Cyclists along B.C.’s South Thompson River will have a smoother and safer ride this summer, thanks to a provincial initiative installing running strips on cattle guards.
In a release last week, the provincial Ministry of Transportation said it had retrofitted three cattle guards on East Shuswap Road, which follows the river east of Kamloops, B.C., with two 15-centimetre wide steel plates each so that bikes could easily roll over them.
The ministry said it expects to modify seven more cattle guards on the same route by June.
Commonly seen in rural areas across B.C., cattle guards are grids of parallel metal pipes installed in roads that act as a barrier for livestock and wildlife.
However, they can be dangerous to cyclists, said Mike Stewart-Smith, director of Kamloops’s Interior Grasslands Cycling Club, which pitched the metal strip idea to B.C. government.
“There’s about four-inch [10-centimetre] gaps in between each pipe,” Stewart-Smith told the CBC’s Jenifer Norwell. “As the bike goes over it, it’s like riding on a very, very bumpy road.
“With our new carbon fibre bikes and our carbon fibre wheels, [the cattle guard] wrecks them.”
Stewart-Smith said he first proposed the idea in 2019 to the transportation ministry, which offered to pilot the idea on three cattle guards on Westsyde Road, which heads north out of Kamloops, parallel to the North Thompson River.
With guidance from the B.C. government and collaboration with the B.C. Cattleman’s Association, the cycling club spent $2,500 to build the six steel strips required last summer.
The ministry installed the strips on the three guards on East Shuswap Road over the past few weeks.
Stewart-Smith says there’s a little technique required to rolling over the strips.
“You’ve got to start a little way back before you come to the strip,” Stewart-Smith said. “The idea is to line your bike up with the strip by looking at the near end for a little while.
“As you get closer to the strut [of the cattle guard], the key thing is to look on the far end of the strip. Because if you take your eyes off the end of the strip, you’ll most likely ride off the strip.”
WATCH | Cyclist Mike Stewart-Smith demonstrates how to ride across the cattle guard strips:
Cyclist Mike Stewart-Smith demonstrates how to ride across cattle guards on newly installed metal strips. 0:11
The Ministry of Transportation says the pilot project has the support of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and the local cycling community, and is aligned with the provincial vision of promoting active methods of transportation such as cycling.
The ministry told CBC that it is evaluating results of the pilot project and may consider adopting similar pilots in other locations across the province.
It also said it’s considering including the pilot results in the next update of B.C. Active Transportation Design Guide, which includes best practices for transportation infrastructure designs.
Stewart-Smith says he hopes metal running strips will be installed on cattle guards across the province.
“Riding around these rural roads is just a wonderful experience for us, and not to have the cattle guards to worry about makes a huge difference,” he said.
Tap the link below to hear Mike Stewart-Smith’s conversation with Jenifer Norwell on the cattle guard strips:
Daybreak Kamloops6:00Metal strips on cattle guards make safer ride for cyclists along East Shuswap Road
Mike Stewart-Smith, director of Kamloops’s Interior Grasslands Cycling Club, speaks to CBC story producer Jenifer Norwell about his club’s innovation that has been adopted by the province. 6:00