Trustees have resolved to provide a letter of support for a rural cycling safety course in response to a suggestion by Gabriolan Steve Earle that the course could help promote more cycling on the island.
At their July 26 Local Trust Committee (LTC) meeting at the WI Hall, Earle spoke to a report he submitted on a bicycling conference on Salt Spring Island. The committee sponsored Earle to attend the conference.
Earle said the “Velo-Village Cycling and Rural Mobility Conference” was a “pre-curser to the Velo-City Conference in Vancouver, which was an international conference”. He said Salt Spring Islanders organised a conference on their own island because they wanted a rural version of the conference.
Speakers were present, said Earle, “from cycling organisations, from government, there were consultants, there were academics – a range of different speakers on all sorts of issues around cycling: health, infrastructure, and so on”. He said about 75 people attended the conference.
Earle said the main message he brought away from the conference was that cycling is good for individuals and societies. He said not only are people who cycle healthier, but “there’s also benefits to the community. More people on bikes means fewer people in cars, less congestion on the roads on the ferry and so on”.
Gabriola could also benefit from cycle-tourism, he said. He added that there are also environmental benefits from getting people onto bicycles.
There are already lots of cyclists on Gabriola, Earle said, “but there is a potential for many more”. He said two per cent of Canadians cycle regularly. “In the Netherlands and Denmark it’s about 30 per cent”, he said because cycling has actively been promoted there since the ‘70s.
Earle said obstacles such as the belief that “it’s not normal to cycle”, and the perception of risk in cycling can be overcome. He said some of the things that the LTC could do to get more people cycling include funding a ‘safe rural cycling’ course, which would give people more confidence in biking. He said having special events, improving bicycling infrastructure like shoulder lane bike paths and trails, and reducing speed limits were other ways to promote cycling. “We should us whatever tools we have available to us to motivate more people to get around on foot, or on bicycles, or electric-bicycles, or whatever non-motorised transportation they can come up with”, he said.
Acknowledging that the LTC doesn’t have many tools to promote cycling, Earle said the committee can have an impact on Village parking. He quoted one of the speakers at the conference who said “parking is a fertility drug for cars – the more parking we have, the more cars we’re going to have”. He said one option was to ask developers for cash in lieu of off-street parking “for development of walkways, bike paths, public transit and other alternatives”.
Trustee Sheila Malcolmson agreed that reducing speed limits was one way to support more bicycling. She noted that last term the LTC was successful in advocating for reduced speed limits with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Speed limits have been reduced to 50 kilometres per hour for the west side of the island from Norwich Hill (Phase 4) to the Village Centre.
Trustee Gisele Rudischer asked if Malcolmson was considering reducing speed limits in the Village. Malcolmson said Earle’s report recommends slower speed limits on the ferry hill, and on North Road through the Village.
Rudischer commented that years ago a request was made to reduce the Village centre speed limit to 40 kilometres per hour, and “we were told that there is no such thing as 40 kilometres per hour”. She said “you have to go from 50 to 30, and 40’s not a choice”. She said “there’s been some resistance to lowering it to 30”. LTC Chair David Graham agreed that 40 would be a good compromise.
Regarding the safety course, Malcolmson noted that one of the advocacy policies in the Official Community Plan is for educational programs on road safety issues. She said the OCP also has an objective to provide a network of safe bicycle routes.
The Regional District of Nanaimo is the governmental body that could sponsor a bicycle course Malcolmson said. She said although the LTC couldn’t give money towards such a course, they could write a letter of support for it.
Malcolmson joined Rudischer in thanking Earle for attending, and reporting on, the conference.