By SIMON ROMPRE
I was very happy to read in last week’s Driftwood that BC Ferries is looking into making the ferry terminal safer for cyclists and I think that painting lines at the terminal to prevent accidents is a good move (“BC Ferries targets biker safety at terminal”). Nevertheless, I think that considering moving all cyclists to the back of the ferry so drivers don’t have to deal with people on bicycles while zipping off the ferry is a backward move that sends a message that visitors on bikes are not welcome here.
It is pretty obvious to anyone who has spent any time on Salt Spring that our island is not currently a cycling destination; many of our main roads are narrow and windy with no shoulders and in need of repair. Most local cyclists wanting to remain unharmed are well aware that staying out of drivers’ way when unloading off the boat makes sense, but sending everyone on bikes to the back of the ferry to breathe car exhaust while unloading will not improve Salt Spring’s popularity in the cycling population.
While many people that like to get from A to B as quickly as possible may like the idea of getting cyclists out of their way, I don’t think there is a single Salt Springer that likes long ferry waits due to car overloads. No matter how annoying having to slow down to go around a cyclist may be, it is still preferable to have fewer ferry waits, more parking space in town on busy days and quieter roads. These are some of the advantages that come from having people on bikes and e-bikes rather than in cars; it actually is good for everyone, especially drivers and their passengers, something worth remembering next time we have to slow down for cyclists.
Another factor to keep in mind is that many riders are also drivers and leave their cars at the ferry terminals; they are not going to be in the way of hard-pressed-for-time drivers once off the ferry. As a matter of fact, by riding their bikes onto the ferry they create more space for other cars and should be encouraged rather than being sent to the back of the boat.
Salt Spring is located within a short distance of many big urban areas and our local economy could benefit tremendously from being more bike friendly. Many visitors don’t come here because spending the better part of the day in a ferry line-up is understandably not their idea of a good time.
I encourage BC Ferries and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to make the needed changes, either by installing bike racks on the boats or creating safer shoulder lanes along the busiest parts of our main roads and ferry loading areas.
As someone once reminded me, you don’t build bridges by counting how many people swim across the water, you build them because it is the best way to cross the river.
Once the infrastructure is in place, it will get used, and Salt Spring, because of its location, has great potential to be one of the best cycling destinations on the coast.
The writer is a member of Island Pathways and Cycling Salt Spring.