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qathet cycling association completes Townsite/rec complex survey

"The way Powell River will be moving forward with its bicycle network strategy is to lobby the provincial government and the community forest to achieve these goals.” Chris Lightfoot, qRCA
SPOKES PERSONS: Brooks Secondary School cycling students [from left]: Dai Sumiyoshi, Gabe Mussellam, Russ O’Donnell, Caleb Campbell and William Trotter are among the school’s cycling enthusiasts who could benefit from the mid-level connector that City of Powell River is planning to construct between the school and Powell River Recreation Complex. qathet Regional Cycling Association surveyed students and teachers to determine thoughts on the active transportation corridor.

In preparation for construction of the active transportation corridor between Powell River Recreation Complex and Brooks Secondary School, students and staff of the school have been surveyed regarding potential use of the mid-level connector.

Chris Lightfoot, qathet Regional Cycling Association (qRCA) director of active transportation, said the cycling association is interested in any way people can do more walking or cycling.

“When we learned the Brooks connector path had received grant funding and we heard that construction was inevitable, we wanted to know how students and staff are getting to school now,” said Lightfoot. “It was determined that it would be a good time to conduct a survey before the path was built to find out if the path has any impact on how people get to and from Brooks.

“It’s important to measure how many people are using the paths we have. The goal is to increase the number of people who feel comfortable walking or biking. We would like to know if the efforts are having an effect.”

In total, 123 people took the online survey in October of 2023, which represented more than 10 per cent of the school’s population. After the trail is completed, there will be a follow-up survey conducted at the school in October.

In putting together the Brooks survey, Lightfoot said he reached out to some interested parties at the high school and told them the goal of the survey. He said seven questions were developed together. The survey was also put to qRCA’s active transportation committee and they tried to make the survey as simple, as quick and as relevant as possible.

“We wanted to know how many of the Brooks population are coming to school on foot or by bike, by car or by bus,” said Lightfoot. “We also wanted to know what it would take for more people to use active transportation.”

Lightfoot said in terms of distribution of the survey, he left it to high school liaison teachers and the principal. He said he made up some posters for the school. Students could take a picture of a QR code with their phones or could access it on a computer. He suspects the survey would take not much more than five minutes to complete.

“We were pretty happy with the response,” said Lightfoot. “Any time you do a questionnaire and get more than 10 per cent is very good.”

Lightfoot said conclusions from the survey are that many people are interested in cycling, and it would take more protected paths through town for people to participate in cycling more broadly. He said the corridor between Brooks and the recreation complex is an important connector between the Townsite community and Westview.

Lightfoot said a big question is how are people going to get to the recreation complex by bike or by foot.

“One of the possibilities is it might not have that much effect on commuting behaviour because people still have to get to the recreation centre,” said Lightfoot. “What we hear from cyclists and some pedestrians is people feel nervous biking on Joyce Avenue, which is the main urban route to the recreation centre. Some people travel to Townsite from Westview using the Willingdon Beach Trail and through the old golf course.”

Lightfoot said, however, he believes the connector will be well used.

“People are looking forward to it and hopefully, the community will be pleased and satisfied with the route,” said Lightfoot.

He said qRCA has not seen any design drawings for the new route, nor does he know the timeline for construction.

Future follow-up

After construction on the mid-level connector is complete, the follow-up survey will be compiled and will be as similar to the first survey as possible, according to Lightfoot. He said, however, there will be questions on it about usage of the connector and what active transportation users think of it.

“Also, we will ask: where’s next?” said Lightfoot. “The way Powell River will be moving forward with its bicycle network strategy is to lobby the provincial government and the community forest to achieve these goals.”

Lightfoot said there is a strong cycling community here and a lot of people own bikes. Anything to improve the transportation networks is going to be advantageous to people’s health, well-being and fitness, he added.

According to the survey report, the vast majority of Brooks staff and students (79 per cent) reported they will likely use the mid-level connector to Brooks. The report pointed out that the path could also be used by people wanting to visit other destinations in Townsite besides Brooks.

A total of 67 per cent of the respondents wrote positively about the future trail, which, according to the report’s author, reinforces what they know about people’s attitudes to cycling: most people are interested in riding their bikes under the right conditions.

The survey concluded by indicating that it found Brooks staff and students mostly commute by school bus or by car, and that Brooks students regularly walk or cycle to school at rates well below the national average. The study also found that people at Brooks said they would ride their bicycles to school more often if there were bicycle paths separated from traffic, and if there was more secure bicycle parking.

“The positive attitudes toward cycling found in this survey are consistent with reports from communities all across North America,” the survey stated. “People want safe, easy and fun ways to travel on foot and by bicycle.

“For the best chance of attracting riders, the connector should be part of a contiguous network of all ages and abilities linking neighbourhoods to work, school and play opportunities.”

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