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Driving shouldn't be only option

There's a need for bus, bike routes, less reliance on cars

Yikes! The latest news is my postal code has the highest drunk driving record in B.C. -15 for every 1000 people.

That's East Richmond, southeast to be exact. Now before you decide never to come over this way, fearing drunken farmers careening down the narrow roads on their tractors, let's look again.

The area is bounded by the Massey Tunnel, Highway 99, Highway 91 and Westminster Highway. All good places for the traffic police to pull over drivers passing on through, eh?

So it's not just residents blowing over 0.05 and putting other people at risk. (Editor's note: ICBC claims these numbers are based on addresses where tickets are sent, not where the incident occurred.)

Even so, there is another issue that needs to be brought to light - public transportation and bike lanes.

We have fewer buses than any other area of Richmond, so people don't have the choice of hoping on transit, if they want to imbibe here.

And it's not like there is no place to go to drink.

There are at least eight golf courses or driving ranges in the area with liquor facilities.

There are three restaurants and a hotel in the Watermania area, all licensed.

Feeding into this notorious postal code from the north are two licensed banquet halls.

From the west side there is Ironwood and Kingswood and more licensed places. From the east are, yet again, more pubs and restaurants and even a casino.

Now, I'm not saying they shouldn't sell liquor, but wouldn't you think city hall would consider the transportation infrastructure before allowing all these drinking establishments to be built?

Yes, we can certainly use better public transit in East Richmond. Some areas have no buses at all - they are transit deserts.

We, who live east of No. 5 Road, consider ourselves lucky to only have to walk a mile to get to the 405 bus.

And although the 405 route picks up every half hour during the day, it stops running at 7 p.m. on weekends and 8.30 p.m. on weekdays.

And forget the C99 to and from Hamilton; the closest it gets is Westminster and Gilley. That's a long walk to the Auto Mall bus, the only option for many of us to get directly into Brighouse.

Some friends of my age lived in East Richmond as kids. Back then, there was one bus a day going down Westminster Highway to Cambie and No. 5 roads in the morning and one from Cambie and No. 5 in the afternoon.

But 40 years later, even with all the development, what do we have?

Now there are no buses!

OK, so maybe a person can ride their bike to the local watering hole, if you can find a bike lane.

The bike lane on Steveston disappears at No. 5 Road and the freeway overpass.

There are no bike lanes on No. 5, Sidaway or No.

6 roads. I can state with experience that it's a real risk if you ride a bike down many of the roads in this area.

Sometimes I have to ride in the middle of the road lane (like the vehicle I legally am) so that cars do not run me into the ditch.

I'm sure they curse me but I have a right to be there and not be forced off the road.

I was just reading that TransLink has proposed some region-wide projects that "include adding and improving cycling infrastructure" and "upgrades to bus service which may include improved bus service in corridors including Cambie Road and Queensborough."

Note that one announcement says "include" and the other says "may include."

Although I'm happy they will be improving things for bikes, I'd still like to see more buses. I think it's probably easier to get on a bus drunk than on a bike!

If we're going to have all these licensed facilities we should at least be able to get to and from them safely.

I would urge you to participate in TransLink's to tell them what you think.

I will certainly be letting them know they should start up a bus service in the Cambie/ Queensborough corridor, let alone "improve" one.

They have to catch up with 40 years ago. And besides getting Hamiltonians to work in Brighouse every day, just think of all the drinking/ not driving opportunities that would come with busing to the casino in Queensborough. Ahh, now that's good transit planning.

De Whalen is a longtime activist in Richmond who is involved in poverty response and affordable housing projects.