Approximately 90 per cent of the people in Lake Cowichan commute mostly in vehicles, compared to six per cent by walking and just one per cent by bicycle, according to a report by Victoria-based Urban Systems.
Dan Casey, a transportation planner from Urban Systems, told council at a recent strategic planning committee meeting that the statistic is “quite high” compared to communities of similar size in the province.
“But it’s worth acknowledging that two-thirds of the commutes by people in Lake Cowichan are to destinations beyond the community, which are beyond comfortable distances for walking or cycling,” Casey told council members.
Urban Systems has been contracted to develop an Active Transportation Network Plan for Lake Cowichan that encapsulates the community’s vision and priorities for active transportation.
Casey said the goal of the plan is to encourage more walking and cycling in the community by providing more and better transportation facilities, reducing barriers to personal mobility and ensuring that everyone has access to recreation and nature.
As part of the process, Urban Systems connected to residents and visitors in a number of ways to get their views of the community’s current active transportation systems and infrastructure, including surveys, social media and open houses.
Asked what are the barriers to walking more often in Lake Cowichan, 33 per cent of respondents said the lack of sidewalks and paths, or the condition of sidewalks or paths; 14 per cent said poor lighting and 15 per cent said the weather.
As for the main challenges to biking in the community, 29 per cent said the lack of dedicated on-street bicycle routes or other issues with the existing bike routes; 10 per cent said intersection safety and 11 per cent said the weather.
Asked where they would like to see investment in active transportation in Lake Cowichan, 25 per cent said they want more sidewalks or have the existing ones repaired; 16 per cent said to improve existing paths and eight per cent said to increase transit services.
“We want to ensure that active transportation in Lake Cowichan is equitable, in that all the people of any age can engage in it instead of using vehicles if the infrastructure is planned and designed properly,” Casey said.
“Having the community’s priorities in order will help Lake Cowichan access external funding for active transportation projects through grants and other sources.”
Casey said the next steps in developing the final plan are to further engage the public on their views and priorities in March and April, and to complete the plan later in the spring.
Coun. Lorna Vomacka said she understands the challenges many residents, particularly the elderly, face when trying to get around town, and why many of them use their vehicles.
“A lot of seniors live in houses that are up hills, and it’s hard for many of them to walk back and forth,” she said.
“Was that issue brought up [in the public consultations]?”
Casey said he was unsure and would have to get back to her.