Taxpayers at end of road

Cyclists should pay for the improvements they are seeking on Eastside Road

When you are after money for a pet project, holler “safety” not “nice to have”.

Kristi Patton’s article and Mr. Barrett’s advocacy of converting the Eastside Road into a bike route raises basic feasibility questions that demand close examination.

One can only admire the sincere and valuable efforts of those who cycle most of our city streets en route to work or other commuting. The seasonal numbers are gratifying to almost all. We do not, however, include the sidewalk riders or traffic scofflaws in this esteemed group.

But rebuilding highways for recreation or to please some tourists is a different and very costly matter. If you could examine the unstated non-environmental cost of widening 1.5 km of roadway by 2.6 metres, you would encounter a staggering total.

But who pays? The average B.C. taxpayer will work 8.46 months to raise each $1,000 spent. Do the math if the cost figures for the stretch of road are revealed. For every million spent, 7,058 people will work one year. If this is a justifiable expense, the project must be seriously needed.

An alternative is more road taxes. A light motorcycle operator who causes no road wear must pay over $650 to ICBC just for the privilege to operate his bike. Should he pay more to finance the project?

Could the enthusiasts perchance select a different route, say Highway 97 with paved, if narrow, shoulders? Possibly McLean Creek Road or Black Sage Road could be used.

If the biking tourism aspects (the curse of rural residents) are important — then perhaps let the tourist beneficiaries finance the project from our famous motel surtax. This would certainly be fairer to all those that do not benefit from this segment of our economy.

This is another example where facts must confront wishes. That being the case, an official bike lane count on Government Street and adjoining areas as suggested would indeed be useful. If done without fanfare, recorders will find that a significant portion of the very light bike traffic south of Duncan uses the sidewalk, Carmi to Industrial almost all favour the sidewalk, and south of Industrial and on Dawson, bike traffic in effectively non-existent. Remember also that we are considering just a few months of each year — otherwise use is near zero.

Unkind perhaps, but this lane provision seems to reflect armchair planning and wishful thinking rather than utility or hard traffic counts.

Good wishes and gratitude to our responsible cyclists; we remain confident that most will agree that we must maintain perspective.

John Thomas