Submitted by: Garett Richardson of the Grande Prairie Wheelers and Bob Walsh of Dunvegan Nordic Ski and Cycle from Fairview
The Grande Prairie Wheelers Cycling Club has been operating for about 30 years. There are lots of mountain bike trails south of Grande Prairie thanks to the work of area mountain bikers over the years. Some good road riding is easily accessible from the city, and the County of Grande Prairie is paving more parts of rural gravel roads. However, as the Grande Prairie region grows there’s more traffic due to the population’s reliance on cars. This is making county roads that were pretty quiet and good for road cycling, busy with vehicular traffic. While the County of Grande Prairie is paving more rural gravel roads, this paving is often in short distances and takes many years to link paved sections together.
For the most part, drivers are pretty respectful of cyclists. Some new roads in the City of Grand Prairie have multi-use trails next to them (68th Ave). The City has done a lot of work to link multi-use trails in the past 8+ years. There are discussions to link the City trails with County trails in the south end of the city in an effort to connect to a future park in the old Wapiti gravel pits. This is included in Wapiti Recreation Area plans. All paved road shoulders are very narrow, especially for the size of vehicles using roads in the area. Perceived safety is the biggest barrier to get more people riding. It’s difficult to ride a bicycle to outlying communities without riding on busy four-lane highways. There are no active transportation links between the City and County, with the exception of the trail from Wedgewood subdivision to Evergreen Park.
There are plans to include a pedestrian/bicycle bridge across Wapiti river along Highway 40 when the bridge is upgraded to four-lane. This is badly needed, since heavy industrial traffic and a narrow highway and bridge currently keep all but the boldest cyclists from riding across it to get to the south side of the river.
Highway 40 south of Grande Prairie used to be very popular with road cyclists. With the increase in oil and gas development down this highway, it has become unsafe for cyclists to use. Cyclists wishing to ride in the Grovedale area south of Grande Prairie must now drive there.
The Fairview area is home to the Dunvegan Nordic Ski and Cycle club. This group is busy with road and mountain biking. There are opportunities to enjoy road loops between 25 to 70 km or more on local paved roads. Most roads often have narrow shoulders, sometimes reduced further by the installation of shoulder rumble strips. Some roads are effectively off limits to cyclists since rumble strips on narrow shoulders force such riders into the traffic lane. Most motorists are bicycle friendly and are used to seeing cyclists on the roads, but the close approach of vehicles on the narrow roads is a significant barrier to new riders.