While Cumberland is already known for trails and biking, cycling advocates are hoping to make the growing community even more bike-friendly.
At a recent council meeting, Mike Keohane, a Comox Valley Cycling Coalition board member, proposed ways Cumberland could add a few bike lanes, especially to improve connections with other parts of the area. At this point, he was introducing the idea, so there was no proposal before council.
The group is a non-profit that focuses on education and advocacy, though with fewer education opportunities during the pandemic, it has worked more on advocacy for better and safer active transportation infrastructure. It has also been communicating with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure about ways to improve active transportation in the region.
“Outdoor activities are a big part of why people want to live in the Comox Valley,” Keohane told council. “The number of people biking in our community is seeing huge yearly increases.”
He touched on safer infrastructure ideas that could work for Cumberland, showing maps of the community with potential routes highlighted. What the group has heard from members in Cumberland was that they want two routes in town upgraded—extending bike lanes along Cumberland Road to 4th Street, and bike lanes and road improvements to the east of Dunsmuir Avenue to Royston Road—along with additional routes into Courtenay and Royston. The latter would need some additional work on shoulders. Another idea is for upgraded connections at Bevan Road and Lake Trail Road.
An obstacle is the Comox Valley Parkway between communities, and one idea is to lay out a route for a bike path that would bypass much of it.
“The parkway makes people very uneasy riding,” Keohane said. “It’s high-speed, high-volume traffic, often with debris.”
The coalition has a couple of ideas that would involve adding new pathways with the aim of getting riders off of the parkway, along with improvements to paths and alternate existing routes like Small Road.
One challenge, he said, is that areas like the parkway are multi-jurisdictional. Another is the need to prioritize projects for grant applications by what is considered most “shovel-ready.”
Coun. Gwyn Sproule asked about rail corridors. Keohane responded that old rail line corridors are ideal routes because their grade is usually only a few degrees.
Coun. Jesse Ketler observed that a challenge around adding bike lanes at some locations has to do with their condition, saying the priority is to add lanes while fixing a whole road as opposed to retrofitting a road in relatively good shape with lanes. In other words, the village has roads to fix that are higher priorities than some of the ones targeted for lanes, but she supported the idea of finding more safe ways to link the communities.
“It would be great to get those inter-community connections happening,” she said.