Celebrating the official launch of the first segment of the provincial cycling Blue Route on Aug. 6 in Pictou.
Things have really gotten into high gear for Bicycle Nova Scotia these past few months.
On Aug. 6, the organization officially launched the first segment of the Blue Route, (Nova Scotia’s provincial cycling network project), in collaboration with the Nova Scotia government. The inaugural section connects Pictou to East Mountain (Bible Hill) along segments of the provincial road network and the Jitney Trail. The entire route is 56 km in length, including 53 km on provincial roadways and 3 km on the Jitney Trail.
The launch in Pictou was attended by Minister Geoff MacLellan of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, and Mayor Joe Hawes of the Town of Pictou along with many cyclists and long time Blue Route supporters.
“Bicycle Nova Scotia had been working on the Blue Route for eight years since the idea first came about during the Nova Scotia Bicycle Summit. It was around the same time they were launching the Route Verte in Quebec, and people were inspired here in Nova Scotia,” explained Ben Buckwold, who works on Bikeways & Blue Route Implementation for Bicycle Nova Scotia.
“BNS has been working on the Blue Route ever since, so it was a big moment when the ribbon was cut on the first section. Our plan is to continue developing the Blue Route in stages, connecting trials with on-road infrastructure unitl we achieve a full, province-wide network.”
Once fully completed, the Blue Route (www.blueroute.ca) will span 3,000 km and connect communities through designated cycling routes on secondary highways with paved shoulders, low traffic volume roads, hard surfaced trails and city streets.
Buckwold said the vision is to build a network that connects communities across the province and provides a variety of experiences and opportunities.
“Our goal is to make the Blue Route relevant to people of all types and skill levels. Whether you are into multi-day touring, considering commuting by bicycle, or a family looking for a place to ride in comfort, we want the Blue Route to make riding in Nova Scotia easier and more enjoyable,” he said.
“The trails have been an asset for years and volunteers are always working to improve them and they’re great routes for bicycles. The Blue Route is a chance for Nova Scotia to start looking at pieces of our road network as biking assets as well. With strategic improvements like shoulder paving and signage, we can create something special for the province. We think it will be fantastic for the people who live here, and it can help establish our province as an international cycling destination."
Buckwold said they hope to continue building partnerships with the province, municipalities, First Nations communities, and trails organizations to connect bike routes to existing street networks.
“We think its got a lot of potential to make it easier for people to be physically active in Nova Scotia,” he said. “Riding a bike at some point in our lives is something that most of us have in common. Unfortunately many of us leave the bike in the garage as we get older, but if we create access to better infrastructure, we know there is a huge potential demand waiting out there.”
Numbers aren’t available to provide insight into the growth of cycling in Nova Scotia, but Buckwold said from the perspective of most observers, more people are using bicycles for commuting and recreation.
“We don’t have really great data at the province wide level to say definitively that more people are riding bikes, but we see far more interest in bicycling culture around communities in Nova Scotia,” he said.
“At least 12 municipalities now have Active Transportation plans that included accommodations for bicycles.”
Buckwold said a lot of the attraction comes from the desire to increase physical activity levels, in addition to tourism and economic development potential.
“On one hand we have the high cost of physical inactivity to our healthcare system, and on the other is this growing bicycle and adventure tourism market out there,” he said.
To demonstrate the interest in cycling province-wide, Buckwold points to Gran Fondo Baie Sainte-Marie (www.granfondobaiesaintemarie.ca/en/), a new event happening along Digby County’s French shore on Sept. 27.
It quickly garnered more than 350 registrants despite being in its inaugural year. Overwhelming interest has prompted organizers to reopen registration to accept up to 400 participants.
Buckwold also points to the increasing popularity of mountain biking and bicycle tourism as other ways to further expand the existing bicycling culture in the province.
“You get to experience Nova Scotia in a completely different way and more intimate way when you’re on a bike going by at 15 or 20 km/h instead of flying by on a 100 series highway,” he said.
“This is the perfect province for bicycling because we have so many communities to explore. They’re dotted along beautiful coastlines, we have different regions with burgeoning local food cultures, vineyards and even breweries. There’s a lot to get out there and enjoy."
The 10th Nova Scotia Bicycle Summit is taking place this fall in Kings County from Oct. 2 to Oct. 4. Buckwold expects that event to draw large crowds. A complete schedule is available at www.nsbikesummit.ca.
Celebrating the official launch of Nova Scotia's cycling Blue Route on Aug. 6 in Pictou.