By SIMON ROMPRE
Local cyclists were happy to hear from Transportation Minister Rob Fleming that the Ganges Hill road is finally going be widened and the work is planned to be done by the fall of 2024. While this is good news, this has also been a source of frustration for all the vulnerable road users that travel up and down Ganges Hill.
It has taken a long time — way too long — considering how many cyclists have been hurt by motor vehicles on that stretch of road. Just last week again somebody was hurt while travelling down that hill, and considering how much more traffic we are seeing, whether by bike, by car or walking, the need for better protection for vulnerable road users is urgent.
While the cycling community applauds the plans for an extended 1.2-metre shoulder on each side, the provincial recommendation for shoulder width is 1.5 metres and, as a result, even with the new upgrade, we are still dealing with a potentially dangerous situation. Obviously any increase we get is better than what we have currently, especially considering the danger caused by the many potholes on the edge of the road used by cyclists. Also worth mentioning is the dug-up North Salt Spring Waterworks District waterline done on the east side of the hill (downhill lane) over 20 years ago that was never properly resurfaced once completed, which has been the cause of many bike accidents and is an ongoing concern to this day.
Even though plans have been made and we can’t delay this anymore, I believe considering a wider shoulder of 1.5 metres, at least from Seaview Avenue to Beddis Road, may help prevent more accidents.
Ganges Hill is probably the most crucial part of the Salt Spring section of the Salish Sea Trail Network that extends throughout Southern Vancouver Island (including the Lochside, Galloping Goose, Cowichan Valley Trail and so on). Everyone travelling to or from Fulford through Salt Spring by bike gets funnelled through there as it links the southern part of the island to the north end. Because there are alternate routes once out of Ganges, once the new upgrade is completed, it will offer all cyclists an option to travel safely from one end of the island to the other. This is huge.
There remains still the very dangerous Vesuvius Bay Road and the Fulford and Vesuvius ferry terminal areas to be amended, but making Ganges Hill safer is a big step in the right direction. It will bring visitors that will not take up all the parking in town or all the space on the ferries and will help keep this island healthy and growing in a sustainable way.
Kudos to everyone involved in making this happen. All Salt Spring cyclists are eagerly waiting and looking forward to the day Salt Spring is a safe place for all kids to ride their bikes.
The writer is an Island Pathways board member and serves on the Cycling Salt Spring committee.