Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Legacy Trail Again

When I wrote about the Legacy Trail after we rode it last year, I had no idea the post would attract so much attention. It's had over 470 hits, and was linked to in a Calgary Herald blog about how Canmore and Banff are more cycle-friendly than Calgary (I'll comment on that in a moment).

We really weren't planning on riding it again this year, but we received a really cool gift certificate from a friend that included a day's bicycle rental, a shuttle so that we only had to ride the trail one way, a lunch discount in Banff and a dinner in Canmore (I don't have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are awesome).

We took advantage of everything on Friday, and it was a perfect day for it. It was sunny and hot, and being Friday, path traffic was low.
Our rental steeds 
Mt Rundle and blue sky
Unfortunately, we missed the shuttle part of the package, as that shuttle only runs weekends at this time of year. Bad planning on our part. We also tried to get the discount lunch in Banff that was included in the package but the restaurant had never heard of the cycle shop, much less the fact that they had a co-marketing deal. At least the food was good and the beer cold.

We decided to ride down the Vermilion Lakes Road and look for wildlife (a bear and her cubs has been in residence there all summer). All we found were kids netting minnows. But the views were nice.
The classic view of Mt. Rundle
The Sundance Range. Sunshine Village (where I ski) on the right
As we rode back to Canmore, I decided to stop and photograph the signs dealing with the fact that the Legacy Trail ends abruptly at the Banff Park east gates.
As you near the gates 
Just outside the gates 
The abrupt end. Trans Canada Highway 50 m ahead 
The sign at the end of the trail on the other side of the highway
So, has anything changed in the year since I last rode the trail?

  • There's signs now telling you the trail ends abruptly. But it still ends abruptly.
  • There's no signs in Banff at the abrupt end of the trail there telling you... well, telling you anything. Not how to get to that portion of the Legacy Trail on the Vermillion Lakes Road. Not a map of Banff showing the bike routes. Not even something telling you how to get across Banff Avenue.
  • Trail etiquette is still misery. Still have the Lance Armstrong wanna-bees that are built for speed, don't have a bell to tell you they're passing, ride 2 and 3 abreast and don't make way. Still have the families puttering along, most without helmets. Still have the dudes riding wearing headphones, oblivious and uncaring of others. Still have the folks ignoring stop signs. Still have the folks not signaling turns. Yep, it's pretty much unpleasant and dangerous if you see others on the trail.
  • The Town of Canmore built their own path that starts nowhere and ends nowhere but allegedly helps you get to the Legacy Trail. It starts across the street from the Wapti campground (adjacent to the Travel Info Centre) -- but there's no indication at the Info Centre that it's there, and you have to sneak through a small, unmarked gap in a fence to get to it. After leaving the campground, it (unsafely) crosses the driveways of the three busiest businesses in town: the PetroCan, the Esso/Tim Hortons and Craig's Waystation -- all popular with cars and trucks and campers and RVs. Then it ends abruptly on the wrong side of Bow Valley Trail about 200 m from a set of lights where you could cross safely if the path made it that far. It passes two crosswalks along the way -- not really safe places to cross, but better than nothing.

Which leads me to comment on the Calgary Herald blog I mentioned earlier, who argues that Banff and Canmore are the most bike friendly communities in Alberta. In doing so, I have to ignore the fact that nowhere in Alberta can hold a candle to the Dutch in making communities cycle friendly.

I don't happen to think either Banff or Canmore can compare to the bike friendliness of Calgary. Calgary has hundreds of kilometers of off-street paved bike paths. Banff doesn't have any. Canmore has some, but the paths generally are far more heavily used by pedestrians, so aren't easy to negotiate on a bike.

Calgary has hundreds of kilometers of on-street pathways. They have (generally) picked quiet backroads near main thoroughfares. Canmore and Banff put most of theirs on main drags. Banff Avenue is a terrible road to pick for a bike route. So is Bridge Road and Rundle Drive in Canmore.

Calgary has built bridges that are just for bikes and pathways (no comment on the Peace Bridge). Banff hasn't. Canmore did get an underpass for the TransCanada to stop jaywalkers (didn't help much). And it does have two separate bridges just for pathways. But one is literally right next to the Bridge Road on-street bike path. So bikes stay on the road, and don't use the bridge built just for them. Maybe "bike friendly" means that bikes are encouraged to ignore the facilities built just for them.

Banff and Canmore feel "rules free" when it comes to riding. Calgarians generally wear helmets; less than 20% of riders in the valley wear helmets. Calgary cyclists slow down for stop signs (usually) and signal sometimes. Valley riders seem to believe the traffic rules don't apply to them so never signal, never slow, never yield, never ride single file, ride the wrong way in traffic, never follow the rules. So if being "bike friendly" means bicyclists can do whatever they want with impunity, then sure, Canmore and Banff are "bike friendly".

Canmore and Banff have more rude, "all that matters is me" riders (especially the Lance Armstrong wanna-bees). Perhaps the reason we seem "bike friendly" is because we they get away with the obnoxious behaviour with impunity.

When I was renting my bike in downtown Canmore, some tourists came up and asked us about riding the Legacy Trail. My answer was hesitant. Once you're on it, it's OK. It's popular, but that popularity is bad, because it makes for an unpleasant and occasionally dangerous ride. It's long and flat and paved, and allegedly safe for all (ignoring the "getting on it" and "getting off it" part).

I guess my conclusion from last year remains: I'm just not going to ride the Legacy Trail that often.

1 comment:

RyderDA said...

Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks that the etiquette on the trail is poor. See this letter to the editor in our local newspaper.