In British Columbia, why is it important to keep the Canadian Pacific’s Armstrong Subdivision in rail operations and prevent CP from selling it off for non-transportation use? Why is it important that all abandoned rail lines be turned into bike trails? Why is it important that all operational rail lines also have bike trails within their right-of-way where mountain cliffs are not a hindrance? Look at what is happening in Toronto and Ontario into Québec. ( www.biketrain/ca ). For rail-trails and rail with trails, Québec’s La Route Verte touring cycling routes and findings in an economic report prepared by a Montréal university, has shown a clear, positive impact on local retail economies.
How inspiring, a bike train operating out of Toronto. A bit of Europe brought into our land. It is the work of Justine Lafontaine and Transportation Options. In the first year, Justin had to put a bike rack on a VIA train luggage car and then personally loaded the bikes. In 2009, I had finished putting my folding bike into
its soft case and went to the VIA check-in agent in Toronto on my way to Montréal. He looked at the bag and told me that they had a bike rack on the train I was going on. What a surprise.
In 2010, Transportation Options and its partners, VIA Rail, Ontario Northlands, Go Transit and others, have a suite of routes that are serviced with capacity to carry bikes on train. Some of these services take cyclists and their bicycles 500 kms and more to their Ontario destinations. Also pilot trains are being run to destinations such as Huntsville, Bracebridge, and South River north of Toronto.
Imagine if the bike train concept were brought to British Columbia. It would open up such destinations as Whistler and farther north municipalities, the Fraser Valley to Salmon Arms and south to Kelowna, Osoyoos and east, Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, and other destinations. Already we have capacity to travel south to Seattle, Portland, and Eugene, Oregon with the two train services each day on Amtrak that have bike racks.
Imagine the flexibility that would be provided for touring cycling for a day, for a weekend, or for longer trips, not only from Vancouver outward but also by bringing people from the B.C. interior to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Image the new business and revenue that smaller centres in BC would enjoy from the cycling touring trade. Now if this were Europe, Kelowna would only be 2 hours or less from Vancouver with high-speed trains. One could leave Vancouver in the morning, cycle the wine country of the Okanagan, and return home the same day. A dream or a reality someday? Time will tell.
A bike train — is it something Vancouverites and British Columbians would use? Well for me, the answer is yes. I have just returned from a bike and train trip in Europe. What a joy to push a bike loaded with panniers and too much stuff onto train cars. Just remember to make bike rack reservations for the bike on trains or you may be disappointed. By the end of August, I will be off on my next bike and train trip. This time the trip will be to the eastern part of North America. This time it will not be as convenient as
pushing a bike on a train. At each stop, the folding bike will be taken out or put back into its soft bag.
When we lived in Toronto, we made good use of the GO Transit trains to get out of the city for a day, a weekend, or longer. Train stops such as Kingston, Cobourg, and Cornwall were frequent destinations. The VIA Rail station staff would thoughtfully keep our bike boxes until we returned.
So, we should rally our governments to ensure that rail lines stay for transportation uses, either singularly for cycling or for bike trails and operational trackage within the same right-of-way.