‘Ride the Trail for Elizabeth’ campaign reaches Hope

Husband of deceased cyclist petitions B.C. government for safe cycling trails

Edmund Aunger

Edmund Aunger

An Alberta man whose wife was killed last July in a horrific cycling accident has launched a petition calling on the B.C. government to keep its promise to build the Trans Canada Trail.

Edmund Aunger is asking for an action plan to ensure the trail’s B.C. section is completed – as promised – by July 1, 2017, in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations. And he wants immediate action on those parts of the trail that lie on dangerous highways near Malahat, Nanaimo River, Coquihalla Canyon, Summerland, Cranbrook, Fernie and Sparwood.

Aunger’s wife, Elizabeth Sovis, was killed on Prince Edward Island on the first day of their planned cycling holiday in that province, but he says that the accident could have occurred just as easily in British Columbia.

“We did most of our cycling in B.C.,” he explained. “My wife was extremely safety conscious and, whenever possible, refused to ride in the same lane as motor vehicles. That’s why we always travelled on the Trans Canada Trail.

“Unfortunately, there are many impassable and incomplete sections, and we were frequently forced to leave the greenway and ride on some very scary roads and highways.

“In 2005, for example, when we were cycling on Vancouver Island – and diligently following the official B.C. trail guide – we suddenly found ourselves pedalling down a treacherous section of the Malhat Highway. It was an utterly terrifying experience, trying to dodge the road debris, with a rock cliff on our right and high-speed traffic on our left.

“After a few similar experiences in subsequent years, Elizabeth decided that she would spend her retirement years promoting the Trans Canada Trail. She wanted to see it finished, but she also wanted it to be accessible and passable and safe. A trail that could be used safely by everyone, regardless of their age or ability.”

Sovis worked as speech-language pathologist and had planned to take her retirement on July 1, 2013. Her husband is taking up her cause.

He will be cycling the Trans Canada Trail from Victoria to Charlottetown, in five stages, beginning in July 2013 and finishing in July 2017. He hopes to promote the trail by increasing awareness, rallying support and raising funds.

Aunger kicked off his ride in Victoria on Canada Day by reading his petition at the B.C. Legislature to about 30 supporters, mainly family and friends. Since that time, more than 500 people have signed the petition, and he hopes that these numbers will increase dramatically as he crosses the province.

Last Saturday morning, July 13, he was at Hope’s Trans Canada Trail Pavilion, where he gave a short talk about the trail, his petition and his cross-Canada ride. Afterward, he continued his ride along the Kettle Valley Railway Trail to Coquihalla Lakes.

Detailed Information on the “Ride the Trail for Elizabeth” campaign is posted at www.ridethetrail.ca.