Trails Society applauds Squamish District 

Councillor shatters knee on highway after resources pledged for safety

The Squamish Trails Society (STS) is offering accolades to Squamish council for supporting the community development department's bike lane network - this after Councillor Bryan Raiser shattered his knee while cycling along the stretch of highway between downtown and Brackendale.

"I think people are finally going to say enough is enough," said Raiser. "I'm absolutely furious right now. I've been laid up on the couch for two weeks, and it's going to be 13 weeks until it's healed. I have enough friends with knee injuries to know it never really gets better."

Raiser is involved in preliminary legal action and doesn't want to delve much deeper into the accident.

In a letter sent to council, media and district staff, the STS congratulated council on pledging 2009 budget revenues towards a network of bike lanes extending from Valleycliffe to Brackendale, thus connecting seven schools and offering a safe alternative to vehicular travel.

"When gaps in the existing network are upgraded more people will be able to include cycling as a transport mode to school, work, shopping and recreation destinations," reads the letter, which was signed by STS President Bob Brant and Vice President Shawn Gosnell.

Brant recently appeared before council to put forward a request for $505,000 for cycling infrastructure and resources. Some of council expressed surprise over the size of the request, especially given the current economic situation.

During that same meeting, Director of Community Development Mick Gottardi put forward his department's vision for a bike lane network.

At the same meeting, Raiser seemed mildly disgusted.

"This is an integral piece of infrastructure we should've dealt with years ago," said the newly elected councillor at Squamish's last regular district meeting. "And it's sad we're dealing with it during these economic times."

Raiser, who pounded the pedal power planks throughout last year's election campaign, lamented the fact that his kids can't bike safely to school, and that cyclists and pedestrians were in danger on the shoulders of several arteries throughout the district's road network.

Enter BIKE B.C. Cycling Infrastructure Partnership Program, a grant opportunity of up to $250,000. According to a report tabled by Gottardi, the total cost of the infrastructure Raiser so fancies is $458,000. And yet, Gottardi's original recommendation was that staff file an application requesting just $200,000. Developers, he said, could be asked to pick up the shortfall. And, given that the application deadline was Jan. 30, and the district had to match funds ahead of the budgetary process, the department director thought that would be the safest approach.

But council wasn't having it. They went with Gottardi's recommendation, but augmented the figure to $229,000, exactly half of the total project.

"For the first time, I've seen a grant application where I can say, 'Yeah, we've done all our homework,'" said Councillor Patricia Heintzman.

Councillor Doug Race warned the money would be spent for naught if the parking regulations weren't enforced. It seems Squamish's drivers have a knack for straddling bike lanes.

"Without enforcement," he said, "this will be substantially useless."

There were a few other grant requests that evening. Council approved an application for a new pavilion, called the O'siem Community Pavilion. The application was for $375,000, with council covering $125,000, again in advance of the budgetary process. And Wild at Art scored a Community Enhancement Grant of $15,000, down by $10,000 from their request, but also needed ahead of the budgetary process.

"I'm being very kind when I give the $15,000," said Councillor Paul Lalli. "We haven't even seen our budget yet."

Councillor Rob Kirkham, chair of the new Finance Committee, warned against managing money that way.

Other members of council called on the recreation, arts and other sub-community groups to come together in some sort of umbrella organization to help set priorities for projects requiring district money.

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