British Columbia

Cyclists say they want better bike infrastructure on BC Ferries

A number of cyclists in Victoria who use BC Ferries are concerned the company isn’t doing enough to encourage cyclists. They say as well as a lack of proper storage space, direction signage is also inadequate.

Few bike racks, improper signage and bike fees have cyclists concerned

Cyclists in Victoria say BC Ferries needs to encourage cycling by implementing proper bicycle storage, better signage and putting the fee it charges for bikes toward cycling infrastructure. (Teale Bondaroff/Submitted)

Teale Bondaroff says he was alarmed when a BC Ferries attendant instructed him to secure his bicycle against the ferry's life-saving and fire equipment. 

"They don't really have anywhere to lean your bike," he said of the smaller ferries that take Gulf Island routes. "I had to ask a couple times as to whether my bike [would] be blocking potentially important equipment." 

He was told it would be.

Bondaroff and a number of cyclists in Victoria who use BC Ferries are concerned the company isn't doing enough to encourage cyclists.They say as well as a lack of proper storage space, direction signage is also inadequate.

Corey Burger, the policy chair for the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, says even on the large ferries with routes between the island and the mainland, there just aren't enough bike racks to meet the needs of the growing number of cyclists, and this can pose hazards for ferry-goers.

"Once you get on the ferry … staff tells you to [ride] to the end and lock your bike up on the car deck somewhere," he said. "I usually put my bike in between the outer wall and inner wall." 

He says the experience feels unsafe, as cyclists often have to weave through gaps between vehicles.

Teale Bondaroff says he was instructed to secure his bicycle against important life-saving equipment on a BC Ferries vessel. (Teale Bondaroff/Submitted)

Bike fee is inappropriate

Burger also says a $2 fee cyclists are charged to bring their bikes on board doesn't make sense. 

"You put your bicycle on a car and it costs nothing. But if I get out of the car and [sit] on my bike, now it costs $2," he said.

Bondaroff says the fee is ironic, considering not much has been done to improve bicycle infrastructure in recent years. Through a Freedom of Information request he learned that BC Ferries has made over $1.6 million from the cycling fee since 2003. 

BC Ferries spokesperson Astrid Braunschmidt says the company made over $114,000 last year alone, and the "general revenue" does not go toward anything specific. 

Bondaroff says the money should be earmarked for cyclists. 

This past spring, BC Ferries requested a meeting with Burger and members of other cycling organizations to discuss improvements.

"They wanted to [understand] what it meant to have a good biking experience at the terminal and on the ferry," he recounted, noting they seemed generally receptive to his ideas.

BC Ferries to improve new vessels

Earlier this year, BC Ferries released a public engagement survey to gather feedback on how to improve services as they prepare to build four new vessels. A report from early this month says respondents "voiced a strong need for designated and adequate space for bicycle parking and the ability to lock up bicycles during sailing."

The report mentions the need for more bike racks, baggage and equipment lockers, surveillance measures and space for all sizes of bicycles. 

Braunschmidt says BC Ferries hopes to include these considerations in the designs of its new vessels.

Bondaroff says he's glad the company is considering these improvements but still feels dissatisfied. 

"In the engagement report, they talk about accommodating bikes, but that's not enough in this day and age. We need them to be encouraging cycling."

About the Author

Adam van der Zwan is a journalist based in Victoria, British Columbia. You can send him a news tip at adam.van.der.zwan@cbc.ca.