It seems in our nature to look for increasingly simple solutions as the problems we face become increasingly complex.
Cycling on Salt Spring is already an adventure, with our narrow roads, scant shoulders, few dedicated bike lanes and ever-increasing vehicle traffic. What’s more, the reality of arriving on an island by boat is that it’s all uphill from the start — and nowhere is that in sharper focus than at ferry terminals, where vehicle traffic can back up behind the slower bikes on steep slopes.
Our own Ferry Advisory Committee — and no doubt many a delayed motorist — has imagined it might be simple enough to hold the bicycles back and let the vehicles through first. Operationally, according to ferry crews, it would be a nightmare to implement.
Setting aside compliance — who would want to be last? — we agree. The mental picture of people trying to walk their bikes between vehicles from the front to the back of a full car deck isn’t pretty. And as one astute letter-writer has pointed out, many bicyclists disembarking aren’t going any farther than the parking lot. Nothing would be gained, traffic-wise, from keeping them aboard longer — and discouraging those types of commuters from bringing their bikes would only add to the number of cars on the sailing.
A complex problem indeed.
There seems to be a broad agreement among officials that more cyclists and pedestrians should be encouraged, from both a ferry capacity standpoint and an environmental one. It’s a straightforward and popular position to take, but without prioritizing adequate infrastructure for both, it rings hollow.
BC Ferries can only do so much aboard their vessels; we’re encouraged by their efforts to improve the “bike experience” on ferries. But if we truly want more cycling — and walking — on our ferry-served islands, we probably should solve the complex infrastructure puzzle first.
We can all be a little more patient with one another as we travel our island roads. But some impatience with our transportation ministry — now that we’ve completed our Active Transportation Plan and quantified gaps in our network — is perhaps warranted.
In improving how we move around, we look forward to signs of movement.