Courtenay is in the midst of upgrades on Willemar and Piercy and have made a token gesture to include cycling. Unfortunately, it seems the cycling community’s input is being ignored. The highest concern is the plan for sharrows on Willemar. Once it is set, it will be too expensive to change. The Willemar application will set the tone for similar roads throughout Courtenay. In my opinion, this car-centric approach will lead to more car congestion, more pollution, more pedestrian and cyclist injuries, and ultimately a loss of community.

We asked the opinion of Kay Teschke, professor and research expert on cycling, and her thoughts are “Sharrows are not a good option (except perhaps on quiet residential streets). Our research shows that they are negatively rated by almost all cyclists and especially so by women and people with children. They do NOT motivate more cycling. Our injury research shows that they also do not improve safety compared to busy roads with no bike infrastructure.”

Choosing how your city functions might be as simple as how you encourage people to get around. The emerging evidence is that if you build for cars as the priority, you get more cars but if you build for people, you build community.

How do you build for people? Make the city walkable and bikeable. A realistic distance people will walk to school/work/shop is on average 1 km and 5 km by bike. (See picture) If you use Fitzgerald and 5th as the centre point, the 1 km pink circle is the walking area. The blue circle is the 5 km cycling radius.

There are many benefits for safe walking and cycling infrastructure, one is promoting walking and cycling to school. Interestingly, all the Courtenay schools sit within this 5 km radius.

Some of the busiest times on the road in Courtenay are the times for dropping off/picking up kids from school. Connecting the dots, kids are becoming obese, in part due to lack of exercise. Exercise also helps kids be more engaged learners. SD71 active travel to school is trying to encourage kids to bike and walk to school and it has been successful. However, if Courtenay road infrastructure ignores the research that shows how to build roads that encourages cycling, the SD71 program likely will not be sustainable.

Local cyclists are upset particularly with the Willemar plan. It seems like Courtenay is bent on making the roads worse, not better for cycling. This attitude is not good for any city, and not good for the Comox Valley. Courtenay should understand its role in upgrading roads should be part of the solution to keep our kids healthy and our roads less congested.

We need to build for people. Cycling and walking does matter for the sustainability of our community.