Wednesday, May 29, 2024
May 29, 2024

Better ways to move people around the island

By MYNA LEE JOHNSTONE

Yes, congratulations to the Local Community Commission (LCC) for attending to the much recognized need to establish a 30 km/hr speed limit through Ganges (“Speed limit reduction endorsed,” July 26 Driftwood).

The Active Transportation Network Plan (ATNP) is the government’s way of finally acknowledging that there is too much traffic everywhere and that people need to choose another way to move themselves about.

I do not expect an enthusiastic response from islanders on this.

From the study done we now know that there are:

• 25,000 trips on a typical day on Salt Spring;

• about 88 per cent of these trips are by auto driver or passenger;

• about 3.1 per cent are taken on a bike; only 2.7 per cent on a bus; 9.4 per cent by walking.

The commute within the island is 85 per cent of trips and 52 per cent of those trips are within 15 minutes from Ganges.

The last two Viewpoint pieces in the Driftwood by Mike Stacey on a Ganges bypass and one by Maxine Leichter on preserving Ganges parking spots come from committed drivers not at all interested in changing their methods of getting themselves around and about.

To me, Ganges looks like one big parking lot with a bit of green space to the side. For years there have been meetings about improving Ganges to make it more attractive and greener.

Most islander complaints from those who drive are concerned with road conditions and parking, pedestrians on crosswalks and lineups at ferries.

Good work contributing to this active transportation concept has been done through the cycling community and the long-time Island Pathways volunteers.

As a long-time commissioner on our now retired transportation commission, I have concluded that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has been absolutely delinquent on addressing road safety issues here. Over the years we had delegates come to our meetings asking for help in addressing safety issues. More than five years ago a request was made for a crosswalk from the Core Inn across Jackson to ArtSpring for use by the handicapped to their building. High schoolers come down that way at noon too. There is still no crosswalk there.

We heard horrific stories from Deb Toole about accidents and near misses on North End Road near St. Mary Lake. The Cusheon Lake neighbourhood attended meetings imploring us to lower the speed limit on that road and documented themselves the number of speeders each day. Residents on main roads complain about the noise and speed from traffic they have to suffer.

What the ATNP report fails to do is offer methods to get people out of their cars and using other modes of travel.

Electric bikes have grown in popularity so much so that the B.C. government this spring offered rebates up to $1,400 on the purchase of a new one. Within two days of the announcement, they were all taken and a waitlist was promised.

For 14 years our bus system served us quite well, but in the past two years I brought complaints about them to every transportation meeting. I was the only commissioner who was a regular user of our transit system and I see that none of the LCC commissioners are regular users either.

It is my conclusion that we need a separation from BC Transit and that we should run our own fleet of vans that could serve islanders much better. A very low-cost help to lessen traffic would be a very active and easy Rideshare app that drivers post their trips to and from for sharing their vehicle. We could maybe establish our own Uber-style service with some funding.

It will take much goodwill for any real active transportation projects to happen. I think every organization concerned with community well-being and our environment should promote such projects, including the LCC and the Islands Trust.

I close with a warning. We have already seen with the volume of traffic on the roads at times and places where an ambulance or fire truck would be delayed because of traffic congestion. It can only get worse unless we act now, sooner than later.

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