Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels eerily reminds us of what our human activities might look like to someone not intimately embedded in affairs human. For instance, first of all read over the bickering at Courtenay Council about whether there should be a bike lane on Willemar Avenue, Piercy Avenue, or Tull Avenue. And should this lane be painted or raised? No one seems to get around to asking what is the bike path for? Where are cyclists to get on? Or get off? How will anyone be served by a bike lane that begins nowhere and ends a few blocks down from nowhere? Sort of like the shortest bike lane in the world that runs for a block and a half along 5th St. by the Apple Tree Market
Then read the section in Gulliver’s Travels about the raging conflict between Lilliput and Blefuscu over whether one should break the large end or the small end of an egg first. Eleven thousand people chose death rather than submit to a law requiring the untraditional breaking of an egg from the small end first. It seems every where Gulliver goes in this land of tiny would be giants, he finds activities that remind him painfully of home.
When I read Gulliver’s travels I can’t help relating the chicanery of Lilliputians to the bombast at Courtenay Council these days. As someone who bikes nearly 10,000 kms a year in and around Courtenay, I have a keen interest in this talk of bike lanes. And it gives me the creeping willies to see such parochial squabbling over an argument that completely misses the point. We don’t need a statement raised bike path with all the bells and whistles going nowhere. We need a network of bike lanes that allow us to get safely around our community. Why put a bike lane on a pedestal when we could put a functional network on the ground for the cost of a few blocks of curbing.
Biking isn’t about getting there on gold bricks; it’s about getting there affordably, safely while enjoying a transportation medium that is good for our community, for our planet and for our bodies. It just thrilled me to read a University of Utrecht research paper that documented the health benefits of cycling. According to the study, there is a strong correlation between biking and health. Amazingly, this study supports the once postulated idea that for every hour spent cycling over 15km/hr one adds another hour to his/her lifetime. Cycling reduces the human, economic and environmental costs incurred by car based transportation. Cycling not only reduces short car trips, it makes our public transit system more accessible and effective by greatly shortening the time to reach a transit stop.
The Dutch researchers also found out that biking prevents 11,000 premature deaths in the country yearly, underscoring cycling’s importance in promoting public health.
The figures speak for themselves. An investment in meaningful cycle paths is recovered through the enormous health benefits and potential financial savings. There are also other benefits from cycling including improved air quality, reduced traffic.
The thing that shocks me about this raised path to nowhere debate is no one has raised the issue that is/has been for a very long time first up in the minds of Comox Valley citizens: our overwhelming desire to see a waterfront walk way/bike way connecting the Courtenay Airpark to the Comox Spit. Whenever citizens are asked to rate their priorities for spending on infrastructure that gets #1. My gosh, anyone who has been on the water front walk in Victoria or the Stanley Park causeway or even the Nanaimo waterfront walkway knows how utterly soul satisfying an extended walk along the waterfront really is. And-for those who need to hear this way—how much of an economic benefit it is to these communities as people come to and stay to enjoy a pedestrian tour of the waterfront. Imagne the health benefits, the joy, the sense of being in a community that cares about quality of life that would come from getting on with a Comox-Courtenay water front walkway instead of bickering over which end of the egg to crack first.
Oh and speaking of funding a water front walk way for the benefit of all of us for generations to come, when the heck is Courtenay and the CVRD going to have the-what it takes- to stand up and admit that talk of a rail line into Courtenay from Victoria is just so much Yahoo piss in the straw. We can’t afford to upgrade the rail let alone run the train. The money that is being pissed away on this worthless pipe dream would build us the walkway we all so desire to see. And there would be enough left to help subsidize the bus service to where it becomes a usable means of long distance as well as local transportation.
It’s time for Courtenay Council to stop talking crack eggs and start talking about actually representing the people they were elected to serve.