An Alberta man whose wife, Elizabeth Sovis, was killed four years ago in a horrific cycling accident, is now in Sault Ste. Marie to launch the fourth leg of his 12,500 km cross-country journey, riding the Trans Canada Trail from Victoria (British Columbia) to Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island).
He will kick off this summer’s ride in Clergue Park on Canada Day, and then pedal eastward on to Ottawa. Next summer, he will continue to his final destination in Charlottetown.
Edmund Aunger is honouring his wife and promoting her vision. “She wanted to see a Trans Canada Trail that was a true greenway, not a motorised roadway,” he says. “She complained bitterly that the existing Trail was not only incomplete; it was often inaccessible and unsafe. And she was right.”
“During a cycling holiday on the Trans Canada Trail in Prince Edward Island, the guidebook took us off the hard-packed gravel trail and onto a two-lane highway. Ten minutes later, Elizabeth was struck by a full-size van. The impact threw her body 50 metres.”
“I have taken up her cause, and I am working to restore the trail’s original objectives. When it was first announced in 1992, the Trans Canada Trail was intended to get pedestrians and cyclists off dangerous roadways, and away from motorised vehicles. Now, however, 45 percent of the land-based trail is on roads and highways, and an estimated 30 percent is used by off-road motor vehicles. This is absolutely perverse.”
“The Algoma region, in particular, is very poorly served by the Trans Canada Trail. The ‘trail’ route from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay travels 990 kilometres through Lake Superior. Consequently, pedestrians and cyclists have little option but to take a life-threatening journey along Highway 17.”
“And in 2013, cross-country cyclists Robert and Irene Booth, a married couple in their sixties, were struck and killed by a pick-up truck while riding on the shoulder near Nipigon.”
“The 335-kilometre land-based route from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury is marginally better. Although in parts it travels along Highway 17, in the main it follows secondary roads. Only in the most populated areas does it use separated trails.”
In his campaign, Aunger is calling upon the Ontario government to intervene and – in collaboration with the federal government – to set minimum standards for the Trans Canada Trail.
“First and foremost, no section of the Trans Canada Trail should be motorised. It must be clearly designated as a public greenway, and it should be hard-packed, well-drained and at least three metres wide.”
“We should abandon our current plans for a 24,000-kilometre maze of roads, rivers and ruts, and build an 8,000-kilometre cross-country spine trail that is safe and accessible and passable.”
“It’s better to do this right, than to do this fast. Pretending that the Trans Canada Trail will be fully connected by July 1, 2017 is simply a dangerous hoax.”
On Friday, July 1, 2016 at 10 AM, Aunger will kick off his 2016 “Ride the Trail for Elizabeth” campaign at Sault Ste. Marie’s Trans Canada Trail Pavilion, located by the Waterfront Walkway in Clergue Park, near the Art Gallery of Algoma.