An open letter from MICA on the unsafe highway conditions

With detailed recommendations to pave highway shoulders for cycling

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter to the Minister of Transportation, Caroline Mulroney, and has been reprinted here at the author’s request.

Dear Honourable MTO Minister Caroline Mulroney,  

Regarding: Unsafe conditions currently found on Hwys 542 and 551 on Manitoulin Island.

Recommendation: Paved roadway with paved shoulders for the safety of all road users.

Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) thanks you for listening to the needs of Manitoulin’s ever-growing community and reacting with safe positive solutions since 2010. The significant cycle tourism on Manitoulin that we built is now known as one of Canada’s best cycle destinations featuring over 850km of suggested cycling routes. With the help of many partners, paved shoulders can be found on three of the four provincial highways. Manitoulin’s municipalities unanimously supported the paved shoulders that are found on Hwy 6, Hwy 551 and Hwy 540 and all have passed resolution in the past, expressing the desire to make Manitoulin a top cycling destination.

We ask that you review the work that has been done on Hwy 542 and 551 this summer of 2022. What should be a safe road for all road users, is a dusty, large aggregate gravel provincial road. No one can safely pull over in emergencies, or for EMS or OPP. It is impossible to enjoy a walk or safely cycle, as the large aggregate rocks and dust are making it simply unsafe and impossible. Many motorists were subject to multiple windshield chips due to the condition of the road over the course of the summer. Furthermore, the dust produced by the aggregate resulted in severely limited visibility to the point where cyclists and pedestrians were unable to be seen. This not only prevented cyclists and pedestrians from commuting along these routes but put vehicles at risk of collision.

Federal, provincial and municipal funding have supported MICA’s extensive work in the past 12 years with many grants, volunteer energy and monetary support from all around, this resulting in thousands of cycle tourists choosing Manitoulin for their cycling holiday every year. Many accommodations report that over 20 percent of their annual income is due to cycle tourism. Furthermore, many community stakeholders, including the trucking industry, commuters, EMS, OPP, school buses and cyclists rely on Hwy 542 and 551 to connect them with other provincial highways. MICA’s e-bike rental fleet also requires the use of these highways, as they connect Gore Bay in the northwest, through Central Manitoulin, all the way to the east to Hwy 6 and to South Baymouth to the very important Hwy 6 road extension via ferry connection to Southern Ontario. 

We trust that you will look at the current unsafe conditions for all road users and the very possible loss of Manitoulin’s cycle reputation that is at stake with this unsafe condition currently found on Hwy 542 and 551.

Recommendations:  A paved road with paved shoulders for Hwy 542 and 551, as they are very important intermediaries for navigating Manitoulin; and a review of the material being sourced, requiring washed gravel over low grade, dusty, oversized, crushed stone.

This in turn will help propel the Provinces’ CycleON objective, to make Ontario the best cycling destination in Canada.

MICA wishes to thank you for your ongoing work to safely connect us all along our provincial roads, like Hwy 542 and Hwy 551, found on Manitoulin Island.

Sincerely,

Maja Mielonen, president
MICA