Ride to Work Week last week was a perfect opportunity for Tony Harris of Cycle 16 to let the public know how a project dear to his, and many other hearts, is progressing.
There has been a discussion with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure concerning the design of the concept, and at this point there are three potential routes between the two communities.
The three possibilities include a bridge, a tunnel and a route going the whole way along the highway. Each has its pros and cons.
“Every trail built in the province is looking at the same kind of issues and there are a variety of ways that people have dealt with them,” he said.
Harris felt that part of the message that needed to get out was the cost-benefit for our society and for our community.
For example, in one case where there have been bridges built on a trail system in Squamish, Harris said, “they figure that it’s been worth $10 million per year to the community. While a counter argument has been that it’s close to Vancouver, they figure that the local community has put $3 million back into the local economy in a variety of ways.”
There are also many long-term health benefits that are hard to see, he adds.
“We hope to have some agreements by the end of the year. We’ve come a long way in the last two years. We still have some questions of ownership of the trail. We have very few answers just a lot of questions right now,” he said.
“For example, one of our preferred solutions would be a bridge over the highway. This will have to be investigated to see if it’s possible. If not, a different option will have to be considered.”
The group has meetings the first Wednesday of every month and the occasional informal meeting.
“Right now, we’ll just have to see what the engineer has to say and that might determine our next move,” said Harris.
Harris feels that their outlook is very positive. At this point Cycle 16 has just short of 500 members. If you are interested in joining, please go to cycle16.ca. Annual memberships for individuals are $15, or you can get a family membership for $20.
At the present time, Harris said the group is in discussion with a lawyer concerning terminology with several landowners and that the discussion with the Ministry has been very professional.
“Sometimes it feels almost overwhelming but we’re making headway. It’s a sensitive process we are in,” he said.
The highway engineer will do the assessment of the route and negotiations are underway with landowners. Harris feels that there is a genuine appetite for the project.
Last Thursday evening, there was a cycle ride from Smithers to Telkwa with about 30 people participating. The group had an RCMP escort and ended up at the Telkwa post office. On the return, individuals chose a variety of routes.
“One interesting thing was that the aggressiveness of drivers on the highway was not bad but on the back road on the way back I was darn near run off the road,” said Harris.
“For me, I’ve been a long-term tax-paying resident of the Bulkley Valley and I feel as much of a vehicle. Where there is an expectation of a paved road, I should be able to have an expectation of a paved trail. It’s distressing to see the arrogance of some drivers.”
Harris described a recent television program about some South American cities where they were closing down city streets once a week and only allowing bicycles and the like.
“Surely if they can do that then we should be able to put a trail between two close communities,” he said. “It would link in a healthy fashion.”
“We’re going to have some hiccups along the way but it’s a good project and we believe in it. We have a vision. We have tremendous support. We know it’s going to be a long-term project and our heels are dug in and we’re working away at it,” he said.