When reading recent letters to the editor on the topic of transportation in our local newspapers, there seem to be two groups of people in our Valley — cyclists and motorists.
The fact is that very few people are able to be without a car. That means that most of us are thems as well, or the other way around, depending on which group you feel you belong to.
About one-third of our population is unable to drive a car.
Some are too young, some too old, others are physically unable to drive. Also, with the ever-increasing cost of fuel and other things associated with driving, more and more people cannot afford it, and this group will most likely increase in the years to come.
We all have to get around in the Valley, be it to go to work, to school, to go shopping, or any other purpose and should be able to use any mode of transportation we choose or are able to use.
For the past 50 years or so, transportation planning in North America has been focused on the automobile. As more roads and parking lots were built, more people drove and the number of cars kept increasing. With roads getting wider and traffic faster, facilities for walking and cycling became inconvenient and dangerous.
Traffic congestion in our Valley is getting to be a serious threat to our health and lifestyle. We have come to a point where we can no longer continue to build more roads unless we want to have multi-level highways through our neighborhoods and suffocate in exhaust emissions.
The geographical layout of our Valley is well suited for cycling and there are many people who would like to use the bike for transportation if it was safe to do so. If we create safe cycling routes that are separated from cars, more people would use them and it would leave more space on the roads for people who have to drive. Bikeways are a lot less expensive to build and maintain than more roads for cars.
In each of the 13 elementary schools in the Valley it takes up to 150 cars to transport the students to and from school. The biggest safety and health hazard for kids who walk or cycle to school is the traffic chaos created by all these cars.
Building safer bikeways so at least half of these kids can ride their bikes to school would eliminate a large portion of the morning and afternoon rush hours in our Valley. It would also be a lot healthier for the kids involved.
This is just one example of how effective cycling can be to reduce the need for more or wider roads for cars.
Would this not be a win-win for everyone?
We live in one of the most beautiful places on this planet. Let’s try to keep it this way and work together to find a solution to the challenges our Valley is facing in transportation.
Krista Kaptein usually writes Shifting Gears. This month’s column was written by Ed Schum.