Sunday, August 12, 2012

New letter off today as I work on various issues.  Lots still to do, but finally sent my letter to the Minister of Transportation about ferry terminal work on Salt Spring Island.  Today's news on building infrastructure to support cycling in the Capital Region reminded me that this missive was overdue.

Here's the letter:

August, 2012

Honourable Blair Lekstrom, MLA
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
Province of British Columbia

Dear Minister:

Your ministry and BC Ferries will soon begin upgrades to the Fulford Harbour ferry terminal on Salt Spring Island, the main access for travelers arriving from Vancouver Island at Swartz Bay, north of Victoria.

At this point, BC Ferries and your Ministry are not planning to provide on road facilities on the approaches to or treatments at the terminal to improve levels of service for cyclists.  There are a number of issues this oversight presents:

·         This is inconsistent with your mandate to provide for all modes of transportation along BC’s public roads networks.

·         It undoes much work we have done with the CRD, Islands Trust, and others to develop a cycling plan for Salt Spring Island that would connect locals and visitors alike with key transportation links like ferries and routes between communities on the island.

·         It undermines the work we have done with BC Ferries on equipping vessels with bike racks and inviting cyclists to use the system to reduce reliance on vehicles and;

·         It undermines efforts to create cycling tourism opportunities for Salt Spring and other routes connected to and through the Capital Region.

I’ve worked on a variety of projects to improve cycling in the Capital Region, on Salt Spring Island and also with BC Ferries to provide better facilities for cycling to enhance mobility, improve community and individual health, and contribute positively to our economic diversity and sustainability.

·         I worked as both a consultant and an advocate to develop plans for cycling on Salt Spring Island;

·         I worked with Island Pathways on Salt Spring to develop new trails and identify route and facility opportunities on the Island

·         I worked with BC Ferries to introduce a pilot program to equip ferries with bike racks and to ensure that new ferries in the system are equipped with better bike facilities;

·         I have worked for years promoting cycling tourism on the Island and surrounding area, including a project that profiled a “Tour de Ferries” concept that would help BC Ferries grow this important niche market.

Salt Spring Islanders need better transportation options – they have a new transit service and some cycling routes, but this needs to be knitted together and better connections provided to Vancouver Island and mainland destinations.   Your ministry must continue to work towards a more diverse and sustainable mix of transportation choices for British Columbians at home, when they travel in the province, or for our many out of province visitors who are looking for “green tourism” options for their holidays.  With falling passenger numbers and revenues, BC Ferries needs to grow traffic by offering new or improved services for current or potential markets.

We’ve made great strides in the Capital Region providing programs like Bike to Work Week (supported by your Ministry), extensive on and off-road infrastructure (supported by programs like Local Motion and the various cycling infrastructure funding initiatives administered by your ministry and that of your colleague in Sports and  Community Development).  We have a growing cycling tourism industry and are competing with many other jurisdictions, near and far, that are working to strengthen their tourism economy and enhance visitor experiences and attract more tourist dollars.

The failure to provide bike facilities at Fulford Harbour takes us backwards.  The recent Velo Village event that saw a dedicated ferry sailing fill with cyclists demonstrates  strong local and visitor interest in cycling in the region and on Salt Spring Island in particular.   We’ve made much progress in BC and we need to keep up the momentum.  Please work with BC Ferries to make sure that we provide a full service terminal, a road system that better serves all users, not just drivers.  Our health, our environment and our economic success depends on keeping those commitments.

John Luton, Executive Director
Capital Bike and Walk Society
Victoria, B.C.

·         BC Ferries
·         Minister of the Environment
·         Minister of Tourism
·         Local Ministers and MLAs
·         Opposition critics
·         Media contacts
·         Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition
·         Island Pathways (Salt Spring)
·         BC Cycling Coalition