Bikes away

Published on July 18, 2014

This week’s winner in the we-don’t-care-what-you-say-we’re-doing-it-anyway department is Cape Race Cultural Adventures Inc., local franchisee of Sacred Rides mountain biking tours.

Company owner Ken Sooley told The Telegram last weekend that he has, indeed, gone ahead and scheduled mountain bike tours on parts of the East Coast Trail against the express wishes of the association that oversees it.

His actions have raised the rankles of those who’ve worked tirelessly for years to open up and develop this pedestrian trail.

Pedestrian trail? Indeed, for that is what it is. The designation is actually spelled out in provincial legislation.

In 2010, the government wrote legislation that defined the specific parameters of hiking trails around the province as part of the Pedestrian Trails Liability Protection Act. The East Coast Trail is specifically cited in the regulations:

”The East Coast Trail, established by the East Coast Trails Association Inc. and marked reasonably clearly as a recreational hiking trail … including Crown land and privately owned land … is designated as a trail to which this Act applies.”

If you think “pedestrian” is a loose term, think again. The act doesn’t define it directly, but another piece of legislation, The Highway Traffic Act, does: “a person on foot, a handicapped person in a wheelchair or a child in a carriage or a sleigh.”

In fact, when it came to wider and more accommodating sections of the Grand Concourse that winds through St. John’s — and in collaboration with the authority that oversees it — the government took the extra step of amending the Grand Concourse Authority Act to specifically include the term bicycle. In other words, if the word bicycle is not in the designation, it is not part of the equation.

But the local mountain bike lobby has decided none of this matters. They want a piece of that trail, and they’re going to take it.

That raises an alarming spectre — the splintering of the trail. It would be a real kick in the guts to the people who kept the dream alive for so long to create one continuous sinew of coastal adventure.

On Wednesday, the Nature Conservatory of Canada (NCC) pointed out that a small portion of the trail actually belongs to it. And a spokesman said he wasn’t sure whether they could allow this new intrusion.

“We’ve yet to have any conversations with the event organizers, because, unfortunately, they didn’t reach out to us, and I don’t know why that is,” he said.

The NCC is not the only stakeholder. Other private land owners reluctantly allowed access to the trail with the understanding that it was for hikers only. Heaven knows if they’ll keep up their side of the bargain.

All this because a bike tour operator decided nothing else can substitute for this one stretch of trail. No other alternatives — not even ones they could invest their own sweat equity in instead of usurping that of others — will do.

One more example of how crass self-interest continues to occupy the vacuum left by dwindling common decency.

Bikes away!