Opinion

Becoming a cycling city

Alistair Taylor - Staff photo
Alistair Taylor
— image credit: Staff photo

With Bike to Work Week put back onto the rack for another year, it's worth taking a few minutes to reflect on the role of the bike in Campbell River.

There's little to stop Campbell River from becoming a major bike commuting community, other than the fact we love to use our big comfy, gas-guzzling cars, SUVs and pick up trucks to get to work. It takes me seven minutes to get to work from my home by car. It takes 35 by bike. Ask any Vancouverite if they'd be happy with getting to work in half an hour and you know they would. So, the time factor involved in bicycle commuting for anyone living within Campbell River city limits is negligible.

The biggest challenge for cycle commuting is the climate. There are dedicated cyclists pedaling to work each morning all year 'round but you can't deny that rain is a significant deterrent. It certainly is for me. But we have it good compared to the rest of the country. Our climate is mild enough to make year-round cycling feasible. It's just a matter of being hardy enough. Luckily, cycling is something you can make into a habit. Build up your tolerance of colder temperatures and wet conditions like you build up your physical conditioning and it all becomes very doable.

The other deterrent to cycling in the community is also overcome by conditioning. I refer to the hilly terrain, specifically the big bump in the middle upon which Dogwood Street sits. Luckily, if you work downtown and live in Willow Point or further south, you can ride in on the Old Island Highway and things are relatively flat until you get to Hidden Harbour.

But if you work on Dogwood like me, you can't avoid the early morning hill climb up to the Second Avenue area. Oh well, it's guaranteed to get you into shape.

But after those challenges, there's little to stop you.

Campbell River's street grid is compatible with cycling, with a couple of exceptions that can be avoided. There are designated bike lanes on the Old Island Highway and the city is promoting routes that can keep you off busy streets like Dogwood. There are some bicycle routes that aren't on roads, like the bike path through the Beaver Lodge Lands. But the Beaver Lodge Lands provides the best detour from city streets, namely the main rail trail with cuts straight through the Beaver Lodge Forest and runs nearly from one end of the community to another when you combine the ERT road with it. The only things you have to worry about are pedestrians, a few loose dogs and the occasional black bear.

Becoming a major cycling city wouldn't require much in the way of building new infrastructure. The street grid is already there, it would just be a matter of painting some bike lanes on the streets and educating riders and drivers about sharing the road.

The city has incorporated bicycles into its Master Transportation Plan. It calls for a mix of existing, upgraded and new routes which are enhanced with signage and some physical facilities – like covered bike racks at strategic places. None of it looks particularly capital intensive. You're not building new road infrastructure, just adapting the existing one.

The biggest adaptation will be in the mindset of commuters. People just need to convince themselves of the benefits of cycle commuting and it can happen. It will take a while before Campbell River resembles Amsterdam but bicycle culture could take root here.

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