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Cycling advocates urge B.C. parties to steer $75-million a year into biking strategy

Cyclists make their way over the Burrard Bridge bike lane in Vancouver. Local cycling advocacy groups are calling on B.C.’s provincial parties, heading into the May 14 election, to invest $75-million a year toward a “comprehensive cycling strategy.”

Brett Beadle/The Globe and Mail

Local cycling advocacy groups are calling on B.C.'s provincial parties, heading into the May 14 election, to invest $75-million a year toward a "comprehensive cycling strategy."

Richard Campbell, president of the B.C. Cycling Coalition (BCCC), said he hopes all parties will see the long-term benefits of a safer and more connected cycling network – one that will ease traffic congestion, reduce health-care costs and boost cycling tourism.

As an example, he referenced a recently released cycling study by Travel Oregon, which found cycling tourism injected more than $325-million (U.S.) into the local economy in 2012.

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"When you look at those types of dollars, suddenly $75-million seems like a wise investment," Mr. Campbell said.

Echoing the sentiments of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson – who said a subway along the city's growing Broadway corridor is necessary to keep up with tech hubs like Toronto and New York – Mr. Campbell noted such high-tech industries often attract young professionals who prefer cycling to driving.

"We are competing with places like London," he said. London Mayor Boris Johnson recently announced an ambitious plan to create a Dutch-style network of separated bike lanes, including a 24-kilometre, east-to-west "crossrail for the bike," that will cost about $1.4-billion over the next 10 years.

Based on a funding level of $40 per person, the BCCC is hoping for a total of $175-million per year across all levels of government for infrastructure including bike paths and separated bike lanes.

The coalition is also asking for changes to the Motor Vehicle Act, including the reduction of the speed limit on residential streets to 30 kilometres per hour; a requirement for motorists to leave at least a metre of distance when passing a cyclist; and to allow cyclists to ride two abreast on roads.

Cycling advocacy group HUB, which is a member of the coalition, made headlines last month when it called for the province to allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. Spokeswoman Erin O'Mellin told media that a complete stop can cause cyclists to lose their balance, potentially leading to more accidents.

The BCCC consists of more than a dozen organizations across British Columbia.

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Meanwhile, the provincial government on Monday announced that BikeBC, a cost-sharing program between the province and local governments, is providing 20 communities with a total of just under $7.5-million this year to fund cycling infrastructure.

Among the 21 projects it will fund: new greenways and separated paths at Hastings Park in Vancouver ($905,424); the Rail Avenue greenway and separated path from Granville Street to Garry Street in Richmond ($449,400); and the Lougheed Highway cycling track in Maple Ridge ($448,956).

Since 2001, the province has spent $148-million on cycling infrastructure in more than 75 communities, according to the Ministry of Transportation.

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