When my husband and I were returning from a day in Vancouver on the bus recently, we waited near the stadium street station on Dunsmuir Street. There is a fabulous bike lane, completely separated from traffic and it was being very well used. Bicyclists were whizzing by in both directions with even the odd skateboarder mixed in. “If you build it, they will come.” I said to my husband that day. And it is true. If you build roads, the drivers will use them. If you build proper bike lanes, cyclists will use them.
As chair of a group that organizes environmental films, we showed a great little documentary “You Never Bike Alone” which gives the history of Vancouver’s critical mass of cyclists and how they pushed for a more bike-friendly culture. Like most good things, it started as a grass-roots movement, pressing for more bicycle infrastructure, often in imaginative (some would say crazy) ways. Vancouver is still far behind the many European cities where bicycling is almost the preferred means of transportation but has come a long way, with a good network of bike lanes now.
So where are we at on the Sunshine Coast? As a sometime cyclist, I’ve really enjoyed using the new bike lanes on the main highway through upper Gibsons. As a side benefit, all the traffic has slowed right down, but we have such a long way to go. Bike lanes on the Sunshine Coast are few and far between, forcing the cyclist back onto the highway after just a short distance. For people who pride ourselves on rural beauty and outdoor activities, this is a real shame.
Coast resident Martin Prestage, who runs ‘LifeCycle’ has been trying to change that. He teaches bike safety classes and sits on the SCRD Transportation Committee as the cycling advocate. He owns ‘Up the Creek Backpackers B&B’ which “encourages tourists to visit the Coast by bike, offers special deals for cyclists on the website, free loaner bikes to people who stay here so that they don’t use their car, quick on-site repairs, tools for borrowing, bike racks and a bike shed facility.”
Martin, who has bicycled in more than 50 countries, has organized critical mass bicycling through Roberts Creek. There are many in our community who bicycle and a good starting point is to recognize them and respect the cyclist’s space. They are helping the environment by not adding to CO2 emissions, not to mention other pollutants.
A recent walk down Pratt Rd. with my son, his wife and my granddaughter, proved to me just how unsafe even our side roads are. How will people ever be encouraged to leave their vehicles behind with our atrocious infrastructure? The next time a road is upgraded, we need to ask that lanes for cyclists and the walking public be included.