Community

Pushing Pedal Power

Comox Valley Cycling Coalition looks to change the future of local transportation…

To encourage biking during the recent Bike to Work Week in mid-May, the CV Cycling Coalition offered one-day cycling commuter skills courses, and will be offering more this year. Schum attended such a course himself and found it invaluable. “Even after riding for 60 years I found I can still learn something,” he says. “It not only made me a better cyclist, but made me a better driver.” Most of the risks involved with cycling, he feels, can be greatly reduced by knowing and obeying the rules of the road and by being visible to motorists.

One of the Coalition’s main objectives is to promote cycling education for children and adults, and cycling safety and awareness among cyclists as well as non-cycling road users. To this end they are working on a pilot project with Huband School, to get more students walking and cycling to school.

A special Bike to the Playground activity was hosted by the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition as part of Bike to Work Week. Kids and parents started at Simms Park and rode under the 5th Street Bridge to the Lewis Centre. Enthusiastic participants included a group from the Strong Start Family Learning Centre—adults and a couple of dozen children on bikes, trikes, and trailers, some whose feet barely reached the pedals but were determined to do the route on their own wheels. “We are really happy to be supporting this event,” says Ellie of the Centre, who commutes on her bike. “It’s a nice way to include kids and families.”

Everyone arriving at the playground received a blue ribbon, and a choice of edible goodies from juice to granola bars to fair trade chocolate. Tony Goodwin, in his second year of chairing the Bike to Work activities and also a member of the Coalition, handed out free snacks, and encouraged everyone to have more.
“This year the schools really got involved,” Goodwin says. “Information was sent to all the schools and it was phenomenal—every morning a load of kids were going by.” Hundreds of students and staff from the schools participated. For next year, Goodwin foresees even more organizations getting involved, more ‘Celebration Stations’ where riders check in for a snack and for a stamp on their passport that confirms participation, and possibly a mini film fest. “We want to focus more on Bike Week, not just Bike to Work,” he says. “Spread the message to Bike to Whatever You’re Doing!”

The vision of a cycle-friendly community is shared by many. “Our Valley has all the natural assets it takes to become the most cycle-friendly place in Canada, and become a destination for cycling tourists—this is such huge business in Europe,” says Schum.

“The benefits to the economy of the different regions are huge. For example, cyclists buy a lot of food and need a comfortable place to rest after a day of riding! The Comox Valley has everything that any of the places in Europe have—we just need some improvements. As far as natural beauty is concerned, and clean air, we still have it and I hope we can keep it that way.”

Adds Schum: “For next year, because the City of Courtenay has about $5 million allocated to make improvements in transportation and roads and so on, my recommendation to the council was to spend 20 per cent of the transportation budget on cycling infrastructure, with the goal to get 20 per cent of cycling mode share by the year 2020.
“I have studied this for several years now,” he says. “In European cities, up to 43 per cent of all trips are done by bicycle! But they are spending more money on it there.”

The vision for the future, adds Schum, is clear. “In the city of Portland, Oregon—one of the most cycling friendly cities in the US—the city administrator commented that the city has never made a better investment than putting money into cycling infrastructure. It might seem expensive to build, but not nearly as much as building anything for cars. It lasts longer, and is much easier and cheaper to maintain. We have to cut back on the use of cars if we want to leave a healthy environment for our children and grandchildren.”

For more information or to join the Cycling Coalition visit cyclecv.ca