Sooke has the potential to be a cycling paradise, but within every paradise lies some trouble.
Lorien Arnold, cycling advocate and owner of Sooke Mountain Cycle, said the reason he moved here was because of the mountain biking.
Arnold commutes within Sooke to his shop, and says for the most part, he has a relatively easy time getting around. But he’s a confident rider, and said there are issues with the Sooke infrastructure.
“The challenge is that Sooke was designed for motor vehicles, and the sidewalks and bike lanes were kind of an afterthought. Sometimes riding through town can be a bit sketchy,” said Arnold, pointing out that the biggest issue is when cyclists have to ride along the highway and cross at Sooke River Road to get to and from the Galloping Goose Trail.
“The bridge is super dangerous. Sidewalks are high, the lane is narrow, and there is no sign notifying drivers to share the bridge or give way to cyclists.”
Arnold would like to see a section of bridge for pedestrians and cyclists to have their own crossing, or have a separate crossing placed a little further up the road.
“That would be a great thing, for tourists, commuters, and especially for youth because so many kids have to cross there to get to school.”
Corey Burger, president of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, said the region has come a long way with improvements to roads for cycling, but there are still some major holes in the system.
He said Highway 14 in particular as a challenging area for cyclists, as he also dislikes that there is no direct connection between the Galloping Goose and downtown Sooke.
Burger was disapointed to see in the Highway 14 project that there were no plans for improving the road for cyclists. A protected bike lane would be ideal, or at the very least, a path connecting the Goose trail to other trails in the municipality would be a great addition, Burger said.
“We’ve made a lot of great progress and that’s important to recognize, but it is also important to see where we haven’t reached, where progress is falling and there are holes in the system. Almost all challenges for cyclists are related to ministry owned bikeways,” said Burger.
Burger added improving these trails for cyclists would drive more tourism to the region as people come from all over to use the trails and go on long distance cycling tours.
“Historically Sooke to the West Shore is a challenging bike ride. Now with e-bikes, however, we live in a very different world. They open up much larger parts of the region to be a reasonable biking distance, for more people,” Burger said.
With a mountain bike trail, the bike park, the skate park, and the Galloping Goose, Arnold agreed, saying Sooke has the perfect layout to become a cycling destination, however the community has not made it a priority.
“Sooke is sitting on a goldmine,” said Arnold. “The Galloping Goose is a major tourism draw. Not just for people from Europe but for local tourists.”
Arnold said there is a lack of signage and language in Sooke encouraging cycling, and that with some simple marketing Sooke could catch the eye of cyclists far and wide. He said along with drawing in tourism, making the roads more welcoming for cyclists would promote healthier living and help the environment.
“The thing I love about cycling is that bikes are these wonderful machines which are the most excellent form of transportation we’ve invented, and make people happier than they might otherwise be. The exposure to fresh air, the cardio, all trigger the kind of endorphins we need to shut down the negative influences in our lives,” Arnold said.
“I think putting in a trail system to get to major spots would be a great idea and get more people cycling. Riding is a much better way to maintain contact with the world, but we need more people on board fighting for these causes.”