Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Quebec's better for cycling holiday than Nova Scotia

This Nova Scotia newspaper reveals the dark secret of Canada's Nova Scotia province. Perched in the edge of the North Atlantic, it has great scenery. But does it have great cycling? Apparently not. And they are using Quebec as an example of "how to do it right."

Tours drop N.S. as cycling destination
Roads unsafe driving tourists out of province, organizer says
The Chronicle Herald (Nova Scotia)


Large American tour companies have already dropped Nova Scotia bicycle routes from their itineraries, and the province stands to lose more business if road conditions aren’t improved, says a Halifax cycling tour organizer.

"The roads have gotten worse and even less welcoming to cyclists," Peter Williams of Eastwind Cycle said in a recent interview. "One of the world’s two largest companies used to do 15 to 20 tours a year in Nova Scotia. Now they’re not in Nova Scotia at all."

In the 15 years Mr. Williams has been in the business of promoting and leading bicycle tours, he said he has watched international interest in the activity grow while Nova Scotia’s roads have deteriorated to the point that many are unsafe for cyclists.

Typical cycling tourists expect to spend a lot of money during their vacations, but that cash is now going to P.E.I., Quebec and Europe, Mr. Williams said.

"And we’re losing them," he said.

Narrow pavement, crumbling edges on secondary highways, and rutted and eroded road shoulders all create difficulties for cyclists, he said. On some highways new paving projects have not included resurfacing the shoulders, so once-attractive bike routes have to be avoided.

Even the Cabot Trail, considered the cream of the crop for bicycle trips, offers a truly well-kept road only within the Highlands National Park, Mr. Williams said.

Drivers with confrontational attitudes towards cyclists, using deliberate scare tactics such as near-misses, also keep bicycle tourists away from the province, he said.

Compared to Quebec, where the government maintains a Route Vert (green route), or Europe, where bicycle travel is both encouraged and expected, he said Nova Scotia is failing.

In his role as a consultant for municipalities and organizations establishing bicycle routes, including recent work on a Pictou County Bikeways project, Mr. Williams has concluded that the provincial government needs to lead the effort to promote cycling.

"This should not be the task of small citizens groups," he said, noting that cycling should be encouraged as a form of transport that promotes fitness and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Williams added that bicycle routes are also useful for pedestrians, in-line skaters and parents pushing babies in strollers. Introducing more bicycle transportation could put a major dent in the childhood obesity rate, he said, but roadsides are unsafe for children to walk or pedal along.

"We all understand that governments are pressed financially," he said, adding that improved bike routes would pay for themselves in better health, increased tourism and less car exhaust.

Political will and a change in attitude are bigger obstacles than lack of money, Mr. Williams said.

"We need to encourage a change in thinking."

( mgraham@herald.ca)
Good roads make a big difference to improve the fun part of Cycle Fun Montreal!


At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love cycling in NS, in spite of the road conditions, which are atrocious. The scenery, the people, and the domestic architecture make it all worthwhile. But whyowhy doesn't the government realize what a huge potential they have in cycling tourism?


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