Paved shoulders on Highway 540 will assist in safety for all

An opportunity to make Manitoulin one of the most attractive cycling destinations in Ontario

An open letter to the Honourable Steven Del Duca:

Re: Paved shoulders on Hwy 540, Manitoulin Island

For the past six years the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) have been working to promote Manitoulin Island as a cycling destination. We have produced and sold over 8,000 copies of our  “Manitoulin and LaCloche Mountains Cycling Routes and Road Map,” now in its third edition, offering over 800 km of cycling routes and 45 km of off-road trails. We have promoted the Manitoulin Region at three International Bike Shows in Toronto. Our sixth Annual Manitoulin Passage Ride, June 4 and 5, is sold out (in partnership with the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry). Last year over 240 cyclists from Ontario, Quebec and USA attended this two-day event. MICA was the driving force behind the development of the Georgian Bay Cycling Route (now being implemented by the Waterfront Regeneration Trust). MICA’s lobby efforts since 2010 have resulted in paved shoulders for Hwy 6 and Hwy 551. These efforts represent thousands of hours of volunteer work on the part of our organization, and our efforts have paid off: Manitoulin is now one of the most sought-after cycling destinations in Northern Ontario and cycle tourism has become a significant economic driver on Manitoulin, which should be no surprise to anyone who has experienced our cycling trails and the natural beauty of this Island.

In the fall of 2015, as soon as we learned that Hwy 540 was to be resurfaced, we sent your Ministry a letter indicating our support for paved shoulders for Hwy 540, together with unanimous resolutions passed by Manitoulin’s municipalities, the Sudbury and District Health Unit, the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, Tourism Ontario and MPP Michael Mantha. We received many e-mails signed by individuals, who realize that Hwy 540 is not only the major connecting link between communities from Little Current to Meldrum Bay, but also the connecting link to the Georgian Bay Cycling Route. Clearly, there is strong support for paved shoulders on Hwy 540.

We were astounded, then, when we read in The Expositor, our local newspaper, that Hwy 540 will not receive paved shoulders. We were also shocked that the Ministry of Transportation did not even acknowledge the letter we wrote in the fall of 2015, or the letter we sent in January 2016 that was copied to our premier, Kathleen Wynne.

Hwy 540 is narrow, busy and dangerous, especially for cyclists. It still won’t be safe for cyclists if it is resurfaced without paved shoulders, though it may be safe enough for people in automobiles. Cyclists will therefore avoid this highway and bypass communities along it, including two First Nations communities. They will miss out on some spectacular views of the North Channel, which is a world famous sailing area. And communities that are bypassed will miss out on business opportunities that cycling tourists bring to the Island.

We believe our highways should be safe for all road users. We urge you again to pave the shoulders on Hwy 540. Help us to showcase Manitoulin as one of the most attractive cycling destinations in Northern Ontario.

Yours sincerely,

Maja Mielonen

President of the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA)