Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

BC Ferries targets cyclist safety at terminals

New “wayfinding signage” for cyclists should be in place around ferry terminals on Salt Spring Island before this summer, although there is some skepticism that a change in behaviour will necessarily result. 

In response to community concerns, BC Ferries’ CEO Nicholas Jimenez had announced the company would be installing new signs to help passengers on bicycles navigate through terminals. BC Ferries’ marketing and customer experience manager Rebecca Jamieson said while she and her colleagues had been out to the terminals to review options, they agreed there wasn’t enough set up for cycling there — and that things needed to change. 

“We made a number of recommendations for signage,” said Jamieson, who gave an update at Salt Spring’s Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting Wednesday, Jan. 24. “So that as you’re approaching the terminal, you know whether to go to a ticket booth, or what lane you should go down.” 

Those signs are being developed, according to Jamieson, with installation expected in late February or early March. Additional recommendations surrounding line painting specifically at Fulford were likely to happen this spring as well, according to regional manager for terminal operations Camrin Hillis, who said extending and better defining the fog lines might be the best they could do, at least with the road as it currently stands. 

“Not necessarily a designated cycling route,” said Hillis, “but [at least] providing some area for cyclists to exit the terminal safely.” 

Salt Spring’s Capital Regional District director Gary Holman, who sits on the FAC, asked whether BC Ferries had made any decision on an earlier committee recommendation to hold cyclists back on arriving ferries at Vesuvius and Fulford, disembarking them after vehicle traffic.  

The proposal was brought to captains and crews, according to Capt. James Bradley, marine superintendent for BC Ferries’ south region, but despite agreeing there would be increased safety — particularly given the lack of a good place for vehicle traffic to pass cyclists near those terminals — they predicted problems with implementing it. 

“Theoretically on paper, I agree with you, it makes sense,” said Bradley, “so that the traffic doesn’t have to overtake the bikes. I wish it was as simple as that.” 

Bradley described the problem being the eagerness of foot passengers in general, who tend to crowd front decks as soon as vessels approach the dock; ferries lack enough staff to pick out each cyclist and explain a change in process and move people and bikes to the back of the ferry while underway — much less police bicyclists who simply don’t want to wait. 

“Once the ship is fully loaded, from basically one end to another, we’re looking at potential damage to other vehicles, and bikes,” said Bradley. “When it was proposed to the teams, they just said it was at the moment unrealistic that we’d be able to achieve that completely from the shipboard side.” 

Bradley did say that as a matter of procedure, captains and crews do their best to inform cyclists about the dangers of heading out ahead of vehicle traffic, noting many of them are local bikers themselves. FAC chair Harold Swierenga mused that perhaps the issue was cultural as much as operational. 

“I’ve noticed at Fulford, the bikers that come — especially if it’s a major group — they’re the first on, and then the first off,” said Swierenga. “It’s a difficult one to police. There’s a big sign right where the bus passengers board that has been there for years and been ignored for years.” 

Jamieson said BC Ferries was currently working on a “bike experience” project. Although focused on major terminals, it will eventually phase into looking at things like racks on vessels, working with B.C. cycling associations to find better solutions overall.  

“We should be encouraging cyclists — and pedestrians,” said Holman. “It’s about moving people. MoTI definitely needs to be part of the conversation. We still want to organize an interagency meeting to talk about Fulford Hill and things we can do to improve pedestrian and cycling safety.” 

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