Only seven came to welcome Island Pathways’ President, Bob MacKie, board member Margaretha Nordine, and Treasurer Luke Campbell of its Cycling Salt Spring committee. While the numbers were small, the conversation was rich, and all had the opportunity to participate. Our Territorial Acknowledgment morphed into a brief exploration of some of the events in our colonial history that set the stage for our need to reconcile injustices. Soon, though, we launched into our topic at hand: the many exciting projects of Island Pathways: Celebrating its 35th year, Island Pathways has been the driving force behind safer walking and cycling on Salt Spring since 1988.
Partners Creating Pathways (PCP), an Islands Pathways committee, created our pathway network around Ganges. By 2017, PCP had completed its commitment to create the 10-section Ganges Village Pathway Network. This over five kilometer network of pathways cost local taxpayers only $250,000, a fraction of the cost paid by other communities. Proud of accomplishing this network of pedestrian trails around our village, PCP is clear that it takes a village and acknowledges the community partnerships that helped create them.
Margaretha spoke briefly about Helmets for Life, a long-running program that put helmets on the heads of countless of our young cyclers for decades. In partnership with the RCMP, elementary school students enjoyed bike rodeos and left as safer cyclists. For years, young students also appreciated the individually-fitted helmets they got to take home for a mere $10, thanks to the decades of generosity by Fort Street Cycle’s that provided helmets at cost as well as an annual donation from the Lions. Recently, our local bike shop, Outspoken has stepped in to provide helmets for this important program. (A sincere thanks to all for their decades of work with young cyclists!)
While these initiatives as well as many others, have made Salt Spring a safer place to walk and ride, Island Pathways’ current focus is upon safer cycling and the clear need for safe cycling lanes from Vesuvius to Fulford. Led by an enthusiastic group of cyclists, Island Pathways’ Cycling Salt Spring committee is making headlines. Dubbed the Salish Sea Trail, Salt Spring cyclists enthusiasts are advocating with fervor to finally close this frustrating gap and connect with the well-used Vancouver Island active transportation trails, Galloping Goose and Lochside.
Cycling Salt Spring volunteers are active participants in the Salish Sea Trail Network Working Group, also consisting of members such as MP Elizabeth May, MLA Adam Olsen, CRD Director Gary Holman, and staff from Islands Trust, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI), and CRD Transportation and Regional Parks. This group has met monthly for several years to strategize the most effective way to complete bike lanes from Vesuvius to Fulford.
While one might wonder why it doesn’t just get done, adding bike lanes to our narrow, curvy Vesuvius Bay and Fulford Ganges Roads is a very big, expensive project. Owned by MoTI, decisions about major expenditures often favour the most heavily travelled roads, a statistic that seldom puts Salt Spring on the priority list. The conclusion of Cycling Salt Spring volunteers as well as Salish Sea Trails Working Group is that strong partnerships and continuous advocacy is the best route.
Their advocacy is based upon numerous studies recommending bike lanes on these major roads. Adding to these studies is a recently-released report initiated by MoTI, the Salt Spring Cycling Safety Study that advocates for steady progress adding bike lanes between the ferry terminals as well as lowered speed limits, better signage and painting, more frequent sweeping, and shoulder repair. (We were also reminded that shoulders are far more usable is they are not made even narrower with encroaching foliage.)
With plenty of research to back its support for these bike lanes, Island Pathways recently realized that an important next step was to get our community involved. With a diminished membership of only 36, Island Pathways recently reduced it membership fee to $10 for life (and $25 for a family lifetime membership.) It was a very effective way to swell their ranks, with now over 800 members and hopes for over 1,000 soon. While not all members will set out upon their bikes tomorrow, Island Pathways board members celebrate their growing numbers, confident that they are reaching out to our community effectively and pleased that, when advocating, they can honestly say that they represent a large percentage of Salt Springers. Your task: Sign up for your $10 lifetime membership with Island Pathways now.
An important beginning of the long-awaited Salish Sea Trail, the Ganges Hill repaving project, including 1.2 metre bike lanes on both sides, is set to begin soon. Additionally, Fulford-Ganges flood repair at Horel/Blackburn will result in a bridge and bike lanes. Why, asks Luke, can’t repaving and bike lanes connect the end of the Ganges Hill project with this new bridge? Construction crews will be here and materials delivered. It makes perfect sense to Luke that this section of the road can also be made safer at the same time. Unanswered questions, you can bet that Luke and Bob will ask all the right questions to get the answers they need.
The conversation shifted to community contributions to safe cycling and walking on Salt Spring. While we tend to assume bike lanes and pathways will be along our roads, have we adequately-explored off-road multi-use pathways? What if these trails only require five or six property owners to contribute a small slice of their land - and these property owners were compensated for their generosity with a tax break? Other communities have been successful working together to create safe access needed without requiring huge public expenditures. Cycling Salt Spring volunteers wonder Why can’t we do that as well?
A participant reminded us that a key element was an overall strategic plan. How can we get there is we do not know where we want to go? While the Salt Spring Cycling Safety Study (linked above) and the Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan offer some of this vision, both studies focus upon relatively-inexpensive actions that can be taken now. What, Bob asked, about the longterm planning needed - such as a bypass or what we will do if our major village road is under water?
Big questions with no simple answers, we focused, instead, upon what we could answer:
- We agreed that we actually like our rural roads and do not want wide straight highways.
- We want drivers to slow down and remember that cyclists have as much right to use our roads as motorists.
- We want the new Motor Vehicle Acts to make a difference, creating a culture in which we all follow and pass cyclists at the safe, mandated distance.
- We want more and appropriate signage. No more signs with cyclists and cars travelling side-by-side. Our roads are simply too narrow. When a cyclist takes the lane, motorists cannot share that same lane. We need Single Lane signs, and we need a lot of them.
- We want motorists to be patient, realizing that the few seconds saved by taking a chance is simply not worth the danger.
- We want bike counters at strategic spots along our most-cycled roads so that we have accurate usage data.
- While we want bike lanes for safe cycling on all our major roads, if forced to choose, safe cycling around our schools is a top priority.
- And, we want you all to join Island Pathways to help them in their important work!
As 1:00 had arrived, we all thanked our enthusiastic Island Pathways guests for their hard work, enthusiasm, vision, and tenacity. We all promised that we, too, would soon be lifetime members of Island Pathways. (Thanks Bob, Margaretha, and Luke!)
Please join us this Friday, September 8, 11-1, in the SIMS (former Middle School) Courtyard to welcome one of your newly-elected Local Community Commissioners (LCC), Brian Webster.
What would you like to ask him?
What are your top priorities during your term, 2023-2026?
How do you propose to accomplish these priorities?
You are entering 2024 budget discussions. What do you expect will be increases in the budget? Decreases?
What do you see as the biggest challenges the LCC will have to address to be optimally-successful?
Please join us to welcome Brian this Friday!
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 !!!
You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.
Any question, anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.