That's not the point

Sometimes being an advocate for cycling makes my head hurt.

People have so many different ideas that are sometimes based on experience, sometimes on knowledge, and sometimes just plain conjecture.

I think we can all agree that we don't slow down; taking time to smell the flowers has gone out of style. We like our information in bite-sized pieces and many times we dish up opinions without thinking.

Driving has become the de facto standard. You meet someone new over the age of 15 and you can be 95 per cent certain they have a driver's licence and have gone through the training that goes along with it.

There's a common frame of reference.

Cycling, on the other hand, has so many different uses and purposes that one cyclist might not have the same experiences as another or even have the same outlook.

Road cycling, recreational cycling, mountain biking, cruisers, recumbents, folders, and the list of different aspects goes on. Not to mention the root question, "Do you even cycle, bro?"

So when it comes to being an advocate, there are many comments we hear from people who might or might not cycle, who might or might not have a lot of experience, who might or might not be able to think from the other side of the road.  

Recently, we discussed a proposed design for Ellis Street and how we felt it created problems for all road users:

  • drivers
  • cyclists
  • pedestrians.

Most of our issues stemmed from the plan not following the OCP, Downtown Plan, nor the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan.

One of the comments that came back was, "Since we're spending all this money on Ethel why can't cyclists go use that if they don't feel safe?"

It's like saying to a driver, "Since we've spent all this money widening Spall to four lanes why not use that to get from the airport to North Glenmore instead of Sexmith if you don't feel safe driving with trucks?" 

Something that was addressed last year with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan was the future layout of the cycling grid. The distance that was proposed between main legs was 400 metres. This was based on surveys and experience. People are willing to ride anything for 400 or 500 meters before they get to better infrastructure for longer trips.

Based on the original comment, someone who lives in Central Green would ride over to Ethel Street to go up to Cawston Avenue and then back to go to a Rockets game at Prospera Place. 

A trip that is just 1.2 kilometres straight up Ellis Street would become almost three km by detouring over to Ethel Street. The equivalent of telling someone in a car that they need to detour through Salmon Arm around the back way to get to Vernon.

This is an example of how treating cycling as a second-class transportation mode will keep people in their cars.

Another comment I hear sometimes when pushing back on new infrastructure is, "Why would you not want more bike lanes?"

Again, to put it in car-speak, "Let me build the left-side portion of the road with a sharp hairpin turn that dead-ends into the back of the old Bargains Bargains store."

No one should ever be satisfied with half-complete infrastructure. If an installation doesn't provide end-to-end service it will be ignored.

Cyclists have to deal with this all the time as municipalities save project costs by adding infrastructure where there are already plans to upgrade vehicle roadways. 

When Abbott Street from the Sails to Harvey Avenue was resurfaced, there were new bike lanes added that went to Leon Avenue, but from there, nowhere. Not until months later when a connector was made from the southbound side to the sidewalk.

Northbound is still a miss as there isn't a way to get there unless you use the crosswalk.

Bike lanes along Clement Avenue between Ellis and Richter streets — if you're riding along Clement there are no bike lanes from Sunset until you get to Ellis and then they end at Richter.

Disappearing roadways?

It's never that we don't want infrastructure. The real matter is that getting non-cyclists to consider cycling requires better end-to-end support. Many cyclists have already waited for years for better treatment; let's get the will and the money together to do it right the first time.

The current population consists of people who drive, people who cycle, people who walk, and people who do two or all three.

We need to stop prioritizing any mode of transportation over another. Whether we want to admit  we have a problem with the number of cars on the road or not, it just makes sense to support more active modes as that helps our health and our society.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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About the Author

As a youngster on two feet, a teenager on two wheels, then a young adult on four wheels, Landon has found that life is really about using all modes of transportation. Currently a cycling advocate with the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition he tries to lower road rage on both sides.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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