are a few roads on the island which are unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians alike. Example: Cusheon Lake Road has no shoulders, blind hills, curves and driveways, and a public recreation area right beside the road. At one point signage at the CLR/Stewart Road intersection guided cyclists and drivers toward the far safer Beddis Road route to Ganges but someone who would discourge vehicular traffic on Beddis defaced the sign to suggest that both routes are safe. Moving forward, cyclists need to be informed about risky roads to avoid where alternatives exist.