A call to lobby for bike lanes on connecting Island highways

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an open letter written on behalf of Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates and reprinted here at the organization’s request.

Dear community leaders, economic developers and active living promoters:

Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) believes this is the right time to ask our Minister of Transportation to follow up and implement one of our suggestions we provided in a survey held by MTO in 2011.

We are lobbying MTO for paved shoulders on Hwy 551, between Hwy 540 in M’Chigeeng and Hwy 542 in Mindemoya. This short 12 kilometre stretch of road connects most communities on the Island. The rationale for this is as follows.

1. Paved shoulders will provide safe access to grocery shopping for families and individuals with limited funds who live in Lakeview and M’Chigeeng, two communities that can be considered food deserts, without a grocery store. Paved shoulders will encourage those who rely on bicycles to make this shopping trip safely. Thereby empowering this segment of our population for about eight months of the year.

2. Healthy Active Living for Children is achieved with daily exercise. Safe paved shoulders on Hwy 551, will entice young people to cycle to Lakeview PS and from Mindemoya to Manitoulin Secondary School in M’Chigeeng. Many young people will cycle this 12-kilometre ride as a natural workout when provided with the safety of paved shoulders. Cycling has been proven to be a great way to prevent obesity, so prevalent in our young people.

3. Healthy active living for all. We know that the community at large will pick up cycling when provided with a safe space to do so. We have seen a great active living increase between these two communities and anticipate it to grow exponentially when provided with a safer space. The health benefits within an active living community are well documented and save enormous health dollars. Cycling creates upbeat, active health happy individuals and communities.

4. The Great Spirit Circle Trail has been very successful in creating tourism packages that stimulate the local economy. Part and parcel of the experiences they offer is cycling in and around M’Chigeeng and to other communities. Paved shoulders will greatly benefit the overall experience and safety of these cycling packages.

5. Paved shoulders, as we know from many studies increase the potential age of a new road by five years. Australian studies have proven that paved shoulders prevent automobile accidents by 41 percent. Human suffering and OHIP cost savings far outweigh initial infrastructure costs.

6. LAMBAC together with FedNor and MICA have created a Manitoulin Island Cycling Project Strategy paper. Road improvements between M’Chigeeng and Mindemoya have been identified with specific mention of paving the shoulders of this stretch of highway.

7. MICA’s Cycling Routes and Road Map, printed in 2012, has two loops leading along this 12-kilometre stretch on Hwy 551. MICA has made considerable inroads making Manitoulin known to cyclists as an ideal place to cycle.

We would like to ask you all respectfully, please support our efforts by writing a support letter to: MTO Minister Bob Chiarelli (bchiarelli.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org), MTO Regional Director Eric Doidge, (eric.doidge@ontario.ca), MP Carol Hughes (hughes.c@parl.gc.ca), MPP Michael Mantha (mmantha-qp@ndp.on.ca) and MICA (savouring_time@hotmail.com or www.manitoulincycling.com).

MICA thanks you in advance for all your support. Working together we will succeed in making our roads become a safer, healthier and more useful space creating strong communities.

Thank you,

Maja Mielonen, chair
Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates