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CycloTouring in California

 

For promoting cycling touring, information on closed sections of interstate and state highways needs to be easily accessible on the Internet.  Adventure Cycling maps do provide routes through the state and are useful, if you are going in the direction set out and if you have the time and energy for the defined routes.

CycloTouring in California, at this time, tends to be more for long distance cyclists who are either confident in cycling in fast moving traffic, are competent cyclists, or lean towards risk-taking. Cycling of families with children, as is frequently seen in Europe, would, most likely, be more restricted to some regions in the state that have good cycling infrastructure and multi-kilometres of bike trails. CycloTouring as a combined mobility trip with the Californian and Amtrak train systems is simple and provides opportunities for regional touring. Just take a train to a designation and start the trip from there and then take the train back. Train one way and return by cycling provides another opportunity to extend the trip in different parts of the state. With the trains providing bike space without the need for boxing bikes expands the opportunities for cyclotouring. The only exception is Amtrak’s Coastal Starlight train, which still requires boxing of bicycles. Hope this changes in the near future. How Amtrak’s bus system fits into this type of touring is uncertain to me as I have received different information when the question was asked. Also, it seems uncertain if a bike would be taken when you show up for a bus. Would suggest that bike racks on front and on the back of these buses, i.e. the Swiss method, would increase cyclotourists using these buses. (Combined mobility cyclotouring trips will be the subject of a future blog article)

Realistically, the only provincial / state entity in North America that has comparable European style cyclotouring capacity, which appeals to families and children is the Province of Quebec with its famous La Route Verté network and the province’s capacity for combined mobility with the intercity transportation providers (trains, buses).

California is a frustrating state to cycle in.  Actually, there was enough frustration during the trip where I did not want to cycle to another city and just wanted to get out of the state.  Discouraging was the number of occurrences where interstate and other highways were closed to cyclists along my desired route path.   This did not happen in other western states.

Yes, one could go way out of the desired direction to find highways to cycle on.  Many times these highway routings were not direct to the desired target city for that night.  It would have taken much longer to reach my final destination this way.

Replacing maps with GPS-based cycling computer.
Garmin Edge 800
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Trip planning for the next day, setting up the day course on my Garmin BaseCamp computer mapping software, and then downloading the information onto the Garmin 800 GPS took much longer than it did in other states.  Sometimes it took an extra hour.

The lack of readily availability of information on which section of interstate and state highways were closed to cyclists caused trip planning to be time consuming.

 

The dreaded sign on interstate and state highways. Time to get off. The highway not designed for cycling as a mode of transportation.
Redding CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

On one day, an unexpected cycling prohibited sign on a state highway forced rerouting and change of destination for the night half way through that day’s trip when uncancellable motel reservations were already made in another city 30 kilometres farther away.  This happened on a Saturday of a busy weekend, which drew many tourists to this area.  Hotels and motels were filled up.  Finally, an accommodation was found late in the day at the edge of that city.  As it turned out, it was the last room available in the motel.  A bit of luck, at least.

 

There was no advance warning signs that this would occur.  There were no cycling bypass route or signs.  The only alternative was to cycle 20 kilometres north and then another 20 kilometres west to meet up with a highway that would take me to my intended destination.  Now, the question became “Is the highway to the motel open for cycling?”  Not wanting to take that risk, the decision was to stay in the city with the prohibition sign and do a major reroute of the trip bypassing some places that I really wanted to cycle through.

A few days later I was cycling on a state highway when that highway split into two highways.  There was one of those cycling prohibited signs for the highway that I wanted to take.  Joyfully, I noticed a bike route sign leading to the other highway.  So I took it expecting that at some point I wild be directed back to the highway that I wanted to take.  After an hour of cycling I realized that would not happen.  Fortunately, a person at a service station could direct me back to the highway that I wanted to be on by using some local roads.  Confidence was now lost that I could depend on highways to be open for cycling along my intended route.

So, this is cycling in California!

 
 

Trip Planning, Finding Information on Highway Cycling

 

The Internet was a frustrating place to find the needed information.  Maps to identify open roads for cycling did not seem to exist.  There was conflicting and sometimes incorrect information on blogs.

CDOT District 2 Cycling Guide providing information on interstate and state highways open and closed to cyclists.
State of California

There was an exception and that was District 2 of the Californian Department of Transportation, a northern district. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This district had produced a very effective and informative document for cycling there (http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist2/pdf/bikeguide.pdf).  Open and closed highways to cyclists were identified on maps.  For closed sections, alternate routings were mapped out.  Other useful information was provided.   Internet search did not reveal the existence of such a document for the other districts in California.  It certainly is needed.

 

Bike Routes Parallel to Highways.

 

Sometimes by chance, parallel bike trails were come upon through Internet searches, by chance, or avoiding restricted sections of highways.   Some of these trails were well marked with direction and destination signs.  Others were not.  Sometimes these routes used local and rural roads.  Some sections would have bike lanes and paved cycleable shoulders.  Some of the roads were shared roads, usually with a low amount of motorized traffic.  For the most part, bike lanes or cycleable paved shoulders were available on these roads.

Pacific Coast Bike Trail between Santa Cruz and Monterey CA. The well signed trail travels along county roads with sections of bike lanes, paved cycleable shoulders, and trails.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Pacific Coast Bike Trail between Santa Cruz and Monterey CA. The well signed trail travels along county roads with sections of bike lanes, paved cycleable shoulders, and trails.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Bike paths next to a highway were frequently encountered as an entry to cities, while some started before city limits, up to 20 and 30 kilometres.  Some examples included Monterey with a path starting 30 kilometres before the city limit and Santa Cruz with a bike path starting at city limit.

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable as bike trails branch of state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Entering Santa Barbara CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable as bike trails branch of state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Entering Santa Maria CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable as bike trails branch of state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Entering Monterey CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable as bike trails branch of state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Entering Monterey CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable with bike trails branching off state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Leaving Fairfield CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cycling Facilities in Urban and Rural Environment

 

As mentioned in a previous blog, the positive effects can be continuously seen while cycling in California of federal road programs which requires cycling facilities as part of the funding for new and rebuilt roads.  One continuously comes on these facilities in municipalities from the smallest to larger cities as well as on rural roads from county roads to state highways.  It is rare to cycle in any municipality that is without any bike lanes or trails.

Rural California, cycling made more pleasant with bike lanes or cycle able paved shoulders.
Half Moon Bay CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Rural California, cycling made more pleasant with bike lanes or cycle able paved shoulders.
Corning CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cities with a Network of Cycling Facilities

 

Cycling cities. Separated bike lanes in downtown waterfront area supporting retail.
San Francisco CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

When discussion turns to cycling cities in the US, normally Portland, as a US large cycling city leader, Seattle (3.5%), and San Francisco (3.5%) as an upcoming cycling city, are mentioned.  Sometimes the City of Davis is mentioned with its 22% cycling mode share. There the discussion tends to end.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

On this trip there were other medium size cities that should be recognized for their work towards building of a cycling network and for developing a sizeable cycling mode share. Municipalities passed through that have made an effort towards providing cycling facilities include Fairfield (0.2%), Vallejo (0.2%), Monterey, Avila Beach, and Santa Maria (0.5%).

Special mention goes to the efforts put out by the following cities: Santa Cruz (cycling mode share 9%, many innovative cycling features), San Luis Obispo (7%), and Santa Barbara (6.4%).

Cycling cities. Separated bike lanes making the commute more pleasant.
Santa Cruz CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling cities. Downtown bike parking on streets. Cyclists are good customers for retailers.
Santa Cruz CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling cities. Mass bicycle parking contributing to attainability of higher education. An indicator of the attraction of cycling for transportation when the environment is supportive.
Santa Barbara CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling cities. Cyclists are good customers for retailers.
San Luis Obispo CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling cities. Cyclists are good customers for retailers.
San Luis Obispo CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Source of cycling mode share to work: League of American Cyclists, 2010 data on bicycle commute mode share (based on the US Census American Community Survey with data on 375 cities over 60,000 population).

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Some more comments from a recently completed 72 day, 4,100 kilometres cycling touring trip through the States of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California with the southern terminus being Santa Barbara.

Cycling on Interstate Highways

Questions frequently asked: “You cycle on interstate highways? Why would you want to cycle on interstate highways?  Why would you not use frontage roads beside interstate highways instead?”

Cycling on Interstate Highways.
I-90, Ritzville, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Well, I do and enjoy the opportunity to do so in the mid-western states where there are very few access limitations to cyclists.


Cycling on Interstate Highways with trucks, buses, motorcycles, and other vehicles.
I-90. Missoula, MT
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

There are many reasons for this.  One does have to accept the noise of trucks, cars, and motorcycles passing continuously by. 










Rethreaded tire litter on Interstate Highway shoulders.
I-90, Washington State
©Photograph by H-JEH
Becker, 2012

Somes steel removed from the front tire of the touring bicycle. It was difficult to get out. Fortunately, no flat tire.
Interstate Highway I-5, Williams CA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

One has to put up with unmaintained highway shoulders littered with junks of rethreaded tires cast dangerously out on road shoulders by fast speeding trucks.  One has to put up with risks of tire flats from the steel sticking out from these junks of rethread tires or broken off steel pieces deposited on highway shoulders.  Flats can happen at the most undesirable time late in the day, during rain downpours, on steep hills, when time is getting late to reach the night’s destination, when energy has been burned up, and so on. On has to be continuously aware of other garbage thrown out of cars and trucks that could cause problems for cyclists.  Ah, nothing like cycling on the shoulders of interstate highways after a cleaning.


Wide shoulders on interstate highways with rumble strip separation of motor traffic and cyclists.
I-90, Missoula, MT
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Noise from passing trucks and wind effect on cyclists.
I-5, Weed, CA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Interstate shoulders provide a cyclist with the comfort of exclusively cycling on a surface with a width of a traffic lane while separated from motorized traffic usually by rumble strips.  There is the glory of cycling on such a wide shoulder where passing traffic does not require attention.  The noise is the nuisance not the behaviours of motorists.  Wind effects of passing trucks and buses are usually nullified, except for very strong crosswinds.


Interstate highways tend to have hills with less grade than frontage roads.
I-5 Chehalis, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Frequently there are frontage roads next to interstate highways. How far do these roads go? Are there intersections at the end of these roads to cycle onto the interstate highways?
I-90 Moses Lake, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

When time is a consideration, interstate highways provide a cycling surface with the least amount of grades in the most direct way to that day’s destination.  Frontage roads tend to have steeper grades and more wind, and seem to attract drivers’ speed and drift through curbs using the full road width.



One is never certain how long there will be a frontage road and how to continue the trip without doubling back to the last intersection or lifting a bicycle and its panniers over a fence onto an interstate highway.


Oh yes, one might actually come upon a convenience stop once a day on interstate highways.

Rest stops along interstate highways. At least one for each cycling day.
I-90, Washington State
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Rest stops along interstate highways. At least one for each cycling day.
I-90, Moses Lake, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Rest stops along interstate highways. Windmill powered electricity for the rest stop.
I-90, Washington State
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

















When sections of highways restricted for cyclists use are reached, some states provide signed alternate routes until they are allowed back onto the interstate again (I-90 Bike Trail, for example).


The sign that cyclists hate to see when on a trip.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling on interstate highway is restricted. Alternate cycling route is signed.
I-5, Spokane, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

An alternate cycling routing along a bike trail parallel to an interstate highway.
The Coeur d’Alene Trail parallel to the I-90.
From Mullen to Harrison, ID
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012


An alternate cycling routing along a bike trail parallel to an interstate highway.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

































So, when there are no alternative roads readily available, interstate and other restricted-access highways provide more direct routes for cyclists.  When the scenery is the same for all parallel roads, then interstate highways provide less demanding hills for cyclists.

Interstate highways with wide, paved shoulders, with wide shoulders or bike paths on bridges, with rumble strips providing separation between motor vehicles and cyclists, with maintenance programs calling for frequent removal of debris from highway shoulders, with convenience stops comfortably spaced apart for senior-aged cyclists, with signed, alternate cycling routes for section of highways restricted to cycling, with underpasses at high-traffic intersections, then these highways provide a pleasant alternative for cyclists who can handle the noise. Government banning of rethreaded tires would also take away the concern of flats on trips, especially for those cyclists that are not adept at changing flat tires or would not make a trip by bicycle because of fear of flats.
 

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Comments from the Latest Cycling Touring Trip

The third cycling touring trip of the year is now over.  It started on August 28th, 2012 as I left Calgary, AB behind.  It ended seventy-two days later on November 9th with a train ride from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, B.C.  I sort of miss not doing the last segment by bicycle.  Other priorities cut out those last three days of cycling.  Still, I have done this segment of the trip a number of times using a variety of routes.  Nevertheless, the cycling touring trip covered 4,100 kilometres and the states of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California with the southern terminus being Santa Barbara.  The southerly cycle was by bicycle with the northern portion being a combined mobility trip of trains and cycling.  Time was a limiting factor on the northernmost section as the wonderful fall weather that I had been enjoying from the start of the trip now threatened to turn to winterly conditions, including the oncoming of fog in the morning hours as the length of daylight decreased quickly.

The next few blog articles will reflect on some observations from the trip on network and infrastructure design toolkits that affect cycling touring.

Federal Government Funding Programs for Cycling


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The trip showed the effectiveness of federal programs that mandate that a specified portion of grants for any road construction or rebuilt be spent on cycling facilities.  While the cycling facility design toolkit being used on these builds may not appeal to non-cyclists, the end product will appeal to more confident and more risk-taking people who now cycle to use arterial roads with bike lanes.

Reflections on cycling in the States, I started to expect that every hamlet, village, town, or city, no matter the population, would have bike lanes guiding me through it.  In rural roads, I expected either to see marked bike lanes or paved shoulders allowing for confortable cycling.  Definitely, the federal transportation program had a very positive effect on cycling facilities. It is amazing to think back and reflect on the limited distances that I cycled where there was not a bike lane or cycleable paved shoulders.

Chemult OR, Population 300, Hamlet, Bike lanes on the main road.

Chemult OR, Population 300, Hamlet,
Bike lanes on the main road

Moro OR, Population 370,
Village,
Bike lane on the main road.

Polson MT, Population 4,500, Town,
Bike lane and bike path within
road right-of-way through town.

Madras OR, Population 6,000, Town,
Bike lane next to car parking
lane and curb.


























Bend OR, Population 78,000,
Small city, Bike lane on
restricted highway
through city.

Santa Cruz, Population 60,000,
Small city, Cycling mode share 9%,
Separated bike lane entering
downtown.

Portland OR, Population 600,000,
Larger city,
Cycling mode share 6.3%,
Bike lane on an arterial street
with traffic control pavement
marking and green lane through
intersection.
























Fairfax CA, Bike Lane, Width measured from face of curb, Asphalt and Concrete surfaces, Separation starting at materials interface.

Being able to cycle on bike lanes was great.  The widths of the cycling facilities ranged from meagre to very comfortable.  Sometimes, the 1.5 metres bike lane widths were measured from curb faces making them uncomfortable.  Frequently, the concrete extensions were great storage places for dirt, branches, garbage, and other obstacles, making this space useless for cycling.  Frequently, the road asphalt did not extend to the curb face.  Unfortunately, having both asphalt and concrete surfaces in bike lanes also brought poor cycling conditions with safety issues as the meeting of these two materials may be unsmooth, may have difficult raised humps, or separate and ready to eat up a wheel.





Interstate Highway I-90, Washington State, Wide paved shoulder for comfortable cycling, Rumble strip separation from motorized traffic.

Interstate Highway I-90, Washington State, Wide paved shoulder for comfortable cycling, Rumble strip separation from motorized traffic.

Washington State Highway, With wide paved shoulder and rumble strip separation from motorized traffic, Comfortable cycling.















Generally, the bike lanes were designed to the second wave level with frequent, undesirable conditions at intersections where bike lanes would disappear when newer cyclists needed them the most.  So, for determinant, skilled, or risk-taking cyclists with limited fear, these second wave design bike lanes provided separation from cars and an acceptable cycling environment.  Certainly, these facilities would not draw out motorists from their cars to cycle instead.  This was evident by the number of people cycling.  Third wave cycling designs are needed to increase cycling traffic beyond the current cyclists.

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An Afterthought!  A Reminder!

Why should there be physically separated bike lanes on major highways or horizontally separated bike paths on highway right-of-ways?  Why are they needed?  Why are wide shoulders not enough?

Vancouver Island rural road – Road with white edge line; shared road use; “What is the drawing power of this street for people to cycle?”
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Rural Highways and Roads

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

When discussions come forth for enhancement of cycling on rural roads for people who wish to cycle rather than drive, the dialogue invariably starts with:
Should the shoulders be paved?

Then, what should be the width of paved shoulders? – Minimal 1 metre; minimum bike lane width of 1.5 metres; more comfortable bike lane width of 1.8 metres that would attract more people to cycle; bike lane width supporting social cycling with minimum of 2.2 metres but more desirably 2.5 or 3 metres; width of 2 metres plus that would negate the wind effect on cyclists of trucks or buses passing at high highway speeds; width that would allow for cyclists’ avoidance of road dirt on shoulders caused by passing trucks, snow clearance, etc.

Should the road shoulders just be marked for cycling on the pavement or signed as a bike lane or both?  Should there just be paved shoulders with no cognitive demonstration to motorists that cyclists may be present?

Washington State Highway #90 –  Bikeway Signage; Path along the highway
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Should there be physical separation between fast-moving cars, trucks, buses and slower moving cyclists?  Then from there, the dialogue turns to what type of separation:

Province of Quebec, – Painted lines separating the two-way bike lanes from traffic
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Calgary, AB, – Buffered painted liens separating two-way bike lanes from traffic
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Should the separation simply be painting providing a virtual buffer that can be transgressed by motor vehicles poorly driven and drifting into the cycling space or used by motorists for temporary stopping or parking?

Should there be physical separation or barrier between cyclists and the rest of the road pavement users?

Should there be physical separation instead with bike paths within the road right-of-way removed from the general traffic lanes?

Should physical separation provide one-direction cycling on each side of roads or two-way cycling on one side of roads?

Instead, should there be a bike trails on their own separate right-of-ways, removed from any roads?

Urban Arterial and Other Roads

Similar discussions seem to come up for city roads, including:

Should the roadway be a shared facility with sharrow markings?

Is it enough just to put up bikeway signs on arterial, collector, and neighbourhood streets?  Sign it and people will be drawn to cycling being the operative strategy or belief.

Considerations for Rural Highways and Roads

Banff National Park of Canada; Banff Legacy Trail; From Canmore to Banff – Choice – cycle on paved, wide shoulders of the Trans-Canada Highway #1 or cycle on this bike path along the highway.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

In the discussion, there is something important missing.  What seems to be missing is a dialogue on factors that affect design that would increase cycling traffic and encourage people to leave their cars at home and do trips by cycling instead.

What seems to be missing is the dialogue on what will attract non-cyclists to move towards cycling.  What seems to be missing is translating factors that hold back people from cycling into cycling infrastructure design and network design.

Designing Infrastructure for People

Penchant for Cycling Model – Personal influences that affect the decision to cycle.
©H-JEH Becker, 2012

Personal confidence, personal propensity for risk-taking, personal considerations, personal convenience, degree of cycling skills, navigational skills, perceived cycling friendliness of roads, mechanical skills for maintaining or repairing bicycles, trip considerations, topography and environment considerations that limit attracting people to cycling are some of the factors that need to be overcome, which affect infrastructure and network designs.  Targeting a portion of drivers for potentially inducing them to cycling instead may be more fruitful rather than designing for current cyclists if the objective is to get cycling traffic activity to grow substantially.  For designing, the Maslow model of Hierarchy of Needs may be useful to keep in mind.

Maslow’s model of personal Hierarchy of Needs – A theory of self-actualization; the bottom layer of needs must be satisfied before other needs are addressed.
Model courtesy of Abraham Maslow

Influences on Cycling Infrastructure Design

Nothing fazes people more than the thought of being stranded on a highway many kilometres from civilization.  Not all people carry cell phones to call for assistance.

Trans-Canada Highway #1, Calgary to the Rockies – Rethreaded tire chunks and steel wire pieces, gravel, stones, debris, and other litter fallen off cars, trailers, and trucks on paved shoulders
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Clumps of truck tire pieces straddling road shoulders are a prime cause for cyclists being stranded, as steel pieces separating from these rethreaded tires pieces litter road shoulders.  Then, cyclists face the task of repairing a tire.  Sometimes the weather is not too kind with wind, rain, cold, or darkness posing an uncomfortable environment for the task.  Some people are not inclined to repair flats; so potential for flats is enough discouragement for cycling.

Law banning rethread tires and very frequent (weekly, at least) shoulder sweeping would reduce the probability of such flats.  Now, will this really happen in the political environment that is with us.

Trans-Canada Highway #1. Calgary to the Rockies – Wide paved shoulders.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Wide paved shoulders of 3 metres plus, lower highway speed and its observation may offset some risk as the distance that trucks hurl discarded tire pieces is dependent on vehicle speed.  Rethreaded tire garbage tends to litter highway shoulders primarily within 1.5 to 2 metres from outside lane lines.

More realistically, physical separation of cyclists and drivers is a real solution that would attract more people to cycle.  Such separation needs to be accompanied with impermeable physical barriers if cycling is right adjacent to traffic lanes or with vertical separation by distance that bike paths on road right-of-way provide.  Of course with the absence of truck traffic, bike trails eliminates the potential of flats from rethreaded tire pieces.

Rethread tires pose another danger to cyclists.  With speeds of 100 km or more being frequently undertaken by drivers, the lateral discarding of rethreaded tire pieces causes a missile effect as the pieces are dispatched to road shoulders.  Would one want to be in the way of a 100 km baseball pitch or a rethreaded tire piece?  It is bad enough to be unfortunately in the way of a rock being projected by a car, which just happened to cleanly shear off a bicycle tire stem during a steep climb.  The potential danger to cyclists during the act of a truck tire casting off a rethreaded piece is real.  Fortunately, the probability is low.  Of course, if you are unfortunate to be in the way, statistics become meaningless.  Potential cyclists seeing the highways littered with rethreaded tire and other garbage cast off by trucks, cars, and snow clearing activities is enough for some to consider cycling on these types of roads as not the thing to do.

Wind Effect on Cyclists

Highway 1A, Canmore AB – Truck traffic; wind generators; cross-winds; effect on cyclists
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

A blast of wind from a high-speed truck or bus passing by is enough to unsettle many cyclists and a discouragement for the less risk-takers to cycle on fast speed roads.  Strong cross winds can increase the intensity of the wind’s slipstream unnerving the less confident cyclists.  Sometimes, one needs to cycle towards passing vehicle to stay on the road, during very strong winds.  Otherwise, the verges will great you.  The wind envelope from large vehicles, such as trucks and buses, has been well documented but not considered in designing for cycling along high-speed roads.

Air Pollution Envelope

Trans-Canada Highway #1. Calgary to the Rockies – Wide paved shoulders; cars, buses, and trucks emitting air pollution. ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Some research has been done on the effect of poor quality air or emissions emanating from motorized vehicles on cyclists adjacent to these pollution producers.  Results has shown that cyclists are polluted less if removed from a car by a metre and more so, if farther away.  One study focused on relationship of air pollution on neighbouring streets to arterial streets and found that the pollution is less.  So, it seems that the amount of pollution present that was emitted from cars, trucks, buses, and other motorized vehicles is dependent on distance and decreases as the distance increases.  More research is required to fully understand the linearity relationship of distance and the amount of pollution absorbed, the pollution bubble.

The research supports the use of bike paths on road right-of-ways and off-road bike trails for decreasing the effect of pollution on cyclists.

Noise Pollution

In 2006, I came to realize the effect of highway noise on people.  Until then, I just saw it as undesirable noise and put it aside.  On a trip from Vancouver, B.C. to Chicago, IL, I saw the impact that noise can have on a cyclist as I watched my cycling colleague suffer with each passing truck and cars.  Noise emitted from cars, tracks, and buses has an envelope and dissipates with distance.  That noise envelope is not well understood.  There is need for clear documentation of the model. The model needs implementation with any work done on any road or any bike paths being built.  The effect of noise on people needs to be eliminated or much reduced for cycling infrastructure.  Proper application of the noise envelope will have direct impact on cycling traffic volumes.

Moving towards Wide Shoulders and Preferably to Bike Paths or Bike Trails

Interstate Highway 90 Bikeway; Spokane WA to Coeur d’Alene ID – bike path paralleling the highway; concrete barrier separation with fence.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Interstate Highway 90 Bikeway; Spokane WA to Coeur d’Alene ID – Bike path paralleling the highway
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Coeur d’Alene Trail; Plummer to Mullan, ID – A bike trial far removed from roads. ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

For highways, there are good arguments that cycling will be encouraged if wide shoulders, bike paths, or bike trails within 500 metres of the traffic lanes are provided.  Wide shoulders will only entice a smaller number of potential cyclists.    The number will grow as bike paths on road right-of-ways are provided and even more when bike trails are provided within the cycling catchment area of roads or about 500 metres.  Road garbage, wind effect, air and noise pollution will have been reduced or eliminated.  There are other justifications for physical separation and the wider separation the better.  Some of these are economic and others are local retail business contributors.

Of course, only paved paths should be considered.  Research has shown that gravel paths require 30% more energy than paved paths.  30% more energy is sufficient to dissuade many not to cycle or cut daily distances down where touring does not become feasible.

Use of Bike Paths and Bike Trails during Snow Periods

Two-way bike paths and bike trails open up the potential for increased business along the cycling facilities and their destinations during low cycling periods when the paths and trails would be covered by snow.  Snowshoeing and Nordic skiing become a use of these facilities, a tourist attraction, and reason for coming to the area.  For more remote cycling infrastructures, considerations should be given towards drawing in local economic benefits that snowmobilers bring.  Defiantly, ATV’s should not be allowed on these facilities considering their demonstrated history of destructiveness to trails.

An Afterthought, A Reminder

Trans-Canada Highway #1. Calgary to the Rockies – A parallel bike path; wide paved shoulders; cars, choice where to cycle. ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

The Banff Legacy Trail is a fine example that separation increases cycling traffic.  After all, there are excellent wide shoulders on the Trans-Canada Highway where we used to cycle on in less cycling numbers than we experience on the new trail now.

Read the blog from the beginning:

The Banff Legacy Trail, Banff National Park of Canada, Province of Alberta

 Links – Banff Legacy Trail

http://www.banff.ca/locals-residents/recreation/banff_legacy_trail.htm

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/activ2/Heritage-Legacy.aspx

http://actionplan.gc.ca/initiatives/eng/index.asp?mode=8&imode=7&initiativeid=129&id=4836 ) (parallels the Trans Canada Highway (Why #1) through the Banff National Park  (http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx)

 

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Banff Legacy Trail – Part 4

 

© H-JEH (Jack) Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group Inc. 2007-2012, Velo.Urbanism, cycling planning, policy, and social marketing consultant, 20 year advocate for balanced transportation modes within cities focusing on cycling and transit.

The comments in this article come from a touring and commuter cyclist where the bicycle and combined mobility with cycling are the first choices of transportation.  The comments reflect the experience and observations gained while cyclotouring where now the 100,000 kilometres mark is being approached on trips 4 days and longer up to 11 months.  In addition, many thousands of kilometres have been cycled on weekend exploring trips and on day tripping.  These trips may be done solely by cycling or combined with other modes of travel including air, trains, buses, ferries, and on some occasions, including cars. 

As this blog is being posted, the writer is on a two and a half month cyclotouring trip.  A couple of days ago, a 2,025 metres high mountain pass was traversed, a personal high, followed by a modest 1,225 metres pass today with a 1,400 metres pass coming up in two days.

This year, the 21-year-old Miyata 1000 touring bicycle was retired for one with disk brakes for cycling through mountain ranges, a Salsa Fargo 2 bicycle.  A Dahon touring folding bicycle is usually used when planes, trains, buses, and ferries or European hotel elevators are involved on trips.

 
 

Some Thoughts on the Design of the Banff Legacy Trail

 

Arriving in Canmore by bus with bicycle.©Photograph by H-JEH Becker
As mentioned in an earlier blog, this bike path is excellent in drawing people to come and cycle in the wilderness.  The path alignment and design is attracting cyclists who used to cycle on the paved shoulders of the highway.  The path also draws tourist staying at Canmore or Banff to rent bicycles and use the trail.  The path also draws families from Southern Alberta to spend a day cycling here.

Even good bicycle paths can attract comments and suggestions for improvements and so here are mine.

 
 

1 – Wayfinding

 

Connecting to Trail

Banff trailhead at the town bus loop.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

On trips, cyclists want to know where they are, where they should go next, and how afar they need to go.   To break the routine of long trips, information on highlights along the route and on the lands being traversed is always welcome.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Connecting to the Trail – Canmore

On approaching Canmore either from Trans-Canada Highway #1 or from my preferred approach on Highway #1 A, finding the Banff Legacy Trail is not very evident.  Canmore has two off-road bike routes of which neither is identified on the approaching highways.  On these routes, there are no signs to connect to the Legacy Trail.  There are no maps signs to provide direction.  There is no signage such as those that we are used to in Europe.  There is no cycling by numbers or knooppuntroutes (node points) to lead you to the trail.

So, finding the Canmore bike routes is a matter of searching or good judgment.  One bike path parallels the highway while the bike trail is adjacent to the railway track in town.  How to find them?  Canmore can do much to improve wayfinding.

 

Connecting to the Trail – Harvey Heights

Southbound off ramp from the Trans-Canda Highway with provision for contra-flow cycling to the Banff Legacy Trail. No signage or map advising cyclists to use ramp to connect to trail. Which side to ramp to use – Stay left of yellow line?
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

 

Southbound off ramp from the Trans-Canda Highway with provision for contra-flow cycling to the Banff Legacy Trail. No signage or map advising cyclists to use ramp to connect to trail. Which side to ramp to use – Stay left of white edge line?
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker


 
 

 
 

 
 

Coming to the northern end of a bike path along the Harvey Heights and Highway #1 roads, you are left with choice and no help.  There are no maps to direct you to the Banff Legacy Trail.  There are no signs.  So, proceed onto Highway #1 northbound, proceed to the park gates, and then cross over the many traffic lanes to reach the trail?  So instead, cycle contra-flow on the southbound off-ramp leading to the Harvey Heights Road.  Who would do that?  Well, the people who have found direction in other places and are aware that this is the way to go.  The ramp has a white line on the right side and a yellow line on the other side.  So, which side to take?  Which side should one cycle in the contra-flow direction?

Then as the ramp approaches the highway, there are no signs indicating that there is two-way cycling on the shoulder for either the cyclists or the motorists.

Contra-flow cycling on the Trans-Canada Highway with no awareness signs for motorists or cyclists.©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Contra-flow cycling on the southbound Trans-Canada Highway lanes connecting to the Banff Legacy Trail. No awareness signage advising cyclists and motorists of the contra-flow cycling.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

Then there is the entrance to the Legacy Trail.  Where is the signage to indicate to cyclists to descend down the small drop to the left and then turn right onto the trail?

There is a fantastic opportunity to simplify finding the trail and make infrequent and other cyclists more comfortable and secure on finding their way.

 

On the Way – Lake Minnewanka

 

A few kilometres from Banff there is a cutoff to Lake Minnewanka.  Wayfinding would be very beneficial at this junction for highlighting cycling options the roads to Lake Minnewanka and Two Jacks Lake provide.  For information and for generating more cycling interest and traffic, wayfinding signage would be a good addition to the trail.

The Lake Minnewanka area provides plenty of choice for cyclists from just cycling the road to wandering down one of the trails, to taking a tourist boat on the long lake, to camping on one of the many sites, to enjoy watching wildlife grazing on the roadside or walking on the trails.

Connecting to the Trail – Banff

 

Arriving at Banff, the trail map indicates a route through the town and then connecting to the Bow Valley Parkway.  None of this is evident at the trailhead or on the roads identified on the map.  Wayfinding, map signs, bike route signs, and street marking (bike lanes, sharrows, white edge lines) would provide clear direction for cyclists and, at the same time, highlight to motorists of the presence of cyclists on the roads.

Wayfinding and signage should ensure that cyclists knows where cyclists are geographically at any time, that cyclists are heading in their desired directions, that cyclists are aware of any conditions ahead that requires special attention, and that cyclists becomes aware of any special interest along routes.  Cyclists should never be confused, hesitate, or uncertain as to where one should be cycling.  Road signs should provide destination, direction, distance, travel time, information, and warnings in a timely manner.

Wayfinding should be focused on potential cyclists especially those with high desire for risk aversion and limited propensity for cycling.  Wayfinding should appeal and be understandable to young children.  Wayfinding should also be supportive of seniors cycling, especially readable by senior cyclists with reducing eyesight.  Wayfinding should be readable far enough away to make a decision and take corrective action.  Wayfinding should be supportive of a country changing in cultural background with a large new landed immigrant status. Wayfinding should pass the test of supporting a significant growth in cycling traffic.

A comprehensive set of road signage should heighten cyclists’ comfort on the road and encourage people to cycle as a means of transportation.   Besides supporting growth of cycling, local businesses along a trail, their towns and their inhabitants will also benefit.

 

2 – Trail Alignment

Images – Topography and Terrain Alignment

On the way to Banff
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Water tower at an electric power dam in the distance.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 


 


 


 

It is all about aligning a trail to maximize the attraction to cyclists, including those who cycle today and those who can be induced to cycle, thus maximize the cycling traffic volumes.  The market for this trail includes Banff to Canmore commuters, visitors to the park, and day-trippers from Calgary and other municipalities within a day driving distance.

The Legacy Trail seems to be laid out sensitive to the topography and the terrain adjacent to the highway.  Unlike the roadway where the terrain was changed to accommodate the highway, the trail is ribboned up and down the terrain, in between and round trees, and squeezed in between adjacent rivers and the road.

From a cyclotouring perspective, the trail alignment provides a variety of experiences, including trains passing by.

The trail alignment results in a variety of separations with distances from as little as a half metre to a distance where car traffic becomes a hum.  Forms of separation come from simple techniques such as gravel or grass, vertical elevation, and physical barriers, such as concrete barriers.  Over bridges, wind protection for cyclists is provided by high barriers.

Images – Separation – horizontal, vertical, physical, virtual, distance from traffic lanes.

Metre separation
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Bridge providing wind break for cyclists.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Trail wanders into a bush. Vertical and horizontal separation
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Two metres plus physical separation with concrete barriers.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Narrow separation with physical barriers.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

A metre separation with a physical barrier.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Physical separation.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

A wider separation – horizontal and vertical, diminishing the effects of air and noise pollution and wind effect from fast travelling trucks and buses. ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

 

 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 


 


 

Of course, the forms of separation along the Banff Legacy Trail have appeal to potential users of this trail.  Observing cycling traffic, it is very apparent that parents are quite willing to let young children, some just able to be on bicycles or tricycles, cycle freely in front of them.

Trail design should focus on the impact that the trail will have in encouraging people to cycle between destination rather than driving, especially in parks designed to keep the lands natural.

Alignment of trails need to consider air and noise pollution on cyclists, as well as, the effect of winds and drafts from vehicles on keeping cyclists comfortable and secure.  More later on this.

 

3 – Trail Amenities – CycloTourists Convenience – facilities

Time for a convenience stop.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Time to relax and enjoy the mountains.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

The trail has a convenience stop approximately near the middle, which is much appreciated.  What about at each end?  Designing a trail for seniors should consider facilities about every half hour of cycling especially for the first hour and a half into a trip.

 
 

4 – Trail Traffic Capacity – width

 

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Designing roads for cars and trucks, future volume projections are taken into consideration.  The same methodology does not seem to be used by professionals when designing cycling facilities.  Even the width of this facility is not sufficient and running out of capacity after a year of operation, considering the needs of the cyclists using the trail and people walking.

 
 

5 – Trail Grade

 

The thrill of a fast descent. What about icy days?
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Maybe a bridge bypass would attract the risk averts.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

For some, cycling up the steep incline is good exercise. For others, pushing a bike up is more the likely case. What about the young children on bicycles? What about parents pulling children trailers? An alternative on the embankment at a moderate grade would be appealing to many.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Cyclists are sensitive to road grade, especially parts of the market made up of infrequent or potentially new cyclists and tourists wanting a local experience.  Considering their body conditioning for cycling and hill climbing, this cycling market place is sensitive to the amount of energy required to cycle trails.  Both grade and pavement of a trail become important considerations. Experience with cycling growth in the Netherlands and the appeal of the Le Petit Train du Nord trail in Quebec would indicate the attractiveness of low grades peaking at 3% or 4%.

Considering that this trail is intended to appeal to families with small children, park users, and tourists, it is quite difficult to understand the trail alignment just after the Banff Park Gate at the Canmore end.  Suddenly, the trail does an s-curve as it climbs at a 12% grade.  Who expects children and infrequent cyclists to make this climb when more seasoned and conditioned cyclists get off their bikes and walk the last few metres?

Instead, the trail should have been aliened at a 3% or 4% grade along the road embankment.  Leave the steep climb alignment for those who want that type of experience and have a moderate graded trail option for 6-year-old children on bicycles or for parents pulling their children in trailers.


Trail Surfacing

This trail is surfaced by asphalt extending the season that the trail can be used.  Water on gravel trails, both from rain and winter precipitation, will encourage people to stay on the neighbouring highway shoulders and discourage people who cycle less frequently from using the trail.

 
 

6 – Pollution Abatement for Cyclists

 

Lessening the impact of motor vehicle pollution on cyclists – separation.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

 
 


 


 

Pollution Envelope – Car and Truck Emissions – Air and Greenhouse Gases

 

Cars and trucks pollution emissions dissipate with distance.  In essence, there is a pollution envelope around these vehicles.  The farther that cyclists are removed from the source of pollution, the less impact on them.  Studies have been done to start defining these envelopes.  More studies are needed before the envelopes are well enough defined for designing the alignment of cycling facilities, which minimize impact on cyclists.  From the research that has been done, we know that bike paths two metres away from traffic lanes is better than one metre.  Three and more metres are of course better than one or two.

 

Noise Pollution Effect on Cyclists’

 

On a trip from Vancouver to Chicago with a colleague I became aware of the severe impact that noise pollution can have on people.  Apparently, as one ages the effect becomes greater.  While the noise pollution envelope is not well defined for alignment of cycling facilities, the greater the distance between traffic lanes and cyclists, the more appeal the facilities will have to draw cyclists.

 

Wind Effect

 

Getting caught in the draft of a fast moving truck or bus can be unnerving for less experienced cyclists and even the more risk-taking.  Nothing like having to steer a bicycle into the direction of buses or trucks to compensate for draft after these vehicles pass and strong crosswinds takes hold of cyclists going down a steep grade at fast speed or cycling on more level terrain.  Quite a distractor for the uncommitted cyclists.

Wind effects of moving vehicles including buses and large trucks has been researched and documented.  Location of cycling facilities, such as this trail, need to consider the wind envelopes under different wind situations, including crosswinds.  For simple winds, a minimum separation of two metres should be provided.  For crosswinds the separation should increase or double, at least.

 
 

7 – Electrical Gates

 

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Keeping wildlife off the highway has been a preoccupation of this park for the last decade or two while still facilitating migration from one side of the highway to the other.  So, with this trail Canada Parks had to come up with a scheme to keep wildlife off the trail while still allowing easy passage of cyclists and walkers.  For this purpose, electrical gates were installed at two locations.  Walkers’ passage is through gates that they open manually.  Cyclists are greeted with signs indicating that they should not stop on electrical pads lying on the asphalt surface at gates that are kept open for their passage.  The system seems to work well as cyclists just need to slow down through the gates.

At the Lake Minnewanka cutoff, the locations of the gates are in a dip that affects two-way flow.  Gates at the top of the dip would have been more efficient from a cycling perspective.  The rational for their current location is not known.

 

 
 

The Banff Legacy Trail – Part 5, “An Afterthought” National Park of Canada, Province of Alberta

 

This blog will be presented in five parts and released a week apart starting with 2012-08-09. 

The next blog will give an afterthought on the attraction of bike paths (on rural highways) and on bike trails, rather than bike lanes or wide shoulders for cycling on highways.

https://thirdwavecyclingblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/ banff-legacy-trail-t…y-trail-part-5

 
 

Read the blog from the beginning:

 

The Banff Legacy Trail, Banff National Park of Canada, Province of Alberta

 banff-legacy-trail

 
 

Links – Banff Legacy Trail

 

http://www.banff.ca/locals-residents/recreation/banff_legacy_trail.htm

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/activ2/Heritage-Legacy.aspx

http://actionplan.gc.ca/initiatives/eng/index.asp?mode=8&imode=7&initiativeid=129&id=4836 (parallels the Trans Canada Highway #1 through the Banff National Park)  http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx

 
 

Other Links

 

Knooppuntroutes – http://www.cycletourer.co.uk/cycletouring/holland.shtml

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Not enough cycling, then continue on the Banff Legacy Trail

Vermillion Lake

Vermillion Lakes – Bear in area warning.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

The trail continues through the town on designated streets towards Mount Norquay Road and the Vermillion Lakes Road located on the west side of  Mount Norquay Road just before the ramps to the Trans-Canada Highway.  Vermillion Lakes Road dead-ends just past the lakes.  The roadway provides people a chance to see the lake, Banff on the other side of the ponds, and Mount Rundle.  Chances of spotting animals are also there.  For our trip, the Park Warden had put up “Bear in the area” warning signs.  Black or Grizzly bear was not stated, just bear.  Sorry, we did not spot one.

Vermillion Lakes Road.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Vermillion Lakes Road and Rundle Mountain.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Vermillion Lakes Road and Rundle Mountain.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 

Then the Legacy Trail continues as a bike trail connecting to the Bow Valley Parkway.

Bike path entrance from Vermillion Lakes Road to Bow Valley Parkway.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Bike path from Vermillion Lakes Road to Bow Valley Parkway; paralleling the Trans-Canada Highway.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Bike path from Vermillion Lakes Road to Bow Valley Parkway; paralleling the Trans-Canada Highway.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 

On the way to Lake Louise

The Bow Valley Parkway.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cyclists can continue to enjoy their connection with nature, the mountain scenes, and local animals by cycling the 50 kilometres to Lake Louise on this parkway.  Elks are not uncommon inhabitants along this road.  Mule and whitetail deer, wolves, coyotes, big horned sheep and mountain goats may also be seen, as was an adult ram with a nice set of horns on this trip.  Unfortunately, the moose population disappeared with a liver disease years ago.

The Bow Valley Parkway.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

With speed limited to 60 kilometres and the faster Trans-Canada Highway a couple of kilometres away, the car traffic tends to be light.  It should be noted that there are restrictions for passage on the parkway for car drivers and for cyclists depending on the time of the year as animals do feed in this area.

 
 
 

The Bow Valley Parkway.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

There are options for cyclists.  One can cycle the full way to Lake Louise and then double back or take the Trans-Canada Highway back providing a quite different view.  One can also cut over to Highway #1 at Highway #93 at Castle Mountain.  Along the way the mouse meadows, Johnston Canyon, Castle Mountain, and Baker Creek will be passed or can be places to spend sometime at.

 

After Words

Cycling back to Calgary today was a pleasant experience with a strong tailwind.  There was a long section of highway with a small upward incline.  I had stopped pedalling and still was sailing along at 24 kilometres per hour after a kilometer or two.  Now if all trips were like that, the exercise value of cycling would go down but the trip would be very enjoyable.

 

This blog will be presented in five parts and released a week apart starting with 2012-08-09.

The next blog will give some comments on the design of the trail.

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Photographs by H-JEH Becker

As mentioned in the last Banff Legacy Trail blog, this trail provides opportunities for all type, cycling skills, and age of cyclists to enjoy the wilderness along with hikers, in-line skaters and those with rollers on their skis using poles to propel them up hills.  Traffic can become heavy along the trail to a point where one wishes that the trail were wider.

The feeling, the Banff Legacy Trail

There is a wonderful feeling cycling at 1,400 metres elevation.  The air is clean and fresh.  The mountains are majestic.  Boredom is difficult to encounter.  There is a sense of separation from daily life encounters.   There is this luxury of one seeing these mountains within the mental reach of one’s mind, without the physical effort of actually climbing them.

There is a continuum of stunning views on both sides of the trail.  Cycling provides time to enjoy and take in each view, to savour it, not rushing by in a car where a one second view may all to be had.

There are resting areas along the way and opportunities for stopping and taking photographs.  There is not a shortage of subject matters from the mountains, the valley, the streams, trees, and flowers.  Even a passing railway train propelled by 4 or 5 engines and camouflaged by some trees is a picture opportunity.

There is a sensation that the scenery is being enjoyed as if one is couch-surfing rather than cycling the trail.  Now some cyclists, who use their bicycles infrequently, may not quite appreciate this feeling.  Observing the enthusiasm of the young cyclists on the trail, 8, 10, 12 years old or so, cycling here cannot be that strenuous.

The start, the Banff Park East Gate

Over the length of this ride, the elevation gain is about 30 metres overall.  However, one does need to climb about 135 metres along the way.

The hill.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

After leaving the Banff Park East Gate along this paved trail, one is quickly challenged with a climb.  The vertical elevation change is about 30 metres.  Now, I do not quite understand why there is this climb considering that families with very young children cycle here or pulling children on a trailer.  Certainly, a less demanding, lower grade path could have been built alongside the highway ditch to the top of this incline.  Coming from the west, the approach is much more doable.  Nevertheless, a climb needs to be made on bike or by pushing it up the hill.

The climb. Out of effort. Pushing the bicycle up the hill.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

The descend; a warning sign, a curve ahead.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker

A rush, crossing a creek, a kid’s dream

2349 – No bridge. A rush instead with a fast descend.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Usually, when crossing a creek, the cycling solution is to span the creek with a bridge.  Along the Legacy Trail, there is an old creek bed to cross.  Instead of a bridge, the trail designers decided to drop the trail sharply into the old creek bed.  Both the drop and the rise on the other side are steep, so steep that the speed picked up on the way down is sufficient to almost get a cyclist up to the crest on the other side without much pedaling, even in high gear.  So, to ensure that the experience crossing this depression is more exiting, the trail designers added a couple of sharp curves on the way down into the design.

 

The climb.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

A pit stop in the wilderness

Rest area; tables for relaxing.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2011

About 7 kilometres along the trail one comes upon civility with a stunning view of the mountains.  Within a treed area, the Valleyview picnic area provides tables to stop, rest, enjoy the scenery, or share some food.  Toilets are provided, as well.

Rest area; the view.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2011

The toilette house.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

One cannot get away from the mountain scenery

As one cycles towards Banff, one is always looking straight towards a mountain, while flanked by the two mountain ranges on each side.  First it is Cascadia Mountain with a peak at 2998 metres and then it is Mount Norquay, the skiing mountain, with an elevation of 2522 metres.

Wall separating Legacy Trail from the highway traffic lanes.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

At one point, the trail drops below the elevation of the highway, separated by a retaining wall.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Keeping elks and bears from cyclists

Animal control gates. Keeping animals off the highway. Cyclists passage over electrified mats.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Wildlife in the area.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

At the point where the Cascadia River crosses under the highway on the way to Lake Minnewanka, a set of gates appear.  Sometimes when we are in wilderness areas, we forget that it is ranging grounds for elks, deer, mountain sheep, bears, and other creatures.  Unfortunately, separation is required so that these creatures are not the victims of cars and trucks.  So, these gates are intended to keep animals from entering the roadway.  Hikers proceed through gates marked for them.  Cyclists proceed through a gate with a mat on the ground.  The warning signs indicate that cyclists should not stop on these electrified mats.

Lake Minnewanka or Banff

The trail to Lake Minnewanka.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cyclists have an option at this point.  They can continue to the Town of Banff or do a circular cycle passing Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake.  Big horn sheep enjoy sitting along the side of the roadway by the lake.  There is opportunity to take a tour boat down the long lake.  The cycle is pleasant with lots of climbs and descends and places to stop and picnic or rest.  One can tie up one’s bikes at a trailhead and share a walk with the sheep.  This is cougar country.

Lake Minnewanka.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2011

Lake Minnewanka Road – Big horned sheep on road.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2011

Cyclists love separation

Separation – Grass patch, a mountain always straight ahead.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

For most of the way, the Legacy Trail is set a few metres from the roadway.  For some sections, the trail is closer.  Separation may be by concrete barriers or by gravel strips.  Passage over creeks is by separate bridges with sidewalls the height of cyclists blocking crosswinds.

Separation – concrete curbs, gravel strip.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Separation – Grass strip supplemented on road bend with concrete barriers.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Separation – concrete curbs, gravel strip.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Separation on bridges with side walls almost the height of a cyclist providing crosswind protection.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

On the way back to Calgary, there was a reminder that cycling on separated paths by highways is more pleasant than cycling on road shoulders no matter how wide they are.  Certainly, the Trans-Canada Highway has wide shoulders with cycleable rumble strips.  The maintenance of the shoulders for loose gravel is not bad.  The shoulders also have pieces of rethread truck tires scattered about.  With rethread tires comes steel pieces torn from the rubber through the tire separation process.  These difficult to spot pieces are not cyclists’ friends, especially touring cyclists.  As we ended out trip, we noticed that the front tire of my partner’s bicycle was flat.  In the front tire there stuck such one of these steel pieces.  Good thing that the tire casing held the air until we reached home.  Who wants to fix a flat en route? Then, a day later, I noticed that front tire on my bicycle was now also flat. Two tires damaged by these steel pieces from cast-off rethread tire segments on the highway shoulders, just too much.

Headwinds.

The waters of the Bow Rivers descends from the Bow Glacier north of Lake Louise down this valley past Banff, Canmore, and Calgary on its way to the Arctic Ocean.  As in any valley in the Rockies, the wind tends to be predominately from the west.  So, it is natural that the cycle to Banff may take more time and effort.  One just needs to focus on the return cycle with the wind in the back and the cyclist’s body acting as a sail.

Creeks

Summer creeks; low water level; wide creek bed; glacial till.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Mountain creeks, with their little water flow in summer, cross under the Legacy Trail.  Their wide paths are littered with glacial tilt and stones.  One can easily imagine the torrential flow of water down these creeks in the springtime during snow runoff.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Hoodoos

The Hoodoos, a nature’s creation.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Mother nature likes to take time as an artist and produce impressive works of art.  So it is along this trail.  Just before the hydroelectric plant by the Cascadia River, on the east side there is a stretch of inspiring hoodoos.  Geological hoodoos are weathered rocks sculptured by the action of water, ice, and weather.

 
 
 
 

Reaching Banff

Banff AB. Banff National Park of Canada.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As the trail reaches the limits of the Town of Banff, another set of animal gates appears along with a sign indicating that animals may be present.  Then a road crossing happens with stop signs on the trail and the side road.    Finally, the separated trail ends at a bus turnaround at the town limit.

Animal control gate in Banff.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cyclists crossing an intersecting street.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Banff trailhead at the Roam, the town bus turnaround.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 

Now that you are in Banff, what next?  More on the next blog next week.

This blog will be presented in five parts and released a week apart starting with 2012-08-09. 

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The Bow River valley, Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

On this early August day, another cycling touring trip into the Canmore and Banff areas is now complete as we return to Calgary.  As a cyclotourist, I find the 22 km Banff Legacy Trail as one of the finest cycling trails that I have been on.  I would place it as number one ahead of the 110 kilometres Cour d’Alene Trail in Idaho, USA and the 200 kilometres Le P’tite Train du Nord Trail in the Province of Quebec.  This later trail is part of the excellent 4.300 kilometer long La Route Verté cycling touring network, of which I have had the pleasure of cycling 3,000 kilometres.

The Cour d’Alene Trail was a subject of a previous post.  It is expected that an update post will result from cycling this trail again in September.  The Le P’tite Train du Nord Trail was also the subject of a previous post.

The later two trails are on abandoned railway lines remote from civilization and roads.  The Banff Legacy Trail is adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway from the Banff Park East Gate into the Town of Banff.

The Bow River valley with the
mountain range on the west side.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

The Bow River valley with the mountain range on the east side
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Why do I think that the shortest of these three trails takes the number one spot for me?  Simply, cycling in a narrow valley where only the Bow River and a transportation corridor runs amid and overshadowed by two, continuous Rocky Mountain ranges with peaks extending 2,500 meter and higher makes this trail special.  There in this valley, the highway, the trail, and a trans-continental rail track share the narrow space with the Bow River and then the Cascadia River.  The continuous peaks of the Rocky Mountains always just beside you and almost within arms reach so it feels, the forests, and the electrified animal gates remind you that you are in the wilderness.

Accessing the Legacy Trail

Banff Park East Gate – Eastbound Trans-Canada off-ramp; contra-flow cycling.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

In the east, a paved bike path in the Town of Canmore that parallels the Trans-Canada Highway and the Harvey Heights Road leads to the Legacy Trail.  The east off-ramp from the controlled-access Highway #1 to Harvey Heights Road is the connection to the Trail.  Cyclists are allowed to cycle contra-flow on this eastbound ramp.  A white line on one side and a yellow line on the other provide cyclists space on this lightly used ramp by cars.  Instructions for cyclists and for motorists on the use of the ramp are lacking.  So, northbound cyclists tend to use both sides of the ramp or go right down the middle, as oncoming car traffic visibility is very good.

Contra-flow cycling on the Trans-Canada Highway until the Banff Legacy Trail trailhead
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

From the ramp, contra-flow cycling for about a 100 metres on the eastbound shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway connects one to the Trail.  For some reason, a two-metre connection from the highway shoulder to the Trail remains unpaved.

Canmore, AB – The Trans-Canada Highway; Harvey Heights Road; the adjacent bike path.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

The Town of Canmore recognizes that a more direct connection from the downtown rail-trails path is needed to this Legacy Trail.  The town already has built a number of bike paths on road right of ways and bike trails along railway lines and rivers to provide more convenient use of cycling for transportation. Bike path paralleling Harvey Heights Road.

Canmore, AB – Bike path paralleling Harvey Heights Road by the Trans-Canada Highway.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012


Canmore, AB – Bike Path along the downtown railway tracks.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Who uses the Legacy Trail?

Banff Legacy Trail. Users of the Banff Trail.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

This trail in the wilderness, connecting two towns far from any cities, still has drawing power for people from far away.  Daily cycling traffic on weekends compares well with any bike path in any city.  For this trail, traffic counts reaching 900 cyclists on a day.  This trail draws the racing and randonneuring crowd that used to use the excellent, wide shoulders on the highway, the touring cyclists, the weekend and day trippers, as well as the commuter cyclists that live in one of the towns and work in the other.  The trail draws families with children in tow in a trailer or with 10 year olds pedalling their own bicycles.

The trail satisfies the need of the serious cyclists and those out for a simple cycle to enjoy the wilderness scene, the birds singing, birds souring above, with a hope that a wild animal may be spotted.

Banff National Park of Canada. Car parking at the Banff Park East Gate
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

For those driving up from Calgary or other towns for the day to use the trail, some park their vehicles on parking lots along the Harvey Heights Road bike path, while others park in front of the Banff Park East Gate.

Town of Canmore, AB. Harvey Heights Road bike path parking areas.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Canmore is a mountain bike and Nordic skiing town nestled between two Rocky Mountain ranges with a network of hiking trail.  Banff, as we know, is a jewel in this national park with multiple of trails for all users and a skiing centre.  There is another trail connecting the two towns for mountain bikers and hiker along the Spray River.

Town of Canmore. A training ground for potential mountain bikers, the young, the not so young.
Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Needless to say, bicycle rental stores in each town are busy supplying bicycles to tourists.

 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 

This blog will be presented in five parts and released a week apart starting with 2012-08-09.

The next blog in this series will take you down the Banff Legacy Trail

Links – Banff Legacy Trail

http://www.banff.ca/locals-residents/recreation/banff_legacy_trail.htm

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/activ2/Heritage-Legacy.aspx

http://actionplan.gc.ca/initiatives/eng/index.asp?mode=8&imode=7&initiativeid=129&id=4836 ) (parallels the Trans Canada Highway (Why #1) through the Banff National Park  (http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx)

 

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