Go back 15 years, set the clock for early morning, and you’ll probably see Paul Demers riding his bike along Highway 99, then the best way for him to get to work at Howe Sound Secondary school in Squamish.
But that was a long time ago. These days, says Demers, the highway is a death trap for cyclists, its narrow lanes, impatient users and miserable connectivity something he eschews for the safety of wooded trails.
“It’s way too dangerous,” he said. “It’s virtually criminal what’s happened throughout town in relation to the highway. This wouldn’t happen in Whistler.”
Others in his cycling peer group feel the same way. They’ve tried making their case to highway contractors Kiewit and to the Ministry of Transportation (MOT), but to no avail. Frustrated, they organized last Friday’s Slow Ride, an event that saw throngs of cyclists congregate in Valleycliffe, emerge en masse onto Highway 99, and block the northbound lane for a leisurely pedal up to the Highlands.
“We got a bigger turnout than we hoped for,” he said. “Given that the weather was shaky, we’re quite pleased. We got about 200 riders out.”
The idea, which borrows from the Critical Mass monthly rides in several cities, was to raise awareness of cyclists high in the public eye.
“I don’t think that MOT has given enough consideration to commuter and cycle traffic in the corridor. I think they’ve pretty much ignored it.”
The website for the Sea to Sky Highway Improvement Project states that the finished highway will include “Wider shoulders for improved safety and accommodation for cyclists and disabled vehicles.”
The Cycling Policy on the MOT’s website states that: “It is the goal of the Ministry to integrate bicycling by providing safe, accessible and convenient bicycle facilities on the Province’s highways and to support and encourage cycling. Cycling supports the Ministry’s mandate to provide British Columbians with an integrated multi-modal transportation system.”
At the moment, Demers said, no further protest is planned, whether a petition or another ride. But his group will meet again soon, and, in all likelihood, they’ll follow up on last week’s success.