By Andrea Arnold
Valemount resident Jared Smith has been hired by the Village of McBride to create an Active Transportation Network Plan.
Half the funding for the plan is covered by the Active Transportation Network Planning Grant. There is also funding available to implement aspects of the plan after it is created. The Village Council approved the grant submission almost exactly a year ago, in the hope that the plan would help the community obtain grants for active transportation infrastructure projects like improved sidewalks, walking trails, and creation of bike lanes.
“The goal is to find ways to get more people travelling around town by human powered means,” said Smith.
He spent a few days in town last week and is now in town for a week talking to people trying to help determine what barriers are in place preventing more people from using human power to travel, and how to facilitate an increase of foot/bike traffic.
Smith has a Bachelor of Science in Geology and Environmental Studies. He has done work for the Village of Valemount including a report that helped them secure funding for the new childcare facility.
During his time in McBride he hopes to get a feel for the community specific needs through the eyes of a valley local with knowledge of small town limitations. He has always tried to live somewhere that provided him the ability to walk or bike most of the time, as that is important to him.
“One of the things I’ve already noticed is the lack of bike racks,” said Smith. “Most of the places along Main Street do not have a designated place to lock up bikes while you are in the building.”
He is finding through conversation that for some, lack of security plays a role in the decision to not ride a bike. For others, it is the expense of a new bike, or maintenance. Others have given totally honest answers saying it is a habit to drive or they are lacking inspiration.
“One of the things I am finding people saying is that anyone who wants to walk or ride a bike can,” said Smith. “It’s a small, flat community that is easy to navigate.”
However, he is looking into the small details like how senior friendly the sidewalks and paths are, and what can be done to help connect areas just a few kilometres out of town with the village.
For those trying to commute in from outside the village footprint, navigating the highway is a necessary evil.
“It does not matter how careful you are, everyone hits the rumble strips when you’re driving,” said Smith. “So for people walking or biking, the highway can be scary.”
He spoke of one local who bikes every day, some days great distances. He is no stranger to highway riding, and he was clipped by a vehicle not that long ago. He was clipped hard enough to end up in the ditch.
“Drivers need to be more aware,” said Smith. “Especially where there are no designated bike lanes or trails and people are forced to share the highway. In town, I have observed that most drivers are considerate and abide by the speed limits.”
Smith set up a table at the Community Farmers Market on July 22, 2022 where he gathered feedback. He also held an event on Saturday at Steve Kolida Park. He created a scavenger hunt that took participants around to the more regularly visited areas to help them see how easy it is to get around town. Zac from Caribou Cycles in Valemount was on hand on Saturday helping with small bike repairs and modifications. Those who attended received a few slices of locally made pizza.
Smith has created a survey to collect information from residents. It is available at the McBride Village office and the McBride and District Public Library.
The survey can also be found online at: tinyurl.com/3ydxmuyp
The deadline for survey submission is August 12, and two participants will receive a $50 gift certificate to a local business of their choice.
Smith felt that both events were well received and was happy with the feedback he has been given so far.
“There are a lot of people commuting by walking and biking already who have great ideas about improvements to make it even more accessible, safe, and enjoyable,” he said. “There’s a culture shift happening with more and more people wanting to reduce their dependence on their vehicles. People know the benefits of being active and are finding creative ways to incorporate that into their everyday routines, not just as recreation during the evenings or weekends.”