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Two wheel journeys: new guidebook will help you explore Vancouver Island by bike

Author Colleen MacDonald talks about her 3rd biking route book
Colleen Macdonald signs copies of her new book “Let’s Go Biking, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast” at Mermaid Tales Bookshop on Aug. 14. (Marcie Callewaert photo)

For cyclists of Vancouver Island, a new book is catching eyes.

Colleen MacDonald has just published her third biking route book “Let’s Go Biking, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast”.

She was at Mermaid Tales Bookshop in Tofino earier this month, signing copies and handing out “Let’s Go Biking” pins and neckwarmers to children and adults alike. MacDonald created the book she wanted to buy, suitable for all abilities, with a simple colour-coded layout that includes multiple route options and information on one page so it can easily be displayed in a map case.

MacDonald has always been an avid cyclist, but her explorations truly began after she retired and she began to explore maps, another love of hers. Curiosity took over — “How can I get there? What does it look like?” — and she would plan routes to explore by bike.

Her blog “Let’s Go Biking” turned into her first book “Let’s Go Biking, Vancouver”, followed shortly after by an “Okanagan” title.

MacDonald, who lives in Vancouver, expected to need a couple weeks to cover Vancouver Island while researching routes. In the end she needed six full weeks. Her chosen routes may not be the most direct or the fastest way to get from A to B, but they are designed to encourage exploration and sightseeing along the way. She describes them as “little toodles” with time to “stop and smell the roses” or check out a great cafe along the way.

This is aimed at making the guide a fantastic introduction for those new to the sport or looking for some guidance before starting out.

The best route, according to MacDonald, is the new ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee), the multi-use path connecting Tofino and Ucluelet through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

MacDonald was thrilled to see cyclists, rollerbladers, wheelchair users, entire families and surfers with their board strapped to their bike, all sharing and using this path. The route design gets people off the highway and opens up a safe corridor to travel in - a “game changer” for the region. A few years ago she never would have considered bringing her bike to the coast with her, while now it’s a must-do.

The community involvement with producing “Let’s Go Biking, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast” was an important part of its design. Biking advocacy groups up and down Vancouver Island have provided suggestions and revisions to make sure each route is as safe and enjoyable as possible.

“People were not hesitant to share,” MacDonald said. “They wanted others to come explore and find these bike routes.”

“Let’s Go Biking, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast” is available at Mermaid Tales Bookshop and on MacDonald’s website:

—Marcie Callewaert Special to the Westerly

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