When it hits its completion date, which is expected to be in time for Canada’s 150th birthday next July 1, it will cover about 24,000 kilometres, making it one of the most expansive recreational use trails in the world. But some think The Trans Canada Trail is better in concept than in execution.
Also known as “The Great Trail”, The Trans Canada Trail Is a vast network of biking/walking trails that sprawls across Canada. It was conceived during celebrations for Canada’s 125th birthday, in 1992, and has been funded with a mix of federal and provincial money.
Right now, the trail covers more than 20,000 Kilometers, winding its way across every province and territory. The Great Trail is intended to increase tourism, encourage an active lifestyle for generations to come, and create more jobs for Canadians.
Some early adopters of the trail, however, say it is not living up to expectations. They claim that some parts of it are off limits to bicycles while other parts are spread out and hard to actually access.
“On the face of it, it seems like a dream come true. The reality not so much,” trail user Richard Roussey told cycling website Road.cc. “To date it is a hodge podge of local trails, some paved, most not paved. Some limited to bikes and pedestrians. Some are ‘Oops, you have to use the highway for 35 kilometers because…canyon. One section that I know of close by was arbitrarily designated part of the trail, but is actually prohibited to bicycles!”
Due to Canada’s not so friendly winter climate, cycling, of course, is not an overly reliable method of year round transport. But the activity is on a decided upswing. Events like Bike to Work Week in B.C. are encouraging the use of bicycles and have more than 7500 new riders this year alone. In Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver there are designated bicycle lanes which provide safer travel. In Vancouver, designated bike lanes have also contributed to the 40 per cent growth in bicycle users between the years of 2008-2011.
But The Trans Canada Trail is not the first of its kind. The European EuroVelo trails have a combined total length of 45,000 Km (almost double the total length of the completed Trans Canada Trail) with a total of 15 different trails spreading through 44 different countries.
The EuroVelo, first conceived in 1995, was originally envisioned to be just 12 different trails, but quickly expanded in scope.
EuroVelo 13, also know as the “Iron Curtain Trail” is the longest of the individual trails that make up the EuroVelo with a total length of 10,400 Km that traverses through 20 different countries and features many different monuments and attractions along the way, including the site of the Berlin Wall.
EuroVelo is expected to be completed by 2020 and have a finished length of 70,000 kilometres.
Trans Canada Trail user Lynda Kavanagh, who also spoke to Road.cc, says our efforts just don’t compare to what has been built in Europe.
“We cycled some of this a few years ago and the shale was so thick it was like riding uphill,” she said. “I’ve cycled about 35,000km in Europe and what is being offered here is not a bike trail, great for hikers but not for biking other than for a recreational ride.”
Below: Trans Canada Trail Solo Bicycle Expedition “Newfoundland”