● Ontario looking for public input on the province-wide cycling network (until May 12)

The Ontario Government seems to have adopted a low key approach for getting public input about it’s draft province-wide cycling network.

It is identifying a network of routes across the province as part of the Ontario’s Cycling Strategy that was released with great fanfare a few years ago. The network is suppose to promote recreational cycling and cycling tourism, connect municipal cycling routes and places of interest, identify provincial infrastructure that should accommodate cycling, and prioritize investments for future cycling infrastructure on provincial highways.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation has a webpage which shows a map and provides information about the draft province-wide cycling network. There is also a link people can use to submit online comments until May 12, 2017.

I looked at some of the routes in eastern Ontario, and can’t say that I’m very impressed. It appears that the government may be going through the motions of identifying a cycling network more than anything else.

For example, a lot of the network seems to consist of off road trails. While some have a fine crushed stone surface and are rideable with a hybrid or road bicycle, many are made with coarse gravel, and would be uncomfortable to cycle on even with a full fledged mountain bike. These are often nothing more than snowmobile routes that local authorities have decided would look good if they were also designated as bike trails during the summer.

The government’s choice of on road routes isn’t much better. For example, regional highway 15 which runs between Carleton Place and Smith Falls is identified as part of the network. While rideable, it’s a road I try to avoid. It’s quite busy, and has next to no paved shoulder (it’s less than a foot wide in most places).

The government itself appears to acknowledge the limitation of the routes that have been identified for the cycling network. It says that it often relies on information provided by local municipalities about existing cycling facilities, and that route conditions have not been verified through field investigation. The government goes on to say that once the “final preferred” province-wide network is identified, a strategy would be developed to verify the routes. This strikes me a little like closing the barn door after all the horses have escaped.

I suspect that Ontario would be far more successful in identifying a useful cycling network if it set up regional working groups with cyclists across the province. It could also try working with various bicycle clubs, many of which have extensive libraries of good cycling routes in their respective regions.

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