Province to install cycle lane on portion of 17
Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2016
PETAWAWA - Ontario’s Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca has responded to concerns from local cyclists by announcing the Province will provide a partial cycling lane on a portion of Highway 17 west of town that is being resurfaced.
The announcement came in response to a May letter from the newly-formed Ottawa Valley Cycling and Active Transportation Alliance (OVCATA) to Minister Del Duca that raised concerns about cycling dangers on the highway and repaving plans that included “rumble strips” along the right-hand edge of the roadway and gravel shoulders. The plan would have made an already-hazardous situation for cyclists who use the road far more dangerous, forcing them to cycle entirely on the roadway.
In his letter, Minister Del Duca told Alliance co-chair Ish Theilheimer that a paved strip at least a half metre wide would be installed to the right of the rumble strips along the length of highway being repaved west of Paquette Road. “A half metre cycle lane is far from ideal, but it’s a great start, and we are very thankful to the Minister for his response,” said Theilheimer. “After years of having the door slammed on us, it’s great to have political leaders that recognize the health, environmental and economic benefits of cycling,” said OVCATA director and longtime cycling advocate Ron Moss. “This opens the door to so much more.
Last year, a group of local active transportation advocates asked the minister for paved shoulders along a section of Highway 41, then being resurfaced. “We did not get the hardened shoulders, but he did listen to our concerns about rumble strips, which caused the Ministry to remove plans for them along 41, allowing cyclists to ride closer to the highway’s edge,” Moss added.
Minister Del Duca’s letter notes future paving contracts on Highway 17 will consider extending the new lane as far as Chalk River, where the highway widens.
“This is a big step in extending the East-West cycling route across Canada,” said OVCATA director Jeff Mills. “Every day we see cyclists who trek their way across Canada and who are forced to use Highway 17. Every one of them will tell you Ontario has the worst roads for cyclists in the whole country. This is a good first step.”
Mills said the move ties in with efforts by the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, which has “been knitting together a circle route of Southern Ontario. One piece they have been slowly working on is from Deep River to Ottawa. Providing somewhat safe passage for cyclists will help connect that missing link.”
The OVCATA believes signage is also needed to warn motorists of the presence of cyclists and to direct cyclists from the highway onto alternate routes where available.
Mills also emphasized the economic development potential of making the trans-Canada route bicycle-friendly. “Bike tourists spend an average of $175 per day apiece locally as they make their way across your area,” he said. “There are small towns in the Laurentians and the Allegheny Mountains that have been revived by bike tourism, and this can happen in the Ottawa Valley as well.”