TORONTO—The April 1 announcement that the province was moving forward with a $25-million investment over three years to create a more cycling-friendly future for the province was greeted as no joking matter for the province’s cycling community. The announced funding is part of Ontario’s 20-year CycleON strategy.
“Of course we are excited about it,” said Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) spokesperson Maja Mielonen. Although the announcement of the funding included a reference to Highway 6 south of Espanola, Ms. Mielonen said that there were not enough details in the announcement to be certain exactly what that entails. “It is certainly a step in the right direction,” she said. The cycling advocate made note of the fact that the Georgian Bay Cycling Route was mentioned in the announcement and that she was taking that as a very positive sign.
“We are the official designated cycling route of the province, always have been,” she said. Manitoulin Cycling Advocates volunteers, including Ms. Mielonen, attended the annual Toronto International Bicycling Show 2015 at Exhibition Place in Toronto where they promoted Manitoulin and the cycling opportunities available on the Island, including passing out hundreds of copies of ‘This is Manitoulin’ to attendees of the show.
Ms. Mielonen noted that although she receives updates on cycling news in the province, she could hardly have missed the announcement if she had tried. “The second after the announcement was made, Twitter just exploded with the news,” she laughed.
“We know that working with our partners is key to creating a more cycling-friendly Ontario,” said Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca in a press release. “We’ll continue to engage municipalities, road users, businesses, advocacy groups and non-governmental organizations to make sure we get it right.”
“Cycling helps to build more healthy, active and prosperous communities as it generates a wide range of health, economic, environmental, social and other benefits,”
“Cycling helps to build more healthy, active and prosperous communities as it generates a wide range of health, economic, environmental, social and other benefits,” added Kathryn McGarry, parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Transportation in the same release.
“We’re pleased to continue our partnership with the province as we share the vision to make Ontario a premier cycling destination in Canada,” said Jamie Stuckless, executive director of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition.
The announced funding includes $15 million for cycling routes that provide key connections and linkages on provincial highways, such as paved highway shoulders and barriers on bridges that separate cyclists from vehicles. Early proposals include Highway 33 west of Kingston (part of the Waterfront Trail); Highway 137 structure over the 1000 Island Parkway (part of the Waterfront Trail); Highway 6 on Manitoulin Island and south of Highway 17 at Espanola (part of the Georgian Bay Cycling Route); Highway 17B and Highway 17 between Sault Ste. Marie and Espanola (part of the Lake Huron-North Channel Cycling Route).
— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) April 1, 2015
The province has also dedicated $10 million to the Ontario Municipal Cycling Infrastructure Program to help municipalities: expand their local cycling routes, connect with provincial cycling routes and launch pilot projects to make cycling improvements. Consultations on the municipal program have concluded, noted the release, adding that the launch of the program is on track for spring 2015. Work is also underway to identify a province-wide network of cycling routes in collaboration with a broad range of cycling stakeholders.
Ms. Mielonen and her MICA compatriots have visited Manitoulin municipalities, urging them to include cycling infrastructure in their asset management plans. “If cycling infrastructure is in those plans, then when funding is announced, the municipalities will be in a good position to apply,” she noted. “The $10 million for municipalities might sound like a lot of money, but when it is spread across the province it can be snapped up pretty quick by those who are prepared for it.”
MICA is keenly aware of the cost of adding paved shoulders to municipal roads, she noted, but said she hopes that municipalities can identify critical areas within their assets where short runs of paved shoulders could make all the difference in making Island roadways cycling friendly. “We can’t just hard top all of the shoulders on municipal roads,” she admitted, but pointed out that “there are places where a steep hill can cause cyclists to slow down.” Ms. Mielonen pointing out that by adding short sections of paved shoulders at those critical bottlenecks, riding up to the crest of a hill could vastly improve safety and accessibility both for cyclists and other vehicles utilizing municipal roads.
The provincial announcement highlighted that investing in infrastructure is part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario. “The four part plan is building Ontario up by investing in people’s talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure savings plan so everyone can afford to retire,” concluded the announcement.