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Letter: Convert rail corridor to trail

All over North America, rail rights of way are being converted to multi-use trails

Convert rail corridor to trail

Support for Rail to Trail:

I am a longtime bike commuter who rides as far as Victoria and Nanaimo to shop, usually for groceries, from my home in Cobble Hill. The Trans-Canada Highway is the fastest, least hilly and smoothest route for the vast majority of my trips, but in some places it is unsafe and unpleasant to ride, mostly due to disappearing shoulders and irritated motorists. Most people aren’t willing to put up with this, which is why cyclists are not numerous in these parts.

People at the CVRD seem to think it is sufficient to proclaim bike routes on some of the side roads near the TCH. What they fail to realize is these roads are too hilly and meandering to be convenient and fast enough when using a bicycle in place of a car. The Cowichan Valley Trail is nice for recreation but is too far out of the way from where most people need to go to be of much use for legitimate commuting. The Great Trail over the Malahat is far too rugged to commute on and is often closed due to washouts.

The E&N corridor as a paved trail would single-handedly go a very long way toward solving the problem of insufficient active transportation facilities for the South Island, which will help tackle the high cost of living and the health care crisis by enabling thousands of people to abandon their cars and avoid paying transit fares. Having walked every metre of the railway between Duncan and Langford last summer, I have seen that this is potentially a superb continuous, direct inter-city non-motor highway. However, there are only a few very short trails along the way that follow the corridor and there is no room for a continuous trail with rail.

Bringing the railway up to a safe standard that is convenient for commuters with trips every hour each way, would be so costly the fares would be prohibitive. There is already high demand for the public to freely use this right of way, evidenced recently by the rapid accumulation of footprints within the tracks after a snowfall. All over North America, rail rights of way are being converted to multi-use trails and the Galloping Goose trail in Victoria carries 50 times more people per day than the E&N train did when it was running. It seems negligent at best that the ICF has been able to hold this asset hostage with tunnel vision for bringing back trains while cyclists and pedestrians have been ignored.

Donald Gillmore

Cobble Hill