Municipality of North Cowichan looking at $1M for bike networks

The Municipality of North Cowichan will explore expanding bike networks.

Coun. Rob Douglas says North Cowichan needs to encourage cycling if it’s to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Coun. Rob Douglas says North Cowichan needs to encourage cycling if it’s to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The Municipality of North Cowichan will explore expanding bike networks.

Council decided Wednesday to direct staff to prepare a report on reallocating $1 million of the approximately $3 million the municipality annually earmarks for roads and sidewalk development for five years and put it towards the development of bike trails.

The strategy would target bike networks in Chemainus, Crofton, Maple Bay, University Village and south-end neighbourhoods in North Cowichan.

The idea was tabled by Coun. Rob Douglas who said the strategy would go a long way towards the municipality’s climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He said approximately 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in North Cowichan are due to vehicles.

“I don’t see us meeting our targets to reduce greenhouse gases unless we can get people out of their cars,” Douglas said.

“There’s also major long-term health benefits to biking, as a wealth of studies indicate, and expanding our bike networks would also be useful in marketing North Cowichan as a tourist destination. I’m not set on the full allocation of $1 million at this stage, but would like to see a staff report on it.”

Coun. Joyce Behnsen said biking trails are already being incorporated into the municipality’s road network

“As well, cycling is seasonal and we’re just not in an area where I can see people quitting their cars and trucks for bikes.”

Coun. Tom Walker said he expects there might be a “backlash” from staff in public works if one-third of their annual budgets for roads and sidewalks was to be redirected to biking networks without input from the public works committee.

But CAO Dave Devana said $1 million wouldn’t be taken from public works’ budget; it would just “change priorities” within the transportation budget.

He also said North Cowichan’s official community plan gives “equal weight” to roads, sidewalks and “alternative transportation.”

The motion passed with only Behnsen opposed.

Cowichan Valley Citizen

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