In times when making ends meet has become a daily challenge for many in our community, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s decision to earmark approximately $100 million for an active transportation plan strikes a nerve.
While the intentions behind enhancing walking and cycling paths may be well-meaning, they seem disconnected from the pressing realities many of us face.
Let’s put this into perspective: We’re living in an era where the cost of living is climbing, affordable housing is more a necessity than a luxury, and every penny in our pockets counts. For a number of us, it’s a juggling act between paying rent, affording groceries, and managing the unrelenting creep of inflation. In such a scenario, the decision to invest an astronomical sum in a Regional Active Transportation Plan (RATP) is baffling, if not infuriating, to those struggling to make ends meet.
The plan, which includes 80 projects aimed at boosting connectivity through walking and cycling, sounds progressive on paper. But it begs the question: Is this the right priority for our tax dollars? For many residents, the answer is a resounding ‘no.’ With such a hefty investment on the line, the funds could be diverted to address more immediate concerns, such as creating affordable housing, improving healthcare, or bolstering education—areas that have a direct impact on the quality of life.
This isn’t to say that walking and cycling paths are without merit. However, the plan’s cost, the ambiguity of its benefits, and the prioritization of projects that seem to serve already well-connected areas are alarming. The RATP’s rating system, which dictates the priority of these projects, has been met with skepticism, especially from those in rural areas who feel left behind. For them, cycling to nearby towns remains dangerous, and the promise of future bike lanes does little to alleviate their current plight.
Moreover, the reliance on potential grants to fund these initiatives is a gamble. Grant money is not guaranteed; it’s a competitive market, and not every application is successful. And even with grant funding, the question remains: Is a transportation plan the best use of these funds, considering our current economic pressures?
It’s difficult to stomach that while we count our nickels, our elected officials are making decisions that seem out of touch with the fiscal anxieties of their constituents. Committing to a $100-million plan under the umbrella of active transportation, without a clear and transparent explanation of its immediate and tangible benefits to the average taxpayer, is a tough pill to swallow.
In essence, this isn’t just a debate about transportation; it’s a conversation about priorities, about fiscal responsibility, and about the kind of future we’re paving—not just with concrete and bike lanes, but with every budget line that defines our community’s roadmap. We need to ensure that our hard-earned tax dollars are being spent on investments that will offer us real, substantial returns, not just the promise of a healthier lifestyle that, frankly, many cannot afford to prioritize right now.