Although the upcoming vote on a 0.5-percent sales-tax increase to fund TransLink projects is often referred to as a “transit referendum”, bike lanes are on the ballot too.
According to HUB Cycling, the tax would provide $131 million in regional cycling funding over 10 years—a tenfold increase.
“It is a really small piece of the financial pie,” Erin O’Melinn, HUB executive director, told the Straight by phone from her office. “It’s only 1.3 percent of the total. But for those people that do cycle, it’s really important. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to connect the cycling network in the region, which currently has a number of gaps.”
The nonprofit HUB (formerly known as the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition) is a member of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition and, accordingly, is supporting a “yes” vote in the plebiscite taking place March 16 to May 29.
The plan laid out by the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation prioritizes a 2,700-kilometre expansion of Metro Vancouver’s bikeways, including 300 kilometres of separated bike routes.
On its website, HUB says a “yes” win would likely result in the completion of the Evergreen Line bikeway and North Shore Spirit Trail, upgrades to the B.C. Parkway and Central Valley Greenway, improved cycling access to transit stations, and separated bike paths on a new Pattullo Bridge.
O’Melinn noted municipalities building bike routes would benefit from more TransLink cost-sharing opportunities.
But O’Melinn said she’s concerned there’s not enough time to inform the public about what the plebiscite means for cycling.
“I do worry that we won’t be able to get adequate information out to people to really understand what they’re voting on,” O’Melinn said.
Richard Truscott, vice president for B.C. and Alberta at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, told the Straight a triumph for the “no” side wouldn’t necessarily be the “end of the story” for projects in the mayors’ plan.
“Improving the cycling routes is probably one of the lower-cost items on the list,” Truscott said by phone from his Vancouver office. “So perhaps that is a good example of some projects we can accomplish through the existing spending envelopes and not having to ask for new revenue.”