OPINION: The Squamish cycling paradox | Squamish Chief

OPINION: The Squamish cycling paradox

Nearly 10 years ago Squamish officially became the Mountain Biking Capital of Canada, thanks to Test of Metal race founder and director Cliff Miller’s successful attempt at securing the trademark. Without a doubt, Squamish is mountain biking central, boasting an unrivalled trails network to seal the deal.

And these days the bicycle retail, repair and rental sector is booming. That said, after closer examination, this town is in the throes of a pedal-powered paradox.

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In 2011 the District’s Multi-Modal Transportation Study revealed the average household in Squamish had three to four bicycles ready for action. According to that study, “What was essentially a recreational pastime and a means of pursuing a healthy and active lifestyle is now becoming a transportation mode of choice.”

Despite a profusion of two-wheeled transportation, a National Household Survey conducted in 2011 by Statistics Canada revealed that cycling accounted for just over 4% of daily trips to work in Squamish. More recently, 73% of the nearly 300 respondents who completed the District’s Active Transportation online survey said they rode their bikes for non-recreational purposes at least once a week. But one day a week is hardly a transportation breakthrough. Active transportation, in other words, non-motorized, human-powered transportation, and its kissing cousin the dramatic reduction of climate-altering CO2 emissions, have become two major objectives for the District of Squamish.

Our most recent Official Community Plan presents the following transportation modes wishlist in order of priority: walking, cycling, public transit, commercial vehicles, high-occupancy vehicles/taxi, and private vehicles.

As much as getting residents out of their trucks and cars makes sense, the 2016 DOS Active Transportation Plan cited a catalogue of concerns voiced by cycling advocates.

They included a shortage of on-street cycling infrastructure, a lack of pathway maintenance, insufficient roadway lighting, narrow shoulders and a shortage of traffic safety measures along major corridors and at intersections. Four years later, some of those issues have been resolved but much still needs to be done.

Clearly, marked cycling routes continue to be a hit-and-miss proposition.

Although there is a designated cycling lane on Cleveland Avenue between Pemberton Avenue and Main Street, on the busiest section from Highway 99 to Pemberton Avenue marked bike lanes are non-existent.

On Second Avenue, the designated cycling lane layout is even sketchier.  It extends for one block, from Victoria Street to Main Street, coincidently in front of municipal hall. Over on Third Avenue, there is no designated bike lane at all and Loggers Lane downtown is similarly deficient.

Setting aside those shortcomings, the two major factors holding back a full-scale urban peddling revolution in Squamish are geography and climate. This is a noticeably spread out community and extended bouts of inclement weather make biking to work, or other destinations, a non-starter for many residents.

Everything considered, the recent unprecedented volume of motorized traffic throughout Squamish and our overflowing parking lots are clear indicators that a significant increase in non-recreational cycling remains an elusive goal.

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