Pump your pedals on Manitoulin Isle

Members of the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) held their annual general meeting this past Tuesday in Mindemoya. PHOTO BY BETTY BARDSWICH

By Betty Bardswich

MINDEMOYA—‘Pump Your Pedals on Manitoulin Island,’ reads the banner which was on display at the annual general meeting of the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) held May 9 at Central Manitoulin Public School. MICA has come a long way since the association was formed and the number of cyclists to be found on the Island has increased year after year due in no small part to the executive and membership of this very vibrant organization.

Maja Mielonen, MICA president, spoke of the presence of MICA at the Toronto International Bike Show that she attended once again, along with Guy Nielen, vice president, and noted that the annual Passage Ride, not its sixth year, will again see large number of cyclists taking part as the number has steadily increased each year.

There are already 180 people registered for the event which takes place on June 4 and 5 and which provides free passage on the Chi-Cheemaun as well as insurance and snacks along the way. “This is always a wonderful time,” Ms. Mielonen said as she noted that the event started on Highway 6 and that Highway 551 will be highlighted this year as the roadway connects so well between Mindemoya and M’Chigeeng. “There are five schools on those 12 kilometers,” she spelled out, “and now the children can cycle safely.”

Indeed, present at this meeting was Child and Youth Worker Cher Panamick, who wants to start a program for youth in M’Chigeeng. Ms. Mielonen also mentioned that there will be a dinner this year for the Passage Riders, which will take place in Mindemoya on June 4.

Ms. Mielonen also spoke of the benefit that cyclists are bringing to Manitoulin with some business people who provide accommodation saying that their annual income has risen from five to 20 percent. “And,” Ms. Mielonen said, “a cyclist coming to Manitoulin stays for an average of 6.5 days. The ferry count shows over 5,000 cyclists have taken the boat over two years. A fifth of those have been walk-ons and the rest is bikes strapped to vehicles. The ferry has been a really good partner for us and is a big life blood for the Island.”

Ms. Mielonen also added that there are over 30 cycling friendly businesses on Manitoulin and that bikes do mean business. Cyclists over the age of 50, for example, will do a different route each day, but do not like camping and so will book a hotel or motel room.

Guest speaker for the meeting was Jeff Sewell, now retired from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, and, along with his wife Judith, is an avid cyclist. Mr. Sewell’s talk focused on rail trails and the ones he had ridden from Ontario to British Columbia to Nova Scotia and also included North and South Carolina. These trails included the Sequin trail by Parry Sound, the Kingston and Pembroke trails, trails around Dartmouth and Halifax and the Kettle Rail Trail in British Columbia. He showed slides of places on a rail trail in France which he had taken, along with his wife, and which elicited sighs of envy from the audience. The Sewells spent two months cycling in France and he noted that there are many rail trails in that country, some of which are over 70-years-old.

Mr. Sewell has also been involved in trail building in Sudbury and Lively and has worked on the Trans Canada Trail. He has looked into the potential of rail trail from Little Current to Espanola and has cycled said trail. He explained that three are concepts of ownership for that trail that are very blurry and that Alexander Industries owns about 50 percent of the route and noted that very good signage is needed to map out the route.

“It is such a treasure,” Ms. Mielonen remarked, “families can be walking,  pushing wheelchairs,” as well as cycling.

Mr. Nielon also spoke at the meeting and told those in attendance that the third edition of MICA’s map is now available. Close to 8,000 of the maps have been sold and this year, the group is highlighting the fact that there are 800 kilometres of trails for cyclists as outlined on the maps and 45 kilometres of off-road routes.

He also talked about the resurfacing of Highway 540 over the next three years and that MICA is petitioning the provincial government for paved shoulders on that route with a  petition online and also hard copies and that Billings has also petitioned the government for this. MICA will send another letter to the government and, as noted, paved shoulders increases the life of highways by 20 percent and prevents accidents up to 45 percent less.

“The government is saying no at the present time,” Mr. Nielen said, “but they had said no to Highway 6.” Efforts for paved shoulders on this highway are ongoing and this year will show the work done from Ten Mile Point to Little Current.