Letter to the Editor

Winter biking frustrations Now that the snow has fallen I am frustrated on a daily basis that the new bicycle trail on the south side of Two Mile…

Winter biking frustrations

Now that the snow has fallen I am frustrated on a daily basis that the new bicycle trail on the south side of Two Mile Hill is not being (and will not be) cleared of snow for the winter.

I cycle commute on a daily basis and detest the bike trail on the north side for several reasons:

It is an obstacle course:

•With the many intersections, traffic lights, meridian “islands”, business entrances, tight curves and pedestrians, the pathway is anything but a safe or swift means of commuting to our downtown area.

It is dangerous:

• The many intersections increase cycle commuters’ exposure to the traffic (which is even more dangerous in the winter).

• The tight curves on the hill and at each sidewalk ramp force cyclists to make tight turns that are riskier and more difficult in winter conditions.

• Having only the bicycle trail cleared, and not the sidewalk for pedestrians, forces bikes and pedestrians together, which seems counter to the city’s aggressive campaign to keep bikes off of the sidewalk in the summer.

It is poorly designed due to:

• The many road crossings.

With these many road crossings (five that seem like eight because of the “meridian islands” on two of them) cyclists are forced to “ram” their way through the snow berms at each side at the road edges. (In other words, after a substantial snowfall a cyclist would be forced to push their way through 16 snow berms in the short distance between Industrial Road and 2nd Avenue.

• The forced loops in the trail on the way up and down the hill are difficult to navigate in the winter when it is safer to be travelling in a straight line (and also creates the problem with bicycles on the pedestrian sidewalk when it is clear).

• The fact that many cyclists prefer to ride on the more direct sidewalk and many pedestrians prefer to walk on the (further from the street) bike trail.

Poor air quality. Because of the prevailing winds from the south (and even on calm days) the north side of the road is a zone that is permanently polluted with the hanging diesel exhaust — not a pleasant experience when you are exerting yourself to ride up the hill in sub-zero temperatures.

In fact, this exposure to such fumes is enough to make me consider driving instead of cycle commuting.

It is not sustainable:

• Sustainable communities are designed to accommodate their occupants and promote alternative transportation options.

Not dealing with issues that are a daily concern to the cycle commuters will force the occupants to move or start driving, neither of which contribute to the sustainability of a community.

For the many good reasons noted above, I encourage the city to find it in the snow clearing budget the means to clear the new trail on the north side of Two Mile Hill.

The new trail is more direct and well designed with no intersections or tight corners and with access points to Chilkoot Way and 2nd Avenue.

I would also like to see a greater emphasis on clearing all designated bike routes that are on streets in the winter so that we are not forced into traffic during the most dangerous time of year.

Ugly reflective clothing and flashing lights only protect us so much!

Please consider my concerns.

Sean MacKinnon

Whitehorse

The city’s response

Editor’s note: This is the city public works manager James McLeod’s response to MacKinnon’s letter. It was submitted by MacKinnon.

Thank you for your e-mails of October 23, 2007 and October 24, 2007, regarding winter use of the multi-use trail on the south  side of Two Mile Hill.

Section 39 of the 2007 snow and ice control policy states that Two Mile Hill south multi-use path will not receive winter snow maintenance.

Presently the only multi-use trail that is kept plowed is the Two Mile Hill north multi-use path; most of the other trails are kept in a snow packed and groomed condition.

As part of the 2008 budget process and 2008 snow and ice policy review, additional snow clearing for bike trails will be brought forward to council for its consideration.

Should you have any further concerns about snow removal, please contact me via e-mail or at 668-8351.

James McLeod, manager of public works, Whitehorse

Gaps in our health system should be filled

I recently viewed a screening of the Michael Moore film, Sicko — a documentary about the American health care system in which Moore examines and exposes the US system and compares it with those of Canada, the UK, France and Cuba.

While I was shocked and horrified by the details of the US system, I was not surprised.

I did, however, leave the theatre with a feeling that I did not expect: anxiety (about our system).

I did expect that Moore would compare our system to the US and that I would be outraged by the American approach but filled with pride by our system.

The latter was not the case. 

I learned much about the English and French (and Cuban) systems and realized how inadequate our system is.

Universal heath care must include such important elements as preventative health care, eye care, dental care, child care, home support and sufficient time off work.

All of this (and more) should be available to all members of our society whenever it is required.

We should strive to repair that which is failing in our great system and, perhaps more importantly, we should consider expansion to include other services and support for all Canadians, rather than debate including more two-tiered or privatized options.

In fact, we should begin the transition away from those incipient elements of the American system that have already crept into ours, otherwise the system will continue its decline through the influence of the Canadian Medical Association, our current federal government and the provincial and territorial governments in many regions of Canada.

After all, the Americans actually pay more per capita for the public part of their health care system than we do. And they have a substantially lower standard of service.

The flawed “science” of economics would not even support the American system.

There is no room for profit in any essential service.

While I am very healthy and have limited need for health care (currently!) I am certainly willing to share the burden of marginal tax increases that would bring our system to the standard of the UK and/or French systems.

This would benefit us all at a minimal expense while improving a system that the great majority of Canadians support.

Sean MacKinnon

Whitehorse