Sunday, December 19, 2021

Cycling Project Pipeline for Whitehorse

 For a number of years I have been saying we need a "project pipeline" for building the cycling network in Whitehorse.  What  I mean by a "project pipeline" is a orderly plan and schedule for building the connected, convenient and logical cycling network.  Building these projects takes time, especially to be planned and designed well.  It takes a year or two just to plan and design before the projects can get built, thus it is important the planning is done in advance and so the projects ready to go.  

The following is 10 Big Projects I dreamed up for what might be a good pipeline of projects to get built.  No schedule here, just my idea for a general order of priority:

  1. Close the Gap - Chilkoot Way cycling (MUP) connection from 2-Mile Hill to Waterfront Trail
  2. Active Transportation re-build of Range Road & 2-Mile Hill intersection - but design it well this time with a Protected Intersection approach. 
  3. Re-build 4th Ave Protected Bikeway - from Black Street to 2nd Ave (include re-build 2nd and 4th intersection to improve accessibility and safety).
  4. Complete the Downtown Bike Network - in particular the protected cycle infrastructure on the cross streets of Hanson, Wood, Black, Ogilvie and 2nd Ave (4th to Waterfront trail).  This would be a big, multi-million dollar project that will be well suited for federal funding (such as Canada's Active Transportation Fund).  Also connect the two downtown schools to the bike network.
  5. Build the Riverfront Rail Trail - convert the railway tracks to a cycling rail trail - to create more capacity along the waterfront, reducing conflict with pedestrians.
  6. Riverdale Cycleway - Complete a contiguous, convenient protected bike route the entire length of Lewes Boulevard, complete with high quality, convenient connections to the 6 schools along the route. 
  7. Alaska Highway underpass - create a safe crossing from the north end of the airport to the west side of the highway.  I've written about this underpass before, you an read more here.
  8. Range Road cycle route - including underpass of Mountain View drive at Range Road to provide a safe, separated connection from Range Road north to Takhini and Yukon University. 
  9. Complete the Alaska Cycle Highway - a separated, protected bike route the length of the Alaska Highway through Whitehorse - from Carcross Corner to Whitehorse's northern city limit at the Mayo Road.  Consider another underpass from Takhini North to Kopper King, providing a safe crossing for Kopper King residents and access to the Mt. Mac ski trails and greenspace. 
  10. Complete Lower Escarpment Trail - finish the downtown active transportation loop.  Consider an underpass of Robert Service Way at 5th Ave so there is a separated, convenient safe way for people to access the Millennium Trail without have to cross traffic.

In parallel, Hillcrest re-construction should be occurring which should build the bike network from Alaska Highway up to Granger/Copper Ridge.


 


Saturday, July 31, 2021

Exploring the Old Alaska Highway - Off-Highway Ride from Whitehorse to Haines Junction

Summary:

  • Ride the route of the original Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction
  • 160km total distance, 90 km are off the modern day highway
  • Can be a nice one or two-night trip (Friday evening, Saturday & Sunday)
  • Mix of highway pavement, backroad pavement, gravel and some interesting abandoned paved sections in the forest.
  • Day 2 is particularly nice with last 35 km from Canyon to Haines Junction completely off-road with some really nice gravel riding.    

The Idea:

I realized that much of the original route of the Alaska Highway between Whitehorse and Haines Junction still exists.  So we found and followed much of it on our bikes and were able to ride about 60%, or about 90 km of the 160 km between the two towns off of the modern day highway.  We ended up finding some pretty interest and nice gravel riding, a great way to make the trip.  Some of it is well known, such as "Old Alaska Highway" near Whitehorse, or the section through Champaign, but others are either pretty overgrown, or, nice gravel road such as the section of the route that follows the Kluane Wagon Road from Canyon into Haines Junction.

I'm not keen on camping, so I try to find accommodation along the way.  We left town Friday after work and stayed at Muktuk Adventures (lots of great accommodation options here, plus great breakfast!).  I couldn't find accommodation half way, so ended up leaving our trailer at a friend's place at Mendenhall, but post-pandemic it might be possible to camp/stay at Long Ago People's Place, which would be pretty cool.  I haven't talked to them yet, but it would be worth following up next year. 

Here is the 1946 airphoto and you can see how it weaves across to the west where Birch St is now, then back over to Centennial St north.
 

Route Overview:

You can do this route as an overnight, riding about 80 km each day.  But we did it as a 2 1/2 day trip (two night) leaving town Friday afternoon, then two full-day rides Saturday & Sunday.

 Download the route for Ride With GPS: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/36322813

Day 0 - Whitehorse to Old Alaska Highway / Muktuk Adventures - km 1430 to 1442

From downtown, ride about 26 kilometers of the Alaska Highway, then about 4 km off the highway to stay overnight at Muktuk Adventure's cabins. 

  1. Centennial Rd. in Porter Creek is the old Alaska Highway route.
    We started following the old Alaska Highway from Porter Creek where Centennial Road follows the original route of the highway.
  2. Cross to the west side of Alaska Highway at Super-A where Birch St follows the route of the original highway. 
  3. Cross back to Centennial at Wann Road and follow it to MacDonald Road.  We stopped for dinner and a beer at Whiskey Jacks
  4. A few kilometres on the highway past Crestview and there is a 1 km section of gravel road which is the old highway on the east side before Cousins Airstrip.  You can stay off the highway by continuing through the rest stop and follow the ATV trail on the east side to the intersection with the North Klondike Highway.
  5. Cross the N. Klondike Highway to follow ATV trail on the east side of the highway, climb the hill to access a nice 3 km section of the old Highway, which is now Parent Lane.  
  6. At km 1441 cross to the south side of the highway to find two short loops of the old highway and are now Echo Lake Road and Jackson Road.

 

Day 1 - Old Alaska Highway to Mendenhall / Champagne - km 1442 to 1496/~1508 +/-

The first full day starts with a nice ride on the paved Old Alaska Highway just outside Whitehorse, a few abandoned sections before Takhini Crossing, and then the longest on-highway stretch - about 28 on highway before you find the next abandoned segment near Stoney Creek.  The old section of highway through Champagne is about the half-way point of the trip, so find camping in this area:

  1. Old Alaska Highway is a 6 km side road which makes for a nice morning ride to start the day.  Feels very rural.
  2. Between here and Woodland Road (km 1453) are three short segments on both sides of the road that are quite overgrown, but ridable on a mountain or gravel bike with hearty tires.  
    Woodland Rd., last section of old highway for a while.
  3. Woodland Road is the last section of old highway for a while, so it is worth riding.  A bit of a scramble back down to the highway at Takhini Crossing.  
  4. After 28 km of mind-numbing road riding (stop to admire the cows and have lunch at the Takhini River to break up the monotony), you again find sections of old highway on the south side - a very short segment at Annie Ned Creek and then a longer section starting at km 1483 just before La Prairie ranch.  
  5. At km 1484 you can follow the old highway on the north side where it crosses Stoney Creek.  The bridge is gone, so you'll have to go back to the modern highway to cross the creek, unless you are an obsessive person like me with a partner of infinite patience and insist on wading the creek and bushwacking back up to the old road route. 
    Crossing Stoney Cr., not remains of bridge on far bank.
  6. At km 1488 you can find an old piece of road on the south side that leads to the Kusawa Lake road.  It  has been "scarified" so is pretty rough to ride, but you can see a bit of yellow line still on the broken up chip seal.   
    Remains of yellow centreline along abandoned section of old highway near Kusawa Lake Rd.

    You can detour down the Kusawa Rd for a couple of kilometres to reach the Mendenhall River crossing which is a good place to take a swim and cool off. 
  7. After crossing the Kusawa Road, cross to the north side of the highway to find another <1km section of old road, better riding this time.
    Old asphalt at km ~ 1490, north side of the modern highway.

  8. Now another 5 km on the highway before reaching the Mendenhall Subdivision access road which is another 1.5 km chunk of the old highway you can ride through.

We stayed the night at a friend's property at Mendenhall, so depending on where you camp adjust your day 1->2 break.

 

Day 2 - Mendenhall / Champagne to Haines Junction - km 1496/~1508 +/- to km 1578

 Day 2 is the better day with lots off-highway riding and some interesting discoveries.  The longest "on-highway" stretch is about 14 km from the west end of the Champagne road to just before Cracker Creek.  From Cracker Creek onward, the route get fabulous with fun abandoned paved sections to the fast gravel ride on the Kluane Wagon Road / Marshall Cr. road for the last 35 km of the route:

  1. After the Mendenhall section, cross to the south side of the highway at km 1497 to avoid the big hill.  This takes you on a gravel trail through a really nice grassland that is worth the detour.  
    Trail through nice south-facing grasslands allow you to bypass the big hill after Mendenhall

  2. About a kilometer and a half later, you can cross the the north side of the highway for a nice three km gravel section of the old highway (starts at km 1500)
  3. After crossing the Mendenhall River you get to the old highway Champagne.  This is a leisurely 14 km paved road with very little traffic, and of course the highlight is the history-rich village of Champagne.  
  4. 14 km more of dull highway riding - this will make you thankful for what comes next.
  5. At km 1533 you finally get to leave the highway to access another old section of road on the north side, just before Cracker Cr.  It returns to the highway to cross the creek, then again departs on the north side for another kilometer of pleasant gravel and fast-rolling abandoned paved road - very fun! 
    Abandoned paved road west of Cracker Creek.

  6. At km 1537 starts the really interesting paved but overgrown 8 km segment of road.  This is the highlight of the trip.  Zipping along fast through the forest and wildflowers on a paved abandoned road.  Felt like riding on those abandoned airfields you see, but it is covered in wildflowers!  You'll want a gravel bike or mountain bike because it can be a bit rough.  But this section between here an Canyon is defiantly a rare and unique find, well worth the ride. 


  7.  You can get resupplied with sugary and salty treats at Otter Falls RV park (km 1546), then cross the Aishihik River on the heritage bridge, and from here on, it is off-highway gravel along the Kluane Wagon Road and Marshall Creek road!  Cross the old wood bridge, then it is a bit of sandy push up the hill. 
    A sandy push up the hill after crossing the Aishihik River.
  8. Cross to the south side of the highway at the top of the hill for a really nice, smooth gravel through open forest - about 5 km.
    Kluane Wagon Road, west of Canyon - some pretty sweet gravel riding.


  9. At km 1553 you'll cross the highway to continue on the Kluane Wagon Road north of the highway.  Again, another 5 km really nice gravel riding, this time through pretty aspen forests. 
    This mind-numbing road is what you get to bypass by following the old route!


  10. You'll cross the highway again to the south side at km 1557 to access the Marshall Creek road, which is the last 20 km of the ride, leading you to Haines Junction.   Overall this last section is downhill and fast riding gravel road. You do need to ford Marshall Creek, but most of the year it isn't that bad. After that it is nice views of the Dezedeash River, some farms and then you are there, Haines Junction and historical mile 1016. 
    Fording Marshall Creek.  2021 was a record snowpack year, so the creek was in flood.





    The End.

 

 

I have an album of more photos and videos from the trip (for inspiration purposes!) on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10159339060738936&type=3

 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Easy Overnight Whitehorse Bikepacking Route - Cowley Lake Gravel Tour

Summary: Easy, overnight gravel bikepacking tour route for "credit-card camping" from downtown Whitehorse.  

  • Total trip distance ~90 km
  • Day 1 route goes south towards Cowley Lake, avoiding highways except for the last 10 km. You'll end up at the very nice Yukon Motorcycle Park to overnight where they welcome "three wheels or less".   Stay in the wall tents (with beds!) and enjoy a hearty dinner at Wolf's Den restaurant.  
  • Day 2 is shorter, starting with some easy trail riding and lunch at Winterlong Brewing.  Route avoids the highway and is a mix of trail (including some single-track) and rural roads. Return to Whitehorse crossing the emerald waters of Miles Canyon.   


 

The idea:

Cozy wall tents (with beds!) at Yukon Motorcycle Park

I wanted a local overnight bike tour that was easy, but I didn't need to camp (I hate tent camping).  Thus, the new Yukon Motorcycle Park is perfect for that!  Owner Bruce Martin is happy to have "three wheels or less" and provides cozy wall tents with beds and bedding.  Plus the Wolf's Den restaurant has hearty dinner and off-sales for beer around the fire pit. 

The route is designed to avoid highway as much as possible, but still be an easy off-road ride with friends.  AND be able to stop for beers along the way.  Day 1 is about 50 km, and Day 2 is easier at about 35 km so you can have a leisurely morning and not be too early to stop for beer at Winterlong.  

Route Overview:

The route doesn't necessarily need to go to Cowley Lake, I just called it that because it is the southern most extent of the route. 

Day 1 - Whitehorse to Carcross Corner via Cowley Lake: 

    1. Starting from downtown Whitehorse, head around the north end of the airport and through the trails between Hillcrest and Granger.  Stop in and visit Nicole Bauberger's outdoor art gallery  https://www.trailforks.com/trails/dalton-trail-trail-gallery/
    2. Local pork snacks from Bigway
      Pass through the residential subdivisions of Granger and Copper Ridge - stop for any missing supplies, snacks or coffee after making the big climb, at Bigway Foods in Granger.
    3. Take any of the three trails from Granger southward over to McLean Lake Road (we chose the longer, but nicer and less climb trail to the west that Trailforks calls "Midnight Access" - you can actually link that with the lower part of Sparky, then back to Midnight Run and pretty much avoid all the climbing and twisty single track) 
    4. Take McLean Lake Road up to the Copper Haul Road - we detoured via McLean Lake itself to avoid going through the gravel pits.
    5. Follow the Copper Haul Road all the way south to the Wolf Creek bridge.  We stopped for lunch at Mt. Sima ski hill and took advantage of their chairs and pick-nick tables. 
    6. Continue south from Wolf Creek on the Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail) on what is called the Pipeline Road.  If it has been wet or it is early in the season, there can be some pretty good puddles on the trail.  We got wet feet. 
    7. Follow the Pipeline Road (or Annie Lake trail as Trailforks calls the southern portion) till the overlook over Cowley Lake (just so you can say you saw the lake), then turn around and head back to the bridge over Cowley Creek.  
    8. On the south side of the small bridge over Cowley Creek, follow the quad trail east / northeast till you reach the White Pass & Yukon Route railway tracks at the former location of Cowley Station.  This short bit of trail can be swampy, so you might need to bushwack a bit to get around the wet spots.  But it is just a short distance, and once you are there, it is all roads from here to the end.  
    9. After crossing the tracks, you can access Cowley Lake Road by passing south of the private property.  Follow Cowley Lake Road to the Klondike Highway.
    10. From here it is 10 km north up Klondike Highway to Carcross Corner.  If you are lucky, the prevailing wind is from the south and you might get a nice tailwind like we got.  You can also stop for a swim at Kookatsoon Lake to refresh before reaching camp.  
    11. Three Wheels or Less includes bikes!
      There is a good quad trail on the north side of the Alaska Highway so you can stay on gravel for the last kilometre to camp. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"Super Class" cycleways for Whitehorse?

I recently saw presentation from a Finnish city on their new "Super Class" of cycle routes in that city.  Perhaps the term "Super Class" translates a bit funny to English, but it resonates with an idea I've been mulling over for Whitehorse for years:  the need for a set of established, named and signed, contiguous cycle commuting routes in Whitehorse.  I don't know what the best name for them would be "premier routes" "named routes" "priority routes"...I'm sure someone clever will come up some good nomenclature.

But the idea is a set of signed, designated key routes that receive high-quality, continuous maintenance year round.   Thus, I broke out the pen and paper (or mouse and PowerPoint to be honest) and dreamed up some ideas based on what I know: 

All of the routes I dreamed up start/end at a central hub at Waterfront and Main Street  These routes should be uniquely identified, so I colour coded them, and again inspired by Oulu, I numbered them, starting like a clock starting from the north. 

I also laid out the routes to connect all of the schools south of Porter Creek.  Thus there is a priority cycle route to each school such that one-day maybe kids could start biking to school routinely again.  A first step is to create a safe way for them to do so.   

I'm not a resident in these subdivisions, so I don't know if the routes I drew up make the most sense of each neighborhood.  Also I didn't draw anything for Porter Creek since I don't know enough about what makes for travel patterns in that neighborhood.  

Anyway, I hope this inspires some ideas for how we can establish designated cycle routes for traveling by bike easily, year-round.



Tuesday, October 27, 2020

2018 looks to have been a bad year for Yukon's carbon emissions

Greenhouse gas emission reporting always lags two to three years behind.  I find this frustrating when we are in a Climate Change Emergency and yet do not publish our pollution until three years after the fact.  How are we supposed to manage what we measure three years too late? 

Yukon generates it own emissions estimate because it has access to its own data sets for a more accurate estimate (relative to the National Inventory Report where Yukon is a mere rounding error on the national scale).  But the most recent Yukon estimate (https://yukon.ca/en/greenhouse-gas-emissins-yukon) only goes up to 2017.   It is great Yukon does this more detailed, more accurate estimate, but again, it is still so much after the fact, it is hard to get feedback on how we are doing in our climate change fight.

So I plotted road fuel usage data, as reported by Yukon Bureau of Statics and greenhouse gas emissions to see if it gives some "indication" of how we've done since 2017.  Since we know transportation is responsible for the majority of Yukon's emissions, it does give some insight: more fuel used = more emissions.  Results are below, and the answer is things are not looking good for Yukon's emissions in 2018.  Transportation fuel was up 16 million litres in 2018 vs 2017.

We are going in the wrong direction. It looks like we will need to double-down if we want to achieve our desired 30% reductions in the next 10 years.