Marc Kitteringham cycling in the Merville area. Photo by Kristen Battle.

Opinion: Safer cycling infrastructure good for Campbell River

How a community treats cyclists is telling

I’m new here, and one thing I am always interested in when I move to a new place is whether or not it is bike-friendly.

I have ridden thousands of kilometres on my bike, from urban downtown streets to rugged and remote mountains. It is a fundamental part of whom I am, how I get around and how I understand my place in the world.

Cycling is freedom, exploration, meditation and hard work. The way cyclists are treated in a community is representative of the character of that community, and it is a good barometer of whether or not I’ll feel welcome in my new home.

Over the last decade, I have moved cities 14 different times. I have lived in inhospitable cycling towns — try riding a bike in the city through a foot of snow in minus 30 at night — and in some of the most beautiful and accepting communities in the world. I have experienced rural cycling where there is no flat ground in sight with no shoulder to speak of and kilometres of flat multi-use paths that are far from any cars. I am fine with the physical realities of riding a bike. I actually enjoy riding up hills and suffering a bit. It is a good sign, however, when the people in that community come together to show a willingness to accept alternative modes of transportation and a growing cycling culture.

I was excited when I was scrolling through social media and saw that the River City Cycling Club would be presenting to the City of Campbell River on behalf of cyclists. Monday night, the group made a delegation to council to ask them to invest more in cycling lanes and bike infrastructure which would improve safety and quality of life in the city. Though their presentation was a short five minutes, it was heartening to see a dedicated group of riders who want to push Campbell River into a future that is more active, sustainable and inclusive.

Cycling towns have more vibrant cores, local businesses benefit from cyclists, and communities that are friendly to bicycle tourism generally reap the benefits. Cyclists get tired and hungry, and are more likely than those driving through town to stop at local cafes and restaurants to refuel. However, a lack of infrastructure can make people feel unsafe and less likely to frequent local businesses and amenities.

This can even extend to the area surrounding a city. Rides over 100 km are not unheard-of for cycle tourists, and routes in and out of town can benefit the whole area. Bike-friendly infrastructure can connect communities, and make Campbell River a true cycling hub.

I knew the area has a strong mountain biking contingent. In another life, I worked at a bike shop in Victoria and spent the slow hours watching videos of people in the Snowden Demonstration forest, Cumberland, Quadra Island and Mt. Washington doing insane runs and exploring the vast wilderness and perfect trails around town. However, cycling is not just doing daredevil runs through the forest. For many, it is the only way to get to and from work. It is affordable, easy and helps the environment. The growth of e-bikes has made this even more true. A bike-helmet-clad delegation to city hall is heartening to say the least, and speaks to a larger vision of cycling in the area that is accessible to all.

Monday’s delegation shows that Campbell River is looking to become more than a mountain biking destination, and I am excited for an amazing cycling community to continue its development.

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