Grey Highlands pumps the brakes on county's cycling plan

·3 min read

Grey Highlands council says the municipality is not ready to endorse the county’s cycling and trails master plan and it needs time to evaluate the proposed routes for safety issues.

“This uses roads that are outside of county jurisdiction,” said Grey Highlands Deputy Mayor Aakash Desai. “And I can understand why they would do that; they're trying to provide a continuous length of road. At the same time, some of the roads that have been used are perhaps not the best roads for cycling because of the condition.”

Grey Highlands council members discussed the county’s cycling master plan at a committee of the whole meeting held on Wednesday.

The Cycling and Trails Master Plan was presented to the Grey County council in late-February.

The plan outlines a long-term, proposed 836-km network including: 304 km paved shoulders; 459 km of signed routes; 1.7 km of off-road trails; 5.3 km of edge lines; 4.8 km of bike lanes; 60.5 km of buffered paved shoulders; and 1.4 km of in-boulevard pathways.

The plan notes that 8.9 per cent of the proposed cycling network is located in Grey Highlands – the highest of all lower-tier municipalities involved – with 184.3 km of the cycling routes in the municipality, of which 119.1 km are on county roads.

Councillors and staff said Grey County’s cycling master plan was developed with little to no consultation to the lower-tier municipalities and they are unsure if the roads that are being promoted through the plan are truly ready for cyclists.

“The concern is that they may be marketing something as cycle-friendly, when the lower-tier municipality hasn't had an opportunity to evaluate whether or not these roads can be deemed cycle-friendly, which is a bit of a problem,” said Grey Highlands CAO, Karen Govan.

Grey Highlands is already a well-known destination for cyclists as it sits in the picturesque Beaver Valley. Last year, local residents in Kimberley said they were overrun with cyclists, after seeing approximately 6,000 pass through the small hamlet in one season.

“The document is put in place to market the municipality, when perhaps the lower tiers are not market-ready to receive additional tourism,” Govan added.

Liability issues were also raised as a potential concern, in an instance that a cyclist was to be injured on a Grey Highlands-owned highway that had been promoted as “safe for cyclists.”

Govan said that through the Highway Traffic Act, cyclists are permitted to ride on any road but the concern is that the document is promoting and directing cyclists through Grey Highlands in areas that may not have adequate space or the proper signage.

“Signage is very important. Even if the signage says there is no paved shoulder. These signs tend to come into [liability] claims very often, because it's a warning to the cyclist about what's ahead,” she said, adding that signs also come at a cost, something the municipality has not budgeted for and would take time to plan and install.

While council members did acknowledge the amount of work that was put into the master plan, they were not willing to endorse the plan as it stands.

“Before we start marketing this, we want to make sure that we are market-ready,” said councillor Cathy Little.

During the committee of the whole meeting, council members passed a motion that requests time from Grey County to determine the financial impacts and liability risks prior to providing an endorsement. Council also directed staff to work with county staff to assess the Grey Highlands routes that are currently promoted through the plan.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca