Has much changed? Well, it's still daunting out there for cyclists on the fast track, but yes, as a matter of fact, it has and there's better reason nowadays to imagine a bright future for cyclists here in Motor City. True, the Galloping Goose connector trail and bridge has lost traction as the first of the Parks & Trail Masterplan's Class A priorities (championed back then by Mayor Evans and the District's Laura Byrne, who had the good grace to respond to Average Joe's points). Yet on other fronts, initiatives have been taken, more are coming and the seeds of a bike culture locally are sprouting fast.
Safe cycling and pedestrian lanes along the highway from Sooke River Road as far as Whiffen Spit Rd. need to be a priority. We need to solidify the informal network of off-road trails west of Otter Point Road and link them to the excellent trail system on the town's eastside. And Harbourview shapes up as a prime south Island mecca for mountain biking. As T'Sou-ke Nation chief Gordon Planes said at the BC Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium held here last year, "I can see these youth on bicycles. The five to 15 year olds. In 10 years we will see a huge shift. We are going to leave something for our children not born yet. They will be riding bikes because we left something for them.”
A few reasons to be cheerful about cycling in Sooke:
* A decent and growing selection of bike racks can now be found around town thanks to business initiatives, Maywell Wickheim's handiwork and donations from the Sooke Slow Food Cycle.
* As per the directions of Sooke's remarkably bike-friendly Transportation Master Plan, multi-use trails now line Church and Wadams Way and they'll keep appearing as the District expands its connector road network.
* Commuter bike storage lockers are at the park-and-rides near EMCS courtesy Stephen Hindrichs and the Juan De Fuca Cycling Coalition (which has now merged with Transition Town Sooke).
* Cycling's huge tourism upside was showcased at last year's MBT Symposium at the Prestige Hotel - an event the town hosted thanks to the groundwork of Steve Grundy (a keen biker, chair of the Mayor's Advisory Panel on Economic Development and a VP at Royal Roads University) along with Councillor Maja Tait and Sooke Mountain Cycle's Lorien Arnold.
* The Sooke Slow Food Cycle, which I helped organize in 2011 and 2012 along with Lee and Stephen Hindrichs, Erik Bjornsen, Sinclair Philip, Bev England, Samm Port and a team of other volunteers, was a community building and tourism event initiated by Transition Sooke. It also had the founding-partner support of Sooke Food CHI, the JDF Cycling Coalition, the T'Sou-ke Nation, the Sooke Region Tourism Association and the District of Sooke. The turnout was modest both years, however we did generate significant media exposure for Sooke, promoted existing off-road routes, had a blast with liked-minded cyclists, and sent surplus cash to fund blueprints for the bike skills park along with other worthy initiatives: the EMCS Slow Food Garden, Sooke Food CHI, the Sooke Garden Club (to help fund a garden at the Sooke Hospice), and the Sooke Longboat Society.
* While council rescinded its original approval of a bike skills park in John Phillips Memorial Park (though a lengthy public process that I wrote about for Transition Sooke), phase one of an upgraded facility at SEAPARC is now complete next to the ball diamond. All credit to the rec centre's Steve Knoke and the steering committee for getting it done with a plan for phase two work next spring. Local home-schooled kids also pitched in with energy and funding as well. (For the record, Candidate Jeff believes the original approval of the JPMP skills park was definitive cart-before-horse thinking; the District needs to invite all potential user groups eager for a piece of our town's central green space to convene in a facilitated public process, revisit the 2006 master plan, and only then strategically develop the park as a whole ... not piecemeal as has been the case with the bike skills, horseshoe club and off-leash dog proposals.)
* The District is now seeking matching funds of up to $360k from the BC government to create new cycling lanes around town - either in the town centre or perhaps along Sooke River Rd. to Meota Dr. as link to the Galloping Goose. Projects have to be completed within a year of application, so council opted not to pursue a larger grant that might have funded the aforementioned cycling/pedestrian bridge linking the Goose to the town's east-end trail network. Sooke's contribution will come from our share of the federal government's Gas Tax (ironically but happily enough).
Final message to Average Joe: We're not such a cycling backwater after all. Please come back someday and try us again. :-)