Cycle Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia

Photo Credit: UPLAND, and Bicycle Nova Scotia


Research by: Samantha Miller

Edited by: Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2019



Project: Cycle Nova Scotia

Type of Urban Strategy: Smart Cities

Type of ProjectActive Transportation

LocationNova Scotia (province-wide)

Date Designed/Planned: 2016

Construction CompletedOngoing

Designer: Bicycle Nova Scotia, UPLAND


Cycle Nova Scotia is a collaborative project with Bicycle Nova Scotia, Tourism Nova Scotia, and UPLAND Studio. The result is a network of bike routes that provide an opportunity for province-wide exploration, on and off route. There is over 3000 km of available biking routes that connect via a web of routes that cross the inside of the province to encourage community connections and tourism. The Route Verte in Quebec inspired the project, and the team works to have visitors and residents to explore Cycle Nova Scotia to encourage active living and active transportation. This project is an excellent example of a project that not only helps to show individuals that there are better ways to explore cities and provinces than driving and flying, but also how the Government of Canada is taking steps to make cycling a primary form of transportation. Specifically as a project relating to smart cities, the project meets the requirements of a smart city because not only is it a method of active-transportation, but the use of apps, pamphlets and graphics helps promote the project and make it easier to access and use by visitors and residents.  This project should be viewed as a precedent for better cycling networks across Canada, beginning with each province.


“From relaxing rails-to-trails cycling adventures through coastal communities, to the sweeping views of the ocean on the world-renowned, heart-pumping Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia has an ideal ride for you! Whether it’s a cycling tour, group ride or a solo outing down a quiet country road, check out the route maps below to start planning your itinerary” (Tourism Nova Scotia, n.d.). On the first day of Nova Scotia Bike Week in 2016, the Government of Canada announced its contribution and support of the over 3,000km continuous route network for bikers, stretching coast to coast. The named the main route “The Blue Route,” which stretches along the coastline and crosses through the interior of the province to keep it a connected network. The Government supported this project because it is a tourism and active living/transportation asset for Nova Scotia. “Significant in-kind contributions have been made by the active network of trail associations across the province, and the towns and municipalities who will benefit from the completed bicycle route. Each has provided substantial support through their active transportation plans—through volunteer capacity, constructing bicycle facilities and creating trails to connect their areas to the Blue Route.” (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, 2016)


The foremost opportunity for developing the trails for Cycle Nova Scotia was to explore all former rail lines. The team discovered that the rail lines were great routes for biking and turned them into trails. The main goal of the route selection was to provide connections between many communities and areas, as well as great off-road cycling. The routes have many trailheads and access points to join the route, allowing for flexibility, on and off trail. In each community, there is tourism information and historical landmarks and information. “Some of the main destination trails are: Celtic Shores Coastal Trail Connect to Cape Breton’s Celtic culture on this 92-kilometer (57 mile) route that hugs the coastline from Port Hastings to Inverness. Rum Runners Trail Rich in history, this 119-kilometer (74 mile) trail connects the historic city of Halifax and Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, passing through the coastal communities of Hubbards, Chester, and Mahone Bay Harvest Moon Trail The 117-kilometre Harvest Moon Trailway traverses the Annapolis Valleythrough beautiful towns, connecting the Landscape of Grand Pré UNESCO World Heritage Site to the historic seaside town of Annapolis Royal.” (Province of Nova Scotia, n.d.)


In 1997, the New England Governors and Atlantic Canadian Premiers recognized the importance of linking regions through a connected bicycle route. They created a Resolution that began to create routes, inspired by Route Verte, that was implemented in several provinces throughout the Maritimes. Only Prince Edward Island put significant effort into the development of trails and advertisement, while other provinces implemented a trail system but did not have dedicated trails or advertising. Nova Scotia, specifically Velo Cape Breton, hosted its first Cycling Summit in 2006, bringing together cycling groups and cycling advocates from across the province. The real surge began following the Second Summit in Pictou County in 2007, when the government understood that there was a clear need for a coordinated effort to create a bikeways system for Nova Scotia. After the summit, Bicycle Nova Scotia (funded by the Office of Health Promotion and Protection) created a report to begin the planning process to fulfill the needs of the province residents. The first report draft was presented at the Third Summit in Dartmouth in 2008, feedback was given and information was collected in order to produce a final report following the summit. (Province of Nova Scotia | Bikeways Feasibility Report, 2009) When the ideas of a province-wide bicycle project first started, multiple parties and organizations were exploring the concept. In 2014, both the Competition and Recreation/Active Transportation sectors merged, allowing the project to bring its full thrust forward into a comprehensive plan and scheme. This merge also meant that the province had a more significant voice and a greater responsibility to maintain transparency, equity and fiscal accountability. 2015 brought expansive growth in the development project, especially after the Bicycle Nova Scotia organization met with the Department of Health and Wellness and had a Strategic Planning Meeting.


The main goal of Bicycle Nova Scotia (BNC) is to grow the capacity and reach of BNS to support cyclists across the province, by bringing the cycling community together with organizations and support. In 2015, BNS created a five-year plan with five key focus areas. Each of the focus areas includes information about the specifics of the five-year target, and the progress to December 2016. The key actions and components are: -General Bicycle Nova Scotia Organizational Aspirations Increased programming, self-sustaining infrastructure and funding, making BNS the hub for all things bicycle in NS, and increased general and corporation membership. -Competition Increased equity and women’s race categories, national competitions, have a Provincial Team program, strong coaching and team, and chip timing for events. -Tourism & Recreation Cycling infrastructure (tracks, routes, indoor bike facility, and trail maintenance and development), make NS a cycling destination, mountain bike trails, and host a cycling event -Education & Safety Support and respect for cycling, increased number of cycling riding safely (with drivers and cyclists sharing the road), cycling education, Phys. Ed youth programming, and providing funding and cycling for kids including competitions -Transportation Urban areas including bike infrastructure, update/rewrite the Motor Vehicle Act to include all road users, make Rails 2 Trails a reliable and happy entity, stable funding for active transportation, and implement and promote the Blue Route. (Bicycle Nova Scotia | BNS Strategic Plan, 2015)


In 2016, Nova Scotia Environment made provision for BNS to provide mountain bikers with access to the Five Bridges Lake Wilderness area. This initiative was a first in Nova Scotia history because it allows mountain bikers to ride in a protected wilderness area, inspiring more development of projects to open up the scope of cycling access (Bicycle Nova Scotia | Mountain Biking Trails, n.d.). The development of the Blue Route was extremely powerful in connecting communities in Nova Scotia and promoting active transportation and tourism. The concept for the route was based on Route Verte, an award-winning route in Quebec, one of the best active transportation networks in the world, bringing in around $200 million in tourism revenue each year. Once the Blue Route is complete, it will be a 3000 km network of signed bicycle routes that connect cyclists with communities across the entire province (Bicycle Nova Scotia | The Blue Route, n.d.). The initial planning process for the blue route included developing a provincial bicycle policy that is fully integrated into transportation planning, bicycle infrastructure (designated lanes, low traffic routes, appropriate signage), including cycling as an economic development strategy with tourism marketing and planning, and ensuring government leadership and education. Some of the planning principles that would help the government create a cohesive concept included mobility within and between communities, continuity, homogeneity, efficiency, safety and charm. (Province of Nova Scotia | Bikeways Feasibility Report, 2009). Bicycle Nova Scotia provides opportunities for cycling tours, group rides, or information about solo journeys through the use of route maps and pamphlets designed by Upland Studio. They feature a Bike & Yoga tour which includes a tour of the historic and scenic South Shore led by tour operators, Freewheeling Adventures. They also feature culinary adventures and programs with the I Heart Bikes company.


Bicycle Nova Scotia reached out to UPLAND Studio to create tourism products that “clearly and elegantly communicate the aesthetic and cultural values of the province’s key cycling destinations” (Upland Studios, n.d.). The reason why BNS chose UPLAND for the project is that they are experts in sustainable transportation and communication design. UPLAND worked with BNS as well as the Nova Scotia Tourism Agency and the local cycling community to create five brochures and route maps that outline the critical areas around the province. The brochures are available in all provincial visitor information centres across Nova Scotia (Upland Studio, n.d.). In terms of the development of the project itself, multiple Provincial Government Departments were involved in implementing the provincial bikeway network. The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal were responsible for transportation infrastructure, signage and route engineering. The Department of Tourism and Heritage were responsible for marketing of tourism, research and product development. The Department of Health Promotion and Protection were responsible for supporting active transportation initiatives, and co-managing the provincial rails-to-trails policy and community trail development support along with the Department of Natural Resources. The Department of Economic Development were responsible for public policy for economic development and sustainable economic development. Service Nova Scotia, the Department of Energy, the Department of Environment, and the Department of Natural Resources were also involved in the planning process. (Province of Nova Scotia | Bikeways Feasibility Report, 2009)


Nova Scotia, Bicycle Nova Scotia. (2016). Annual General Meeting. Halifax, NS. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from Bicycle Nova Scotia | BNS Strategic Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from Bicycle Nova Scotia | Mountain Biking Trails. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from Bicycle Nova Scotia | The Blue Route. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from Continuous Bicycle Route Rolls Across Nova Scotia. (2016, June 03). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from Cycle Nova Scotia Brochure Series. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from Cycling Trails in Nova Scotia | Cycling NS. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2019, from Nova Scotia, Eastwind Cycle, Bicycle Nova Scotia. (2009, January). Nova Scotia Bikeways: Scoping the Blue Route. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from Nova Scotia, Department of Communities, Culture, and Heritage. (n.d.). Trail Maintenance Program. Retrieved June 12, 2019, from


This project has allowed Nova Scotia’s towns and municipalities to have active transportation plans that are encouraged and supported by the Nova Scotia Government. The project highlights how the government has made an important investment in the future of the province and its residents and visitors. The bicycle network helps to improve the health and well-being of the residents of the project, and brings in tourists to explore Nova Scotia as a cycling destination. Whether residents use cycling as a form of transportation for daily communities, or as weekend excursions or touring opportunities, Cycle Nova Scotia ensures it is easier and safer to enjoy cycling.


Some of the initial challenges that were acknowledged during the planning process included gaps in bicycle routes and planning in Nova Scotia, intermodal linkages, and department mandates (Province of Nova Scotia | Bikeways Feasibility Report, 2009). One of the main issues with the project was the safety of rides in terms of sharing the road with vehicle drivers. To combat this, Bicycle Nova Scotia created a piece of legislation known as ‘The One Metre Rule,’ or Bill 93. The legislation makes it law for cars to give at least one-metre clearance when passing cyclists, an essential move in improving the safety of cyclists, and encouraging cycling as a mode of active transportation (Bicycle Nova Scotia | The One Metre Rule, n.d.). Road infrastructure also caused some challenges concerning poor road conditions that caused a big crash in 2014. Since then, BNS has been sure to inform participants about road and weather conditions prior to racing, and to fix roads over time. They have also been working on Incident Reporting to remain professional and accurately track and deal with issues (BNS Annual General Meeting, 2016)). The project is pervasive because it includes both competitive and non-competitive cycling, making it challenging for one organization or one team to facilitate the entire project. However, BNS has worked to ensure that the organization would be capable of carrying both sectors, but also that they could be synergistic (BNS Annual General Meeting, 2016).


In January of 2009, the Province of Nova Scotia created a report called ‘Nova Scotia Bikeways: Scoping the Blue Route - Infrastructure Inventory, Route Mapping, and Feasibility of Implementation for a Provincial Bikeways Network”, prepared by Eastwind Cycle for Bicycle Nova Scotia, with support from Nova Scotia Health Promotion and Protection. The report was the first step in understanding the feasibility of a province-wide bicycle network, and how to move forward. The report included a background of the concept, goals and objectives, how to put Nova Scotia on the map, the existing bicycle related initiatives in the province, the role of the Provincial Government departments, regional initiatives, engaging stakeholders, challenges to implementation, bikeway recommendations, and how to tackle this project financially. In the report, the writer highlights how much Nova Scotia would benefit from a project such as this, especially because intermodal transportation is increasingly important for economic and environmental reasons. At the time of the report, there were several pre-existing organizations and active transportation advocates in rural, suburban and urban areas across the projects, proving that communities were supporting infrastructure for active transportation and desire a connected network. (Province of Nova Scotia | Bikeways Feasibility Report, 2009)


Some of the main trails that the Blue Line connects are: “Truro Area to Pictou: this segment connects Pictou to the East Mountain in Bible Hill (Truro Area) along segments of the provincial road network (Route 376 and Trunk 4) and the Jitney Trail (co-managed by the Town of Pictou and the Pictou County Trails Association). The entire planned route is 56 km in length, which includes 53km on provincial roadways and ~3km on the Jitney Trail Masstown to Wallace: the second segment of the Blue Route to open, this route connects Masstown to Wallace. It is a 55km stretch of road weaving through the beautiful Wentworth Valley that features freshly paved shoulders on Nova Scotia Trunk 4 and a shared roadway on the quiet Route 307. Rum Runners Trail: the Rum Runners Trail is a 112 km trail constructed over the former rail line from Halifax to Lunenburg. It is a shared-use trail with a hard packed crusher dust surface suitable for cycling on hybrid-style bicycles. The trail merges six community trails: the Beechville Lakeside Timberlea Trail, St. Margaret’s Bay Trail, Aspotogan Trail, Chester Connector, Dynamite Trail, and Bay to Bay Trail. The Rum Runners Trail can be accessed in Halifax from the Chain of Lakes Trail, which is a 7 km paved surface non-motorized use trail. Celtic Shores Coastal Trail: the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail is a 91 km trial constructed over the former rail line from Port Hastings to the Town of Inverness. The section of trail currently designated under the Blue Route runs from Troy Station to the Town of Inverness. It is a shared-use trail with hard packed crusher dust with a hard packed crusher dust surface suitable for cycling on hybrid-style bicycles or mountain bikes. Harvest Moon Trailway: the Harvest Moon Trailway is a 110 km rails to trails route running from Annapolis Royal – Grand Pré National Historic Site. The trail ends for a short distance in the Town of Kentville where the streets were built over top of the old rail line. The trail is shared use with a crusher dust surface from Annapolis Royal to just outside of the Town of Kentville, where it becomes a non-motorized trail with a crusher dust surface.” (Bicycle Nova Scotia | The Blue Route, n.d.)


The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Innovative Communities Fund (ICF) invested $799,500 in Bicycle Nova Scotia. The investment is non-repayable and goes toward helping the project to create the routes and linkages with existing multi-use trails and bike-friendly facilities across the entire province. The work includes “trail creation and surface upgrades; the installation of signage; marketing and promotional work including video, photography, mapping, and the development of an app for trail users; and outreach work designed to encourage communities and businesses to think “bike-friendly” (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, 2016). The Province of Nova Scotia (Tourism Nova Scotia) and the departments of Transportation & Infrastructure Renewal and Energy invested a combined $340,000 for the support of the project. Additionally, the province provided a combined $2,655,000 in non-cash support over the years of 2016-2018 for paving work, focus groups and research (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, 2016).


There is a program that supports groups who are involved in regular trail maintenance across the province, and also supports groups who have experienced significant maintenance issues from fires, floods, hurricanes, etc.. The program is known as the Trail Maintenance Program, run by the Communities, Culture and Heritage, Community Sport and Recreation division of the Province of Nova Scotia. Groups can apply for funding who have authority to manage the trail, have landowners permission, have trail insurance and have an overall trail maintenance plan. The initiatives that can receive funding include re-surfacing, drainage issues, repairing or replacing signage, and more. The Nova Scotia Communities, Culture, and Heritage trails consultant, Steve Vines, manages the project.