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Study to consider Nelson-Castlegar cycling corridor

A local group wants to look at creating a cycling corridor between Castlegar and Nelson for commuting and recreation.

The West Kootenay Cycling Coalition plans to apply for a $50,000 active transportation grant through the federal government for a feasibility study.

Vice-president Solita Work says they envision a separated, safe, and all-inclusive pathway that could be used by cyclists, pedestrians, and people who use wheelchairs, linking up communities along the way.

“Our vision includes a broader network in the future complemented by bus and passenger rail,” she says.

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“In a perfect world, we would have space available to build this. I suspect in some locations it’s going to be difficult, around tight curves on cliffs, which we have many of. But there are some secondary roads where we may be able to steal some space, maybe even along the train line.”

The grant they will apply for through the Regional District of Central Kootenay is part of $400 million the federal government has put up for active transportation infrastructure in Canada, with the first phase geared toward designs.

Work says would like an engineering company to look at the route “to see what’s most possible. And if it’s impossible, what we can do as an alternative such as putting in separate pedestrian bridges and other links?”

Work, who lives in Beasley, grew up in the area and started riding her bike into town as a teenager. When she returned to the area 20-odd years later, she was dismayed to see little progress had been made on making local highways more bike-friendly.

“With increased traffic it’s a bit terrifying. I’m passionate about having these other transportation options. If you don’t like something, you have to look at how you can improve it.”

Work says some countries like Finland make active transport a priority and maintain paths throughout the winter. In certain cities, she says, 90 per cent of children ride their bikes to work in the winter.

“Not only are you staying healthy by being active, but it’s reducing congestion and emissions.”

She says they are looking at Nelson-Castlegar because it was the dream of one of their members who had to commute between the two cities. But she says this is only the first segment, and she would like to see a cycling network connecting all of the West Kootenay.

The cities of Nelson and Castlegar have agreed to write letters of support for the grant application. Work says several non-profit organizations who favour active transport have also been supportive.

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