Rails to Trails? Is it time to move on

For over 125 years rail travel has occurred on Vancouver Island. From the heyday of rail during the coal mining years of Robert Dunsmuir to the budd car travels of recent decades Vancouver Island has changed. Is it time for new thinking?

Recent news on removal of the Dayliner Cars

Many discussions have occurred on creating new formats of rail travel on the south island. Question should be, is there a benefit over bus travel on the same routes? In many cases the rail travel would likely be slower than the highway counterparts thus reducing the argument for rail. More information can be found on the Island Corridor Foundation’s website.

The corridor was built in the days of steam trains and would not be comfortable for high speed commuter traffic such as the West Coast Express. The passenger capacity on the bud cars is not much different than modern double length commuter buses.

Others will argue the historic joy of rail travel, but the lines are overgrown, the views have been lost and it’s time to move forward.

What’s next?

Cost estimates for repair and replacement of the required rail parts would exceed 15 million dollars. This would only repair existing, and not provide for new or increased capacity or realignment for commuter train travel.

Rail and other components of rail lines have a reasonable value on the used or even scrap market.

Instead of spending 15 million to repair, let’s move forward to development of a rails to trails corridor like nothing seen before.

Removal and sale of existing track materials, regrading of the line with light crush materials and signage / pedestrian crossings would be relatively cost neutral.

Existing buildings and parking infrastructure would provide on and off points for cycle tourism and local recreation, and an ongoing maintenance contract for grading and foliage control would be passed on to local service clubs or even included in the recovery costs.

Cycle rail trail routes would provide additional sources a of travel revenue, offer opportunities for local communities to become involved in the project and could be extended to all former sites to provide the most extensive network of recreation trails in North America.

A review of existing networks of rail trail would easily show with minimal costs, tourism and recreation opportunities would be extensive and benefit a broader range of businesses and services on Vancouver Island. Linking with existing structures of the Cowichan Valley Rail Trail and the recently restored Kinsol Trestle, the opportunities for a prosperous future is great.

Rail to Trail projects have created success stories in other parts of the province.

Examples of Rail Trails

It’s a sad day indeed to lose the sound of trains on Vancouver island, but maybe a new opportunity will show itself through Rails to Trails.

Limited access to Hornby Island starting Oct 23rd

HORNBY ISLAND – BC Ferries is spending millions of dollars to improve service and safety on Hornby Island, but people living there say the company isn’t doing enough to maintain services during the upgrades.

For sixteen days, vehicle service will be suspended. No one will be able to drive onto the island or drive off. Ferries says it’s the cost of upgrades and not much can be done about it.

Islanders say BC Ferries just hasn’t tried hard enough.

Follow Gord Kurbis on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CTVNewsGord

Comox Valley Farm Cycle Tour

A Comox Valley Culinary Event

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Comox Valley Farm Cycle Tour provides cyclists with an opportunity to have a unique culinary experience with a self-guided cycle tour to the many farms in the beautiful Comox Valley. The tours give a rare chance to meet the farmers and learn about agriculture in the spectacular Comox Valley.

Choose one of three unique routes that feature the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market, guided tours, samples, and a wide variety of fresh local products available to purchase and take home.

Spend the weekend!   Enjoy great accommodations and romantic getaways in the area; from high-end oceanfront resorts to cozy bed-and-breakfasts (click on ‘Where to Stay’ on the left of this page).

Tour Date: August 6, 2011 (rain or shine)

9am – 4pm

Start Location:
Start your journey at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market (on Headquarters Road in Courtenay)

Register Online with Eventbrite by clicking here.

Visa and Mastercard payments available through Eventbrite.  Cash or Debit through CVEDS office #102-2435 Mansfield Drive, Courtenay, BC  (250)334-2427.


Construction at night for cycling lane

Spencer Anderson
Comox Valley Echo

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

An assessment by Boulevard Transportation Group is recommending that construction of a cycling lane from the top of Comox hill to Rodello Street be partially done at night.

Town staff had the assessment done due to concerns that the three-week work period might cause traffic congestion in Comox and in surrounding areas. The firm was asked to develop a traffic management plan to minimize potential buildup.

While construction of the lane between Glacier View Drive and Rodello can be done during the day and accommodate two-lane traffic, the same is not true for the 325-metre section of the project west of Glacier View.

For that section, the town faces three options.

The first is to allow for single-lane, alternating traffic for construction from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The second is to also allow for single-lane, alternating traffic, but during night construction (8 p.m. to 6 a.m.).

And the third option is to maintain a westbound lane for traffic heading out of Comox, but to divert eastbound traffic heading into the town on Comox Road via another route.

Public works manager Glenn Westendorp said the assessment rules out option one and three.

Option one would create 500-metre queues of traffic on both directions of Comox Road, as well as on Anderton Road, Rodello, Glacier View and entrances to St. Joseph’s Hospital.

And option three would swamp other traffic corridors like Ryan Road, Westendorp said, leaving night construction as the only viable option.

Westendorp said the town will be taking steps to notify the residents, particularly those living near to the construction, through general notices on the town’s web site, radio and newspaper ads, digital sign boards and hand-delivered notices.

Westendorp said staff regrets the impacts night construction will have on the residents, but he added, “the other alternatives will result in several weeks of lost business, driver frustration, compromised access and environmental impacts.”

Coun. Marcia Turner asked if anything could be done to accommodate residents, including scheduling noisier work earlier on in the evening.

“We can certainly ask that question,” Westendorp replied, but he added, “It’s construction work, there’s really no way around it.”

Westendorp noted that an average 14,000 vehicles use the route everyday. “There’s just no easy way,” he said.

“The last time we tried the [traffic] diversion, it was six hours [in] and we were literally getting calls from emergency services in Courtenay saying that we had chocked traffic up in downtown Courtenay.”

Mayor Paul Ives noted that council was still awaiting the outcome of the Towns for Tomorrow grant application made by the town back in December. If successful, the grant could pay for roughly a third of the total $900,000 construction cost, which is currently up for tender.


© Comox Valley Echo 2011

Broken Spoke to ‘pedal’ new cycling map

Spencer Anderson
Comox Valley Echo

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

After an uphill year of planning and data collection, Mike Collins is taking a breather.

The Broken Spoke café and bicycle shop owner celebrated the arrival of the first-ever Comox Valley cycling maps at a bustling launch event at his shop Tuesday night.

The foldout maps outline various routes for cyclists in the Comox Valley, and are for sale in the Valley as of today (Friday) for $6.

Collins had come up with the idea for the maps last year, and had originally intended the project to be a solo endeavour.

However, Project Watershed’s Mapping Centre soon came on board with the idea. Over several months, Mapping Centre business manager Caila Holbrook and a team of volunteers spread out across the Valley on bikes, armed with GPS units and notepads.

The team took down coordinates and made note of road conditions, traffic congestion and scenery. They compiled the information, and finally produced a two by three foot colour map at a total design cost of about $4,000.

Along the way, the mapping effort also picked up support from the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition, the Downtown Business Association, Courtenay’s cycling taskforce, the Regional District and the Chamber of Commerce.

On Tuesday, Collins thanked his sponsors and sponsors and said he was “grateful you [all] had faith in me.”

Proceeds from the maps will go towards producing new maps, Collins said. As well, cyclists who buy the maps will in the future be able to go online and register comments and suggestions for improvements at www.comoxvalleycyclingmap.com.

Holbrook also noted that every map produced by the Mapping Centre in turn produces cash for Project Watershed’s environmental work on restoring the Courtenay River Estuary. She said 30 per cent of the project was funded through community way dollars, a form of currency donated by businesses to local charities.

Brian Schoneberg of the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition heaped praise on the new map.

“It’s a great idea and it’s a long time coming,” he said. “We’d love to see council and the community get behind it.”

Terry Dekker, also of the Cycling Coalition, agreed.

“It’s great for cyclists and great for tourism,” she said. “Cyclists come from out of town and [often] don’t know the area.

“[There’s] amazing cycling in the Comox Valley and it’s great to have it highlighted.”

If you’re interested in purchasing a map, it can be found at the following locations:

– Valhalla Pure Outfitters

– Sure Copy

– The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Visitor Centre

– Project Watershed

– The Broken Spoke


© Comox Valley Echo 2011

Santa’s workshop can use your bike parts

Santa's volunteers need your help!
Santa's volunteers need your help!

Each year in the Comox Valley, a dedicated group of volunteers work tirelessly to repair many used bikes. Santa’s Workshop will try and fix anything sent their way. From tricycles to bmx, road bikes to mountain bikes, all sorts and ages of bikes and parts find their way together in the annual workshop.

If you have any good spare parts that could be used by the volunteers in the shop, bring them to the workshop on weekdays at 301 Puntledge Rd, in the old Island Inkjet building.

We would also like to make a special thanks to Black’s Cycle and the Rotary Club of Comox who donated a pair of bike work-stands to help save the backs of the tireless volunteers.