Cycling is quickly becoming more popular with many local residents as a means of commuting between home and the workplace, but it remains questionable in terms of safety, practicality and costs in the downtown area of Maple Ridge.
The same safety issues plague even casual cyclists in the downtown area.
There is a quiet undercurrent of opposition to measures aimed at expanding cycling opportunities due to the actions of overzealous cyclists who adopt an air of entitlement and thrust their demands on local and regional government bodies.
Basically, Maple Ridge is a linear community, with most of our commuting routes running east and west, which means the majority of commuters must use Dewdney Trunk Road, Abernethy Way/128th Avenue, Lougheed Highway, or the Haney Bypass.
There are no existing safe cycling routes for commuters who must pass through the downtown area.
From Telosky Stadium to 222nd Street, cyclists must share sidewalks with pedestrians, electric scooters and occasional sandwich board sign.
This has resulted in cyclists using the bypass or other routes to get around the downtown bottleneck.
To make matters worse, discussions are underway to allow greater use of downtown sidewalks by restaurants and other commercial ventures.
Won’t that just be ducky, commuting cyclists sharing the same space with tables and chairs, produce stands, scooters, pedestrians, moronic speeding cyclists and whatever other impediments that will be strewn along the sidewalks.
In the past few years, huge sums of money have been spent on the Lougheed Highway between 228th Street and 222nd streets, but none of that money has improved safety for cyclists, who are still encouraged to use sidewalks in the so-called improved area.
Neither did the improvement project do much for vehicle safety, with traffic lanes remaining dangerously narrow in the 50-kilometers-per-hour zone.
And, if that wasn’t enough, several parking spaces were eliminated in the key section between 223rd Street and Haney Boulevard, along the Lougheed Highway.
However, municipal council, recognizing the design errors in the already too busy downtown area, approved the expenditure of about a million dollars on a bike path to nowhere on the north side of the Lougheed Hwy., from 216th to Laity streets.
This stretch of the highway already had an existing asphalt sidewalk, which had been successfully shared by cyclists, pedestrians and scooter operators for many years.
If the million-dollar project had been Phase 1 of a larger overall project, it would be understandable. But it is a stand-alone project.
Although it will have nice street lights and landscaping, it remains an asphalt path only slightly wider than the sidewalk it replaced.
And, of course, many of the highway improvements are funded through levies on motor vehicle use, none of which is paid by cyclists.
There have been suggestions that a license fee be imposed on cyclists to help generate funds for improved safe cycling routes. It sounds simple, but it would be no more practical than the existing regulation, which requires the use of helmets by cyclists, a law which is almost totally ignored by police and bylaw officers, who are responsible for its enforcement.
There are individuals and at least one organization working with municipal officials to promote safe cycling through better planning of cycling routes. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to anymore million dollar cycling paths to nowhere.
Let’s also hope it leads to an improved attitude with cyclists who insist on riding two or three abreast on busy roads. If you want the same privileges as motorists, obey the same rules and pay your fair share of the cost of the roads you share with motorists.
Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.