Charlotte cyclists enjoy the scenery, but not the squeeze

Queen Charlotte residents say cycling in the village would be better with more space and less debris on the road.

Queen Charlotte cyclists say riding around town is scenic, cheap, green, and more refreshing than a morning coffee.

It’s also a great way to get fit, or to go get a buttery treat from Jags.

But many say cycling in the village would be better with more space and less debris on the road.

Those are a few things people told Haida Gwaii Bike RePscyh this summer when the local non-profit did a survey to see why residents do or don’t ride bicycles, and how local cycling could be improved.

The survey will help Bike RePscyh and the Village of Queen Charlotte this fall as they prepare for the village’s first cycling plan.

“We spend a lot of time teaching people how to fix bikes, but we were missing that bigger picture of who was cycling, how much they were cycling, and how we could promote better, safer cycling in the community,” said Steve Querengesser, a Bike RePsyche volunteer who helped run the survey online, at Hospital Day, and at the Queen Charlotte farmer’s market.

Of the 124 residents who responded, 96 said they own and ride a bicycle.

Nearly two-thirds of those said they ride year-round.

When asked about challenges, narrow road shoulders and too much debris came up most often, said Molly Clarkson, another Bike RePscyh volunteer.

Some said traffic and on-street parking were a problem in a few places, such as outside City Center or the hospital.

People also mentioned a lack of street lighting and bike racks, plus an over-supply of rainy weather.

Overall, the top suggestion to improve Queen Charlotte cycling was to set aside a dedicated space for cyclists and pedestrians.

Querengesser said there are a few cyclists who say lack of space is not an issue if they feel squeezed, they simply ride closer to the middle of the lane, as they are legally allowed to do.

But Querengesser said it’s a pretty small group who feel comfortable riding that way.

“There’s a large percentage of people who are beginner cyclists, or with kids starting out, who want to have something safer,” he said.

“We need to find a place for them.”

Together with Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin, Bike RePsych hopes to see the village secure a B.C. Rural Dividend grant this fall for a cycling study one that would cost out all the options, not for for a dedicated cycling lane, but also better signage, parking, street-sweeping and public outreach.

Clarkson said a few of Charlotte’s many hill-dwellers also suggested having covered bike racks at the base of steeper streets to make the ride home a little more inviting.

Looking outside the village itself, many of the survey respondents said they feel the lack of road space most when cycling the highway between Queen Charlotte and Skidegate, particularly the stretch along the ferry landing.

Clarkson said Bike RePsych is focusing on the village for now, but she hopes its plan will be a model for the islands.

“We hope that one day we’ll get to a point where other communities want to create cycling routes, and we can create an island-wide network,” she said.