Cyclists showing one choice to make communities more livable

The personal health benefits of cycling are pretty clear, but how much good is it doing for the larger community?

I watch with unease as community groups with their particular agendas, attempt to pressure political candidates to make commitments to use public monies for particular causes.

A group of which I am a part, the cycling community, is one such group.

Is it reasonable to expect tax money to be spent improving infrastructure to what appears to be a relatively small proportion of the traffic using our roads? At first blush the answer would appear to be “No!”

However, as with most groups which try to influence public policy, the issues are complicated. My guess is that if we were to ask cyclists their reasons for choosing to bike, we would find that most would say that they choose to do so because it is healthy for themselves and the whole community.

The personal health benefits are pretty clear, but how much good is it doing for the larger community?

They might reply that our major roads are already getting quite congested and one more cyclist usually means one less car. Six bikes can use the parking space used by one car.

The wear on roads is minimal and with fewer cars, there would be no need for another very expensive vehicular bridge. Since there are about a thousand more motor vehicles coming into our Valley each year, there will be ever-increasing costs to upgrade the roads and bridges.

Bikes yield no harmful emissions and the greatest contribution to greenhouse gases in our valley are caused by cars.

People walking and using bikes works well where the commuting distances aren’t too great. City planners will tell you that it is getting prohibitively expensive to provide services such as water, sewer garbage pick up and transportation infrastructure as citizens move increasingly farther outside the core of the community.

The best solution is to encourage units housing more people in the heart of the community. Biking then really begins to make sense.

Recently, a preliminary proposal was made to Courtenay council to build a high-density rental housing complex in which each unit ranged from 303 to 350 square feet.

Council welcomed this proposal since it met the goals of low-income housing and increased density in the downtown core. This trend may be the only way to keep taxes from becoming prohibitively high.

So in a sense the cyclists’ pressure for safer and more efficient ways of commuting are serving the larger community. They are showing us one choice for helping to make our communities more livable, as pressures build on many fronts.

Our stumbling economy, increasingly expensive food, housing costs and pressure on our health care system are only some of the forces that will require us to rethink how we live.

Krista Kaptein usually writes Shifting Gears with contributions from fellow Comox Valley Cycling Coalition members Ed Schum and Jim Palmer. This month’s column is written by James Taylor.


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