Huron County adopts new cycling strategy - Dec. 15, 2016
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Huron County officially adopted a new cycling strategy at its Dec. 7 meeting after a lengthy consultation process with members of the local cycling community.
The report contains 11 recommendations, some of which have already been completed or are underway and others that will be implemented later in the process, closer to 2018 and 2019.
The first step was to create a Huron County Cycling Advisory Committee, which was completed ahead of implementing the strategy. The committee, which contains members consisting of community stakeholders, councillors, planning staff and members of the cycling community, was instrumental in developing the strategy.
Recommendations planned to begin early next year include planning cycling routes and infrastructure, developing a “Share the Road” signage plan, addressing distracted driving, improving the Goderich-to-Guelph Rail Trail and staying current on best infrastructure practices for cycling.
Moving forward, there are plans to create a cycling education subcommittee, promote cycling activities and identify and encourage pilot projects. The long-term goals of the committee include creating an active school travel subcommittee and reviewing the bicycle-friendly communities report from Share the Road for additional assistance.
The vision, said Scott Tousaw, director of planning and development, is that the subcommittees will report to the Cycling Advisory Committee, which will then report to the Huron County Board of Health and Huron County Council as required.
Julie Sawchuk, the Blyth-area cyclist who was paralyzed in a bicycle/vehicle collision in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh 16 months ago, was a member of the advisory committee and she spoke to council on the need for better cycling infrastructure.
She told council that she is so impressed with the work being done by the committee and the Planning and Development Department and that the key going forward is to implement the recommendations. She told councillors that no one will benefit from the excellent work that has been done by the committee if the recommendations and reports produced are put on a shelf.
While all councillors were in favour of increasing safety for cyclists, some had questions pertaining to the implementation.
Councillor David Frayne questioned the intelligence of creating a new committee when, in his mind, many of the recommendations were already being tackled by Coalition of Huron Injury Prevention (CHIP), created by the Huron County Health Unit and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
Councillor Tyler Hessel, however, said he felt that many of the initiatives planned by the new committee were more important than the work being done by CHIP and that they were different enough that they warranted their own committee.
Neil Vincent and Ben Van Diepenbeek, of North Huron and Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh respectively, said that while they agreed with many of the recommendations, they also felt that cyclists had to implement best practices and be aware of when they would be most visible while cycling and to wear bright, reflective clothing.
Hessel agreed, but said that is a common misconception of the Share the Road program, that it’s simply for motorists. Share the Road, he said, is an educational tool for both motorists and cyclists to ensure that both parties do their best to accommodate the others while on the road.
Councillor Dave Jewitt said that he felt the most important step Huron County can take is to increase Share the Road signage. Once motorists are on high alert after seeing numerous cycling-related signs, they know to look for cyclists. That, he felt, would make the most difference in making the roads safer for cyclists throughout Huron County.
Council adopted the new cycling strategy.
To view the full cycling strategy document, visit the county’s website at huroncounty.ca.