Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Come on Gabriola, take a leaf from Bowen's book

It's almost two years now since Gabriola floated the idea of Car Stops - a concept pioneered by the local community on Pender Island which, like Gabriola, has no public transportation.

The Pender Car Stops scheme started back in 2008 with 16 signs funded jointly by the Regional District and the Lions Club of BC. Because these were permanent signs, permission had to be obtained from the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure (MOTI) before they could be erected. A further 13 Car Stops were added in 2009, with the aim that there should be a Car Stop within walking distance of every home on the island.

Gabriola's hopes of establishing a similar scheme in 2009 were dashed by bureaucracy - when a generous $3,500 grant offered by MOTI flew straight out the window while we waited in vain for the Regional District of Nanaimo to issue permits for the signs and to decide whether they would accept liability and maintenance responsibility. Since then - nothing. Despite every good intention, the community seems to have accepted that the whole idea is just too complex and there's nothing we can do about it.

Back in the UK, hundreds of small rural communities have developed voluntary car schemes with no formal signage and no intervention required from local government. So why can't Gabriola do the same, I asked. No, it can't be done here, I was told - the insurance regulations wouldn't allow it. And anyway, there's probably no-one with the time to co-ordinate such a scheme.

Then, along comes Bowen Island with a voluntary lift-giving scheme that does just what it says on the tin

Launching their new website this week, Bowen LIFT needs no roadside signs, no co-ordinator, no funding from MOTI and no government permits. It's just a self-help website on which offers or requests for rides can be posted, and self-printed car signs to let folks know that you're able to offer a ride in the direction indicated on the sign. So simple, it could have been invented for Gabriola.

How often have we walked onto the ferry and trekked the lines of cars hoping to see a friend or neighbour who can offer a ride home? Or set off up the hill, telling ourselves that there's no point thumbing a ride until we've made the turn into Taylor Bay, North or South Road? With a small sign in the front of the car, it would be so easy to spot cars heading in the right direction - even on the ferry.

So come on Gabriola, don't sit there with your head in your hands saying it's all too complicated. It can be done - and I, for one, will be watching with interest to see how Bowen Island's initiative pays off. And if, like me, you think this is a scheme worth promoting, let me know by email at john@islandtransportsolutions.com . We could have this up and running in no time!