MICA celebrates accomplishments and looks to future at AGM

Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) held nominations for three open board seats at its 8th annual general meeting. Left to right: board members Gordon Seplet, Heidi Krieger, Peter Ford, Maja Mielonen and Sandy Ford. Absent is board member Oliver Koski, who was unable to attend. Also in the photo is Justin Tilson’s electric bike.

KAGAWONG––A dedicated group of cyclists met at the Kagawong Park Centre on Wednesday, May 23 for Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA)’s 8th annual general meeting. Following a welcome and general introductions, MICA President Maja Mielonen introduced guest speaker Justin Tilson who gave a well received talk on e-bikes.

“I’m really into electric bikes,” began Mr. Tilson. “My disability makes it slow and hard to get around. The electric motor provides extra help so I can use my bike more. One of the things I hear when I use my bike is that people ride for exercise so why use an e-bike? You can still pedal. It just makes it easier.”

Mr. Tilson has travelled from Manitoulin Island to Texas using his electric bike. His setup included an aftermarket programmable solar charger (for controlling charge and discharge), which may seem a little pricy at approximately $300; however, having that extra control extends battery life. He connected solar panels to a lithium battery pack. The solar panels charged the batteries from his trailer while he rode. He remembered a sunny day he was able to ride 230 km on one charge. “It’s really satisfying to feel it all working together,” he said.

He noted it is hard on lithium batteries when they are fully discharged but in our climate they are used seasonally and get shelved. There are newer, more expensive, battery packs available that when put in storage mode they won’t discharge. They are also sized so you can carry them on a plane if you are travelling.

There are different systems and different voltage and battery packs available. One option is a simple kit to fit the existing wheel. “It’s simpler and you don’t need a second set of gears,” explained Mr. Tilson. “It’s cheaper that way.”

He recommends a geared over a direct drive motor. “The battery is the expensive part, although it is getting better,” he said. Details are important. Mr. Tilson prefers a lithium battery, adding, “It’s not too intrusive, requiring just a little bit of extra wiring.”

E-bike systems can be adapted to almost any bike. “It extends the utility of the bike, allowing you to treat your bike like a car or truck,” said Mr. Tilson. He attaches a single wheel trailer to his bike, using it to get groceries. He notes electric bikes are well suited to urban living and can replace a car for many daily chores. “If you’re tired after work, you can haul 40 pounds of groceries or a couple of kids” without much effort.

All of the normal bike is still there, Mr. Tilson responded an enquiry about gears. “You shift gears as normal,” he said. “Although you tend to be at the higher end of gears rather than the lower end.”

“I’ve been messing with electric bikes for a number of years,” Mr. Tilson said. He has set up a wholesale account and is gearing up to sell them. The cost for a conversion today is probably around $1,000, depending on the battery pack and other options. “You probably don’t want to put it on a fancy carbon fibre bike,” he warned, “and you have to have the capacity to steer and brake at high speeds.”

Mr. Tilson is happy to help anyone to get set up with an electric bike “after the election.” (Mr. Tilson is the Green Party candidate in the 2018 provincial election.) He encouraged attendees to try out his bike after the meeting. “Please ride it and see your inner child come out.”

Ms. Mielonen thanked Mr. Tilson for his presentation, throwing in a word of caution to general laughter. “Recent statistics have shown that the elderly male population has more accidents on bikes than in cars,” she said. “Just because you have a motor doesn’t mean you’re a hero.”

The annual general meeting began with a short video and a review of MICA accomplishments, perhaps the most well known are the lobbying efforts that resulted in paved shoulders on Highway 6 in 2011 and on Highway 551 in 2015.  2017 saw paved shoulders on Highway 540 between Little Current and Honora Bay, while the portion of Highway 540 from Honora Bay to Kagawong should be completed in 2020.

In 2012 MICA embraced the concept for the Georgian Bay Cycling Route and obtained funding for a feasibility study that was completed in 2014 with the assistance of LAMBAC and “a steering committee from across the bay.” An application by the Waterfront Regeneration Trust has been accepted for implementation of this 1,000 km route connecting southern Ontario to Northern Ontario.

The presentation highlighted the big connection of 2018, known as the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail (GLWT). GLWT is a 2,600 km cycling route stretching from Quebec to Sault Ste. Marie. MICA is working closely with Waterfront Regeneration Trust CEO Marlaine Koehler on this connection.

Thanks were offered to the OSTC and the Chi-Cheemaun for their support over the years, noting the ferry cycle count had again increased last year, by over six percent. MICA’s 2017 survey of 240 participants indicated that cyclists spend over $96,000 on the June two day Passage Ride event.

“Tourism is without a doubt Manitoulin’s largest industry,” MICA shared. “MICA is very grateful that cycling is a new segment of this industry and fits very well with our pastoral style of living. Many of our accommodation providers report that in the last few years, 13 to 20 percent of their annual income is due to cycle tourism.”

MICA continues to work with schools and municipalities to increase cycling participation numbers and encourage active living lifestyles.

“In 2015, NEMI invited MICA to present an active living loop for Little Current,” attendees were told. “We would like to congratulate NEMI for finding the energy, wisdom and money to make the suggested loop a reality.” The Little Current loop will be open this summer. “Local infrastructure investments like this and many others have contributed much to the satisfactory experience our local cyclists and our cycling tourists have while staying an average of 6.5 days on Manitoulin Island.”

Also for 2018, MICA has extended its adventure offerings to include four all-inclusive cycling adventure packages called Alvar Treasure Rides which include five days of cycling and four nights stay at lakeside lodges and cottages.

MICA is supported through individual and business memberships. Business members are rewarded through the many marketing efforts of MICA including representation at the annual three-day Toronto International Bicycle Show as well as promotion through Destination Ontario, Cycling Ontario and MICA’s website.

To find out more about Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates or to register for the passage ride or all-inclusive cycling adventures, visit MICA atwww.manitoulincycling.com.