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Safety concerns affect cycling habits in qathet region

“Most people said they would ride in traffic if the needed to, but really prefer separated paths.”  ~ Chris Lightfoot, qathet Regional Cycling Association
qRCA hosted this bike safety night at tishosem in summer 2023, one of several local annual events with the goal of getting children riding regularly.

More people would commute by bike in qathet if they felt safe doing so. That’s the clear conclusion from two recent surveys undertaken by Chris Lightfoot, president of qathet Regional Cycling Association (qRCA). 

“Most people who bike are not the super gung-ho, brave and fit folks,” said Lightfoot. “Most people said they would ride in traffic if the needed to, but really prefer separated paths.” 

This summer, City of Powell River will enhance the path between Brooks Secondary School and Powell River Recreation Complex, which runs through the forest. The hope is that the federally-funded infrastructure will encourage many more students and staff, especially those living in Westview, to choose active transportation to get to school. According to a survey, only about four per cent of current students and staff bike to school regularly. 

“I was surprised qathet is so far below the national average,” said Lightfoot.

Nationally about one in four students bike to school. Here, it’s about one in 20.

As cycling advocates, Lightfoot explained that it’s important for qRCA to understand what’s preventing more people from cycling. And also, what impact new infrastructure has on cycling and walking habits. 

“Most students' and staff commutes to Brooks are within a five kilometre bubble, which stretches all the way to the airport and along most of Joyce [Avenue], as well as Cranberry and Wildwood,” he added. "Most people could comfortably bike to Brooks [if you were just considering distance].”

But in this survey, and the qRCA Active Transportation Survey of the whole community, safety concerns were at the top of their minds when considering whether they’ll bike. Lightfoot is concerned that even with the Brooks-Westview Connector built, cycling uptake will lag due to concerns about cycling on “feeder roads,” such as Joyce and Manson avenues. 

“There are a lot of great places to ride your bike here, but not in the city core,” said Lightfoot. 

qRCA is planning to survey students and staff again in the fall, after the connector is built. 

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