Velo Cape Breton Bicycle Association
The island’s bicycle advocates
Cape Breton Island is home to the breathtaking Cabot Trail with its 298 km that hug the coastline and pass through the scenic Cape Breton Highlands. This area is also home to the Velo Cape Breton Bicycle Association (vcb) that aims to further cycling, as recreation and sport. It’s also forming a strong bond within the community. vcb had an unexpected inception. A group of cyclists petitioned the government for bike lanes during a reconstruction project in 2003. As a newly formed voice for cyclists, the group registered as a club officially in 2004. “We still have three from that original group who are active. The club has grown from 25 members in its first year to approximately 200,” says Andrée Crépeau, president of vcb. Members pay $10 annually, keeping the club very accessible. “We live in an area where there’s a great deal of poverty. We’re very mindful of that,” says Crépeau. The community itself is in transition due to the closing of the steel plant and coal mines. “When the steel plant closed, they redeveloped the whole area as a public park. We lobbied to have a cycling safety park, which is a smallscale roadway,” says Crépeau. With tourism, fisheries and a university, Crépeau explains that Cape Breton is a thoroughly pleasant place to live. “It’s a very easy place to raise children – great cycling, great outdoor recreation,” says Crépeau. vcb runs several educational programs. It has lent its fleet of bikes to one school and, in conjunction with the municipality, run a free six-week summer bike camp for kids.
On top of the club’s weekly rides, vcb runs tours including the Lobster Roll, which rolls through Sydney Harbour and along the coast of the eastern Bras d’or Lakes. The event includes a lobster sandwich, potato salad and brownie. Two challenging tours are the Tour Cabot Trail and Tour de Lac Bras d’or. vcb ends its season with the Jingle Bell ride in December, but holds snowshoe jaunts, bike clinics and potlucks in the off-season.
vcb continues to advocate for bike safety, working with the provincial department of transportation and other bike groups across the province. Big changes are underway. “They’re now bringing in the Blue Route, which is going to connect the communities across the province. Locally, we’ve been advocating to get wider shoulders on the Cabot Trail. They just opened a new bridge in Sydney that has a 4-m wide path for pedestrians and cyclists,” says Crépeau. Close to completion is a separate 10-km path that will join Sydney to Glace Bay: the two main urban hubs. That route is a major piece of cycling infrastructure that will pass the airport and Cape Breton University.
“We’re very heavily involved in safe cycling. We’ve worked really hard on it,” says Crépeau. Velo Cape Breton Bicycle Association
“The club has grown from 25 members in its first year to approximately 200.”