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Some seniors praising controversial Biketoria plan
Judy and Chuck Sigmund ride everywhere on their bikes, averaging about 100 kilometres a week — and they’re both in their 70s.
The Vic West residents ride on average between three to four times a week to events, social gatherings and to explore the area, mostly using the E&N Trail, the Galloping Goose and the Lochside Trail to get around the city and to other municipalities. In fact, they don’t even own a car, after getting rid of their vehicle when Judy retired in 2000.
“It started sitting in the driveway and we realized we didn’t need it. It just became an unnecessary expense,” said Judy, 72, adding they have bike packs to hold groceries and other items. “I enjoy the exercise, I enjoy being outside. Victoria is a beautiful place and it’s nice to be able to do that.”
Judy and Chuck, 76, are part of a growing number of voices speaking in support of the City of Victoria’s multi-million-dollar Biketoria project to build a comprehensive, all-ages cycling network by 2018.
Recently, the city has faced criticism from residents and businesses about the plan, especially regarding the design of the Fort Street bike lane, which would potentially cut 30 on-street parking spots to make way for the lanes, further putting pressure on Victoria’s already over-crowded parkades.
In October, construction began on the city’s first fully-protected, 1.2-km bike facility on Pandora Avenue from Cook to Store streets and is expected to wrap up in the spring.
Mayor Lisa Helps said the plan will encourage more people in surrounding neighbourhoods to bike downtown, therefore freeing up more parking spaces for those who need it.
“We’re not building the Biketoria project for those who already bike. We’re building the Biketoria project for those seniors or their friends who would bike if they felt safer. We’re building it for kids who are eight years old who right now their parents won’t let them ride their bike because it’s too dangerous,” Helps said. “We’re building it as a 21st century infrastructure to encourage people who can to at least explore biking as just another transportation choice.”
The Sigmund’s agreed. They praised the plan, saying the addition of protected bike lanes opens up more areas for them to go in the downtown core that they previously felt too scared to ride. Judy has had two experiences in the past two years in which drivers who were turning right, didn’t see her in the bike lane and almost hit her.
“The fact that you have a designated bike lane, but no physical boundary isn’t very protective at all. Biketoria is going to start putting some protected lanes in,” Chuck said, noting they used cycling lanes in Copenhagen, Denmark, a city that has become known for its advanced multi-modal infrastructure, and said there’s no reason why Victoria can’t move in the same direction.
“As more and more people see people riding bicycles, especially adults, they get the idea they’re not toys. Once they get that idea, that’s it.”
Judy said drivers’ attitudes are different in Denmark and cyclists are more respected — an attitude she believes has to change in Victoria as well.
For the couple, cycling has been a life-long passion. Judy and Chuck both started riding bikes as children, growing up in the United States. When they moved to Victoria in 1972, they continued to cycle, even carrying their children around on bikes as well.
Most of their necessities, such as groceries, can be reached by walking, biking, bussing or taking a taxi.
The duo also have friends, who are around the same age, who want to bike, but are waiting for more safe routes to become available.