When I left Cape Breton in 1998, the island was dominated by car culture and there wasn’t much of a place for other forms of transportation. I moved home in 2004 to a different and much improved community. Bikes were far more visible and the Velo Bicycle Club had started and grown very quickly to hundreds of members. The positive steps continued from that point forward.
Many people in Cape Breton Regional Municipality may not be aware of the fact that our municipality has an Active Transportation Plan. The plan was approved by council in June of 2008 and the purpose of the plan is to develop active transportation (any form of human powered transportation including walking and cycling) infrastructure, opportunities and culture in CBRM. Active Transportation projects will be included in the municipal budget each year.
For the upcoming year, CBRM’s Active Transportation Committee – chaired by Councillor Ray Paruch – has identified a number of priorities throughout our region:
- Finish the work that was started in 2008. This includes upgrades to Westmount Road so that the sidewalk extends to the Coast Guard College. This also includes adding bike racks to more buses, municipal buildings and downtown areas outside of Sydney.
- Development of the Whitney Pier Community Heritage Trail in partnership with The Whitney Pier Community Heritage Trail Society. This trail will be a scenic active trail through the community of Whitney Pier with sites of historical significance identified along the way. Eventually, the trail will extend into downtown Sydney.
- The DEVCO Rail Trail in Glace Bay/Dominion has been the focus of much debate in recent years. This year, the committee hopes to get the design work finished for the trail which will provide an active corridor through both towns – linking the two downtowns with several schools, recreation facilities and neighbourhoods.
- Planning and possible construction of the Green Link project through Rotary Park in Sydney which will connect downtown Sydney with Membertou and the hospital. This project would likely be a joint venture with the community of Membertou.
- A number of Northside projects including sidewalks and installation of benches
The plan also focuses on education. In the last year, police officers were trained to be part of bicycle patrols. These “cops on bikes” have been seen at numerous events in CBRM this year and this will continue. The aim is also to reach schools to promote more walking and cycling to school through education programs and the Active and Safe Routes to School (ASRTS) program offered by the Ecology Action Centre (http://saferoutesns.ca). ACAP Cape Breton is taking the lead on another initiative in partnership with CBRM to encourage workplaces to provide incentives for employees who walk or cycle to work.
Finally, there were some rumours of a possible bike lane for Kings Road. That is not in the works for the upcoming year but there is a plan to put Cape Breton’s first ever bike lane on George Street in Sydney. We have certainly come a long way in a short period of time in CBRM and things will only get better from here.
For more information on the plan, visit http://cbrm.ns.ca/active-transportation.html.