One of the few concepts I remember from my traffic engineering studies is the very counter-intuitive fact that the difference between the most highly efficient state of traffic flow and a total traffic jam is very minimal.

It only takes a miniscule increase in the number of vehicles on any given road to go from well flowing traffic to complete gridlock. That’s why even a small transition of people out of cars and into other modes of transportation can make a significant impact on the flow of vehicle traffic. Only a few more people riding bikes, walking or taking the bus can dramatically increase the efficiency of travel for everyone on our roads.

This is why the construction of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure – such as the proposed bridge on 6th Street, bike lanes and better sidewalks – benefits all of us. Even a 5% increase in non-vehicle transportation can significantly improve the efficiency of roads for people who choose to remain in their vehicles, as it moves us further away from the tipping point between efficient traffic and traffic jams.

Combine this with the fact that the same number of people can be moved with non-vehicular infrastructure that costs significantly less than the equivalent vehicle infrastructure that would be required, and the cost savings begin to add up.

Removing vehicles from the road will also decrease wear and tear on existing infrastructure, extending the life of roads we’ve already built and, again, saving everyone money.

In the end, people who choose to continue to drive cars will benefit immensely from every penny spent on bike lanes, transit improvements and pedestrian infrastructure.

Andrew Gower is a partner and Courtenay branch manager of Wedler Engineering. He volunteers with several local non-profits and is passionate about the Comox Valley’s sustainable future. He can be reached at 250.334.3263 or

Andrew Gower

Wedler Engineering