Council will develop a plan to make the County a cycling-friendly place
In the ’80s, when Bloomfield’s bike lanes were repainted as parking spots, Bloomfield Bicycle Company’s Rick Willing protested by lying in the street.
It seems silly now. The County has since allowed the bicycle company to use two of the parking spots in front of the shop as bicycle parking, and many customers—especially those who are visiting the County—park outside the shop, their bikes mounted on top or behind their cars on bike racks.
But one of the shop’s coowners, kt misener, still sees issues because of the loss of the lanes.
“The roads are skinny, there is no shoulder, and the parking skinnies up the road even more,” says misener. But there are other roads, away from town, that need more attention.
“On May 20, 12 years ago, John Taylor was killed and dismembered being hit by a car while riding his bike just south of the corner of County Road 10 and Ridge Road. Pave the shoulders between the liquor store and the top of County Road 11,” she suggests.
She also points to County Road 12, coming up from the Sandbanks, and Closson Road as potential danger zones for cyclists. The roads are bad, narrow and full of blind turns with little to no shoulder for a bike to move to escape a vehicle’s path.
She points to a policy in Peterborough that all newly paved roads be paved to the edge of the shoulder. This makes the road safer for cyclists, but it also adds to the road’s longevity, since weaknesses happen when heavy tires run along the edge of the pavement, weakening it and hastening erosion.
At a council meeting on July 25, staff brought forward a report about an offer from the province to fund up to 80 per cent of the cost of a plan from communities larger than 15,000 people to make those communities friendlier to commuter cyclists.
The report, which would require a plan to be submitted by August 18, was approved, but not before some councillors expressed their cynicism.
Bloomfield councillor Barry Turpin wondered whether there were commuter cyclists in the County.
“Do we have a number of people right now that are using their bicycles to commute to work?” he mused.
Hallowell councillor Brad Nieman also wondered if there are cycling commuters.
“In the County, I don’t think we have people who are close enough to commute to work,” said Nieman. “So is the plan for this application for commuting back and forth to work, how is that going to work when most of our cycling is recreational and it’s out around the Sandbanks or riding to the Sandbanks? Does this program support that?”
Retired doctor David Seybold is an avid cyclist. For 30 years, he commuted by bike to his office in Picton. Now retired, he’s a regular at the Bloomfield Bicycle Company’s community bike rides, cycling thousands of kilometres each year.
“That cynicism is definitely misplaced,” says Seybold. “I have heard a lot of County residents who enjoy cycling, but say they are afraid to because there are no bike lanes on the roads… there are a lot of people who would ride who aren’t riding right now.
“Most of the development is a lot of retirees moving down to the area, so they’re not going to be commuting to work on their bikes,” Nieman continued. “And if we’re not bringing more industry in, there’s no place to go for work. So to me, it’s just going to be more recreational biking.”
Community development head Neil Carbone assured Nieman that while the plan is to improve cycling for commuters, the infrastructure could be used by recreational cyclists as well. He added that there has been an increase in business and job opportunities.
Vincent de Tourdonnet is an avid cyclist who often commutes by bicycle in the County. He recognizes that older people and those who are not as strong aren’t confident in their reaction time when it comes to avoiding traffic.
He concurs with misener. Roads should be paved to the shoulder.
“It’s poor investment to make our roads with no shoulder,” says de Tourdonnet. “[Paving shoulders] has the incredible added benefit of being able to walk and ride and use mobility devices and whatever safely away from traffic. That’s kind of a no-brainer.”
de Tourdonnet is a member of the ad-hoc Prince Edward County Trails committee, working with the Wellington Rotary to extend the Millennium Trail’s limestone screening from Consecon to its east end past Picton. In some places, the former railroad still has tracks and deep ruts that make commuting a painful exercise.
When asked what he thought about council’s cynicism about residents using bike routes to commute, he pointed to County employee Rebecca Lamb, serendipitously passing by on her bike on Picton’s main street and heading to Shire Hall.
But importantly, de Tourdonnet says, the fact that there is an older population should not discourage the County from developing trails. In fact, they could benefit those who can no longer ride a bike.
“One of the sponsors of the Millennium Trail is the Wellings of Picton. And they’re delighted,” says de Tourdonnet. “We’re all temporarily abled. At some point, we want to be able to maintain our independence. Be able to go grocery shopping. What’s happening globally is an explosion of both pedal assist devices and mobility devices that work perfectly on trails like the Millennium Trail.”