A 14-kilometre bike ride should be relatively easy, but the route from Fulford to Ganges can be tricky for unprepared drivers and cyclists due to aging infrastructure and narrow shoulders.
On July 3, a group of 25 riders set out to draw attention to the state of the road, and to raise money for a bike lane.
Kipp Nash is the organizer of the yearly critical mass bike ride called Bike Salt Spring designed to both demonstrate the importance of and raise money for improvements on Fulford-Ganges Road. Nash is an avid cyclist who decided to do something to improve the situation on the island’s thoroughfare.
“There’s just not enough room for the population of Salt Spring to all use the roads safely,” Nash said. “We need to present the need for a bike path on Salt Spring, and awareness that the roads are inadequate for biking.”
Riders met in Fulford at 3 p.m. Bikes ranged from high-end endurance road bikes to off-brand kids bikes without working brakes. The crowd was equally as diverse, with avid cyclists, new riders, people getting back into cycling and a large children’s contingent setting off on the ride. After some introductions and last-minute maintenance, the peloton set off towards Ganges.
The first climb out of Fulford as ferry traffic was unloading immediately proved Nash’s point, as the narrow road and overflow traffic waiting for the ferry made the hill a chokepoint. The group met up again at Fulford Hall to wait for the ferry traffic to subside.
From Fulford Hall to Lee’s Hill, riders stayed fairly bunched up. Traffic noticed the riders, and a line of cars stretched out behind the group, waiting for a chance to pass. The cyclists made slow time up Lee’s Hill, the hardest climb on the route, peaking at 123 metres. Some of the younger cyclists had to stop and walk their bikes up the hill. The group stopped again at the top to regroup.
Riding from this point on was easier, as most of the going was either flat or downhill. The group stuck together riding on the side of the road. Though the asphalt is cracked for most of the way until Ganges, the cyclists were able to bounce over the potholes and cracks without incident. As the riders reached the final hill into Ganges, they formed a large group and took over the entire lane into town to avoid the large potholes and gravel pits that have formed on the side of the road during this stretch.
Nash has chosen his birthday for the yearly critical mass trek. A critical mass ride is a kind of bike ride that uses large numbers of riders to illustrate the need for cycling safety.
“You have the mass of cyclists to go where you want to go without having to worry about traffic,” said Sam FitzZaland, one of Nash’s friends who helped develop the idea. “There’s power in numbers.”
“It’s like birds flocking or fish schooling,” Nash added. “It’s where we all come together and work as one. Necessity is the father of invention. If we don’t demonstrate that it’s a necessity, then it will never come to us . . . If nobody rode [on Fulford-Ganges Road], then there would be no need to develop it.”
In 2018, Nash was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After the community rallied behind him to help his family keep up with expenses while he underwent surgery to have the tumour removed, he felt like he had to give back. As an avid cyclist, Nash was aware of the state of the island’s roads, and thought that working to improve them would be the best way he could repay the community for what they gave him.
“He never knew that [the community] would catch him in the way that [it] did. He knew that he had to give something back to the island,” said Nash’s wife Kate. “When you’re on your bike, you end up stopping more often, you talk to more people, so it seemed like a great way to give back to the community in a tangible way.”
A bike path development on Fulford-Ganges Road has been on the radar of Island Pathways since the organization was established in 1988. Members have been raising funds and lobbying for walking and cycling paths for three decades. Nash donated five dollars for every rider that took part in this year’s ride.
“I think my small-term goal would be to get a pathway from Ganges to Beddis Road, because then people could take Stewart to Fulford and they can be safe at least getting to town,” he said.
“That would be the shortest-term goal. If we could do that as a community, then I think that would at least keep everyone safe, and that’s what it’s all about.”
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