The Comox Valley is the land of outdoor activity. It is known for mountain biking but equally enjoyed by people on road bikes. One popular route is through the rural Comox Valley communities situated between Cook Creek Road and Royston Road, a 30 km stretch along Hwy 19A. With an investment in better cycling infrastructure, the Comox Valley could become a mid-Vancouver Island cycling destination.
Even now, many people cycle this route: local cycling clubs, tourists and residents. It is rare not to spot a person on a bike here. This section of Hwy 19A offers the only transportation route by car, bike, transit or foot through the adjacent ocean front residential nodes and contains the access point to both Denman and Hornby Islands. It is also an important link for the bicycle circle route between Nanaimo, the Comox Valley, Powell River and the Sunshine Coast. The route offers a unique rural community experience for both locals and the growing number of people seeking adventure by bike.
In my experience, the best side of Hwy 19A between Royston and Cook Creek Road is its diverse natural setting offering vistas of Baynes Sound, aromas of the sea, stretches of forest and occasional viewings of wildlife from both the forest and the sea. The friendly unique rural communities along the route provide sanctuaries of rest, food and hospitality. The overall terrain is comfortable, with undulating sections but nothing steep. It is a route ideal for cycle tourism and transportation by bike, or rather could be.
The negative side is the road itself. It has areas of neglect and inadequate shoulder widths. The posted traffic speeds vary between 60-80 kmh. Generally it denies a bike rider a safe space. The shoulder is often too narrow, some spots as narrow as 9 inches wide; the cars too fast, many very large, and frequently not moving over nor slowing down enough for a cyclist to feel safe; the upkeep of the road shoulder is poor including overgrown greenery, gravel, and cracked and angled pavement, many of the bridge decks are shared with highway speed traffic with no refuge for the bike rider and interspersed during a bike ride is often parked vehicles that essentially force the cyclist off the shoulder into a travel lane meant for larger and faster moving traffic.
My conclusion is this section of Hwy 19A does not consider public safety issues for people on bikes nor people on foot. The gold standard would be protected cycling and walking infrastructure, something, given my recent experiences, I am advocating for.
I believe improved cycling infrastructure on Hwy 19A in the Comox Valley would make the road safer for people on bikes. A likely outcome would be more residents cycling for transportation, and a marked rise in cyclotourism. The return on investment beyond the potential for saving a person’s life is the role cycling plays in climate action solutions, health care cost reduction, tourism and rural community economic growth.
Please email the Minister of Transportation and Highways, the Hon. Todd Stone to ask for investment for safer cycling infrastructure on Hwy 19A:
Photo Credits: Tourism Whistler / Mike Crane
The Sea to Sky corridor (Highway 99 and secondary roads) connects Horseshoe Bay, Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton, Mt. Currie and on to Lillooet. The natural beauty of the corridor and recent improvements to the highway and roads to Squamish Valley, Callaghan Valley, Pemberton Meadows and Portage Road to D’Arcy, has enhanced the attractiveness of the area for motorists and cyclists alike.
Widespread awareness created by GranFondo Whistler and IRONMAN Canada plus the growth of road cycling throughout Canada has resulted in a remarkable increase in the number of recreational road cyclists in the corridor. These major events and related visitors have brought significant economic benefits to corridor communities and to the province.
The Whistler Cycling Club believes that the cycling priorities in the provincial government’s recently issued B.C. on the Move – A 10-year Transportation Plan could markedly improve the safety and experience for both cyclists and motorists in the corridor. The provincial plan identifies three cycling priorities for action:
- Invest $18 million over the next three years to partner with communities to build new bike lanes and trails throughout B.C.
- Widen shoulders, double the frequency of sweeping and implement safety improvements on provincial highways in areas with a high volume of cyclists
- Develop and implement a cycling tourism signage and marketing strategy
The Whistler Cycling Club has submitted the following recommendations to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in line with the cycling priorities of the provincial plan. We believe these would help improve safety and enjoyment for all road users in the Sea to Sky corridor.
- Significantly increase the frequency of shoulder sweeping, especially where gravel and debris from logging trucks, etc. collect along concrete barriers and at intersections.
- Clearly mark shoulder hazards until they can be remedied.
- Repair cracked, uneven and damaged shoulders.
- Repaint worn fog lines and bicycle pavement stencils early in the cycling season.
- Ensure high value cycling secondary roads are well maintained (e.g. Callaghan Valley Road to Whistler Olympic Park).
Regulation and Signage
- Clarify existing cycling laws, and educate cyclists and motorists on the laws and etiquette for shared road use through advertising, collateral, ICBC, driver training and cyclist training (including school-aged youth).
- Create laws to adopt a mandatory ‘minimum 1.0 to 1.5 metre’ separation between vehicles and cyclists.
- Utilize existing road signage (such as the overhead electronic signs at Alice Lake and Alta Lake Road) to encourage motorists to watch for cyclists.
- Install frequent regulatory and cycling tourism route signs to alert drivers that cyclists may be present and to legitimize and promote road cycling.
- Install large “Warning – Cyclists on Roadway” signs for areas where the shoulder width is minimal/non-existent, where sightlines are poor or where there is a high risk of vehicle/cyclist collision. Suggested new locations are at the bottom of the northbound hill from Britannia and at the bottom of the northbound Duffey Lake Road from Lillooet Lake.
- In specific areas where gravel and debris collects frequently, we recommend the province consider paving adjoining gravel side roads near their intersection with the highway or redesigning the shoulder to prevent debris from accumulating. This one-time cost may be less expensive than the repeated cost of sweeping, and it will provide a consistently safe shoulder for cycling.
- Replace hazardous drain grates that could cause a cyclist to crash or force a cyclist to venture into the vehicle lane.
- Repave Highway 99 from Whistler to Pemberton with minimum 1.5 m shoulder width for cyclists.
- Continue to repave and/or widen shoulders of secondary roads in the corridor (e.g. Squamish Valley, Pemberton Meadows, Portage Road).
- Repair/repave roads shoulder-to-shoulder, not just the vehicle lanes.
- Widen Highway 99 shoulders in key locations, including Britannia Beach to Murrin Park; Porteau Cove to Furry Creek and hazardous sections between Whistler and Pemberton. Where possible, the minimum useable width, not including rumble strips, should be 1.5 m. (If it is impractical to widen the shoulder in the Porteau area, consider the installation of cyclist-activated flashing lights to warn motorists that cyclists are present.)
We at the Whistler Cycling Club believe that road cycling could be safer and more enjoyable and that cycling tourism would grow if similar improvements were made in other areas of the province. We support the BC Cycling Coalition in urging the BC Government to increase investment in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure and programs.
We encourage you to review the BC Cycling Coalition Billion for Bikes information and decide whether you wish to support their petition to the Provincial Government.
One of the key natural features of the Okanagan Valley is a chain of lakes that are connected by the Okanagan River. Many small and medium-sized communities dot their shorelines. Vineyards and orchards welcome visitors and residents. It is a remarkably beautiful region.
Over the last few years trail development for hikers and cyclists has progressed to a point where it becomes feasible to connect all communities of the Okanagan Valley including Osoyoos, Penticton, Kelowna, Lake Country and Vernon with a continuous 250km pathway. Over 70% will follow abandoned rail trails along beautiful lakeshores, valleys and rivers. Only a very small portion will follow Highway 97 on a separate bike lane or go through suburban areas on residential roads.
The Okanagan Valley has established an international reputation as a cycling paradise. Unfortunately many cycling events are at the local level since there currently is no safe way of cycling from community to community. Several local governments and volunteer groups including The Trail of the Okanagans, The Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative, The Gellatly Bay Trails and Parks Society and The Shuswap Trail Alliance have developed plans to address this situation.
The vision of a valley-wide cycling corridor includes the development of loops and spurs that provide access to communities, vineyards, beaches, parks, the Trans Canada Trail and the many single-track mountain bike areas. Various studies have shown that significant economic benefits can be realized by encouraging cycling-tourism. In addition a safe, affordable, green transportation option is required for commuters and students visiting UBC Okanagan and the various facilities of the Okanagan College.
Though significant investments have already been made by local municipalities, regional districts and the Provincial Government, additional funding is required to build safe cycling lanes along sections of Highway 97, to acquire land leases from private owners and the Okanagan Nation bands, and to construct trails or to improve the surface of existing trails.
These infrastructure investments are expected to yield significant returns by extending the short summer tourist season into the spring and fall shoulder seasons, which is required to make additional private investment for businesses including hotels, restaurants viable.
HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN
The $1 billion for cycling and walking proposed by the BC Cycling Coalition would greatly speed the completion of Trail of the Okanagans and other cycling improvements in the Okanagan thus enabling residents and visitors to experience the economic, health and environmental benefits of cycling sooner. Please sign the petition and share it with your friends, family and co-workers.
Initiated in 1992 as a project to celebrate Canada’s 125th year, the Trans Canada Trail is the world’s longest network of multi-use recreational trails for biking, walking, hiking and horseback riding. In the winter, many sections are great for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. When connected, it will stretch 23,000 kilometres from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans, through every province and territory, linking over 1000 communities and all Canadians.
In British Columbia, the Trans Canada Trail runs nearly 1,700 kilometres from Victoria to the Rocky Mountains, through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It passes through or near many communities including: Victoria, Duncan, and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island; West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Burnaby, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Surrey and Langley in the Lower Mainland; Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Hope in the Fraser Valley; Princeton, Penticton, and Kelowna in the Okanagan; Kootenay and Rocky Mountain communities including Grand Forks, Trail, Fernie and Cranbrook, and onto the British Columbia-Alberta border. It will have spur trails linking to it as the British Columbia Trail Network develops.
Our maps show connected and operational trail in green, with gaps and interim routes shown in yellow. It is our goal to fully connect these gaps with operational trail (or sanctioned roadway connections) by January 1, 2017. Many segments are well on their way to being developed as recreational trail. However, many large segments remain as gaps. Some of the most notable include:
- City of Victoria (Clover Point to Johnson Street Bridge
- Malahat (Langford to Shawnigan Lake)
- Coquihalla River Bridge (NE of Hope, missing bridge over the river)
- Summerland to Penticton on the KVR
- Castlegar to Trail
- Trail to Salmo
- Nelson to Kimberley Nature Park/St Mary's
- Cranbrook to Fernie
- Fernie to Elk Pass
More information on the BC sections of the Trail at: http://trailsbc.ca/tct/trans-canada-trail
For more information about the Trans Canada Trail, please visit their web site: www.tctrail.ca
HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN
TrailsBC strongly supports the Biking and Walking for Everyone - Billion for Bikes campaign. The dramatically increased investment in cycling will really help complete the Trans Canada Trail by 2017 as well as fund other trails in BC.
The Inside Passage Bike Route is a proposed cycling touring linking Comox, Courtenay, Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Chemainus, Duncan, Mill Bay and communities in-between. It will also connect with BC Ferries to Hornby Island, Denman Island, Gabriola Island, Saltspring Island and Thetis Island. The Route is a project of the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition, the Oceanside Cycling Coalition and the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition. The goal is to establish a continuous trail for cycling along the beautiful eastern shore of Vancouver Island. The upgraded cycling facilities will also enable locals to cycle more for their daily trips.
Help make the Inside Passage Bike Route and other cycling improvements on the Island happen. Please sign the Billion for Cycling and Walking petition and share it with your friends, family and co-workers.
The Vancouver Island cycling coalitions are working with other cycling groups and the BC Cycling Coalition to help create a designated bike-touring route linking the whole of the Island with the Sunshine Coast and the Lower Mainland.
The Inside Passage Bike Route will enable cycling tourists to safely and conveniently access hotels, stores, bakeries, pubs, restaurants, farms, wineries and tourist attractions thereby greatly enhancing their vacation experience and benefiting local businesses, the economy and increasing tax revenue for the Provincial and Federal Governments.
Québec’s Route Verte, a province wide network of cycling routes, has proven to be very effective in attracting tourists from around the world and nearby states and provinces. In 2006 it is estimated that Route Verte users spent 134 million supporting over 2,800 jobs. This economic activity is estimated to generate more than $36 million in tax revenue for the Provincial and Federal Governments.
The Inside Passage Bike Route project is at end of Stage 1 which involved the route selection and mapping. Each coalition partner has established the best route through their area, created a map and identified alternative routes and points of interest.
Currently, in Stage 2, each partner organization is identifying sections that need infrastructure upgrades. Stage 3 is the development signage and wayfinding methods, including printed and digital maps. The end goal will be a continues signed recreational bike route all along the island with options for site excursions and alternative routes and point of interests.
Help Make it Happen
The $1 billion for cycling and walking proposed by the BC Cycling Coalition would greatly speed the completion of Inside Passage Bike Route and other cycling improvements on Vancouver Island thus enabling residents and visitors to experience the economic, health and environmental benefits of cycling sooner. Please sign the petition and share it with your friends, family and co-workers.
The Coastal Bike Route is a joint project of Transportation Choices – Sunshine Coast (“TraC”) and the Gibsons and District Chamber of Commerce. Our vision is a designated bike-touring route linking the whole Sunshine Coast from Langdale to Earls Cove and on to Powell River that will draw cyclo-tourists to the Sunshine Coast, while also serving the needs of local cyclists in those communities as well as Gibsons, Secret Cove, Halfmoon Bay and Roberts Creek.
Why the Coastal Bike Route?
- Québec’s La Route Verte generates an estimated $200 million in economic benefits for communities along the route.
- Oregon’s bike touring infrastructure is attracting up to 1.2 million visitors/year, with average expenditures of $83/day.
- In 2008 cyclo-tourists contributed $40 million to the economies of communities along the Great Allegheny Passage between Marlyland and Pennsylvania.
- The BC Cycling Coalition estimates the potential for $20,000 expenditure per year per kilometer of developed bike route.
The Sunshine Coast is ideally situated to capitalize on this growing market. We are the closest daytrip and multi-day destination to the Lower Mainland, easily accessible by visitors arriving via the Vancouver International Airport, and a natural part of a larger Circle Route that connects to Vancouver Island via Horseshoe Bay or Powell River. It’s not a question of whether to build a destination bike route, by why not?
Help Make it Happen
TraC strongly supports the Cycling and Walking for Everyone - Billion for Bikes campaign. The dramatically increased investment in cycling will really help move forward the Coastal Bike Route and other cycling and walking improvements on the Coast.
More on TraC and the Coastal Bike Route here.