The Path More Trodden
by Joanna Streetly
The multiple use path, the bike path, the psychopath, the path not taken. Whatever you call it, one of the first things you notice about Tofino is the path beside the highway that runs from Cox Bay into town. It's hard not to notice a bevy of bikers in wetsuits carrying their surfboards to the beach, or a uniformed restaurant worker, black tie flapping, skateboarding to work as if his life depends on it. Fledgling tricyclists and scooter riders share space with commuter bikers and gaggles of girls on beach cruisers, tossing their hair in the wind and thrusting forth their chests. Families stroll and women in pairs chat as they speed walk from here to there. Out of sheer curiosity, I've often thought of plunking down a chair and counting the number of people who use the path daily, because it never seems to be empty.
The path is so much more than a road can ever be. It sets Tofino apart as a community that welcomes people for their human qualities, not just for the cash they bring with them. On the path, people greet one another, smile, say hello. They notice small details: flowers, trees, topography. Some use the path because they have to; others use it for health and fitness, or simply to be car-free. People walk or bike because it's pleasant -- sociable, even. When you use the path frequently, you begin to recognize people (there goes Jimmer again. . . ) and before long feel as if you know them. In this way the path takes you directly to the heart of the community.
A man and his dog walk one of the more forested sections of Tofino's pedestrian path. This is one of only two small hills along the entire length of the path.
The path is one of those features of Tofino that has grown right along with the community. On many annual fundraiser nights I've dined and danced on the village green under a bright, late-summer moon. The money raised would pave another few hundred metres. So my heart swells when I drive into town and see all the people using the path, especially when I've come from somewhere where Cars Are King.
But the path has its downfalls, too. It's unfinished, so the section near town isn't ideal. And private driveways intersect the path all the way along, each one a potential collision site. Drivers can't see fast-moving bikes and vice versa. And then there are groups who usurp the path, seemingly oblivious to others.
There have been accidents in the past and there will probably be accidents in the future. The path just isn't intended for high-speed use by anyone -- bikers, runners or drivers. Basic rules apply, the kind learned at your mother's knee. Look. Listen. Be aware. One runner credits her deliverance from the jaws of a cougar to the fact that she wasn't listening to her iPod that day -- a valuable lesson for anyone on any trail: Anticipate other beings. After all, from the sandbox onwards, life is all about sharing. The path is a jewel for all to share, extending our quality of life one yard at a time.
About Joanna Streetly
Joanna Streetly is an author, editor and illustrator based in Tofino and currently at work on her fourth book. Look for her previous books: Silent Inlet, Paddling Through Time, and Salt in our Blood in local bookstores, or on the internet. For now, you can find her at JoannaStreetly.com