Highlands the place to be for Bike Month
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | June 23, 2016
With more than a dozen cycling routes to explore and spectacular views of the countryside, the Haliburton Highlands is the perfect destination to visit during Bike Month.
Last year, the province designated June as bike month after a private members’ bill—Bill 13—was passed to recognize and promote this green-friendly activity. It was brought forward by Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon, who is founder of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition and the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. In 2006, her husband, OPP Sgt. Greg Stobbart, was killed in a cycling collision with a driver with five convictions for driving with a suspended license.
Cycling in the province is a popular activity. Statistics show that about 1.2 million adults in Ontario cycle daily during the spring, summer and fall. At least 2.8 million people ride a minimum of once a week.
“I think it’s kind of a good kick-off to the season,” said local health promoter Sue Shikaze, referring to Bike Month.
June is also a popular month for other cycling events, such as the national Commuter Challenge and bike to work or school initiatives.
In addition to her role with the health unit, Shikaze is chair of Communities in Action (CIA) committee and the Share the Road Cycling Coalition. The group, which is comprised of several community stakeholders, promotes active transportation and works with local government “to see the value in cycling.”
Last May, several cyclists were invited to participate in a ride in Highlands East to celebrate the improvements made to County Road 648 where one metre of both shoulders were paved. A section of Kennisis Lake Road was also upgraded.
On Saturday morning, eight cyclists embarked on a 10-kilometre ride along County Road 6 to Eagle Lake from the community centre in West Guilford. They were encouraged to go for lunch at Abbey Gardens afterwards.
The free event was hosted by CIA and The Haliburton Real Easy Ryders Cycling Club.
“I sort of see it as a way to raise awareness of cycling opportunities in the area,” said Shikaze. “It coincides with our Share the Road campaign. I just think events like this are good just to raise the profile and keep it in [everyone’s] mind that people are out there cycling.”
Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, believes cycling is not only a healthy activity but is great for tourism.
“More and more people want to cycle,” Scott told The Highlander.
She pointed out that the county’s culinary offerings will continue to grow and that is an attractive feature for cyclists.
“It’s a good economic opportunity for the area to attract more visitors.”
Scott attended the event but was unable to ride due to an injury.
The county has a five-year roads plan, which includes paved shoulders.
“There are some roads that get a complete rehabilitation and when they do that they’re going to add paved shoulders, which is great,” said Shikaze. “Bit by bit we get a little bit more added.”
Since infrastructure improvements are costly for municipalities, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is investing $150-225 million for cycling infrastructure in Ontario over the next five years. It isn’t exactly known how that money will be distributed, she said.
“It [the commitment] shows that cycling and getting more people on bikes can help to meet climate change goals of the province.”
As a rural community, the county is doing quite well when it comes to being cycle-friendly. In fact, Shikaze says it’s a leader when it comes active including active transportation in its plans. She often hears from other communities seeking information about the successful Share the Road campaign, which encourages cyclists and motorists to respect one another.
“I think we’re looked upon quite favourably that way,” she said.
But other communities are also making progress. For example, Lanark County, Grey County, and the County of Lennox and Addington have all adopted paved shoulder policies stating they will add paved shoulders to any roads that undergo rehabilitation.
“I think we’re doing well, but there are other places that are doing well too.”
To learn more about the local cycling routes visit cyclehaliburton.ca. Maps are available online.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.