GREATER SUDBURY, Ont. — Year-round cyclist Andrew Way is putting pressure on Greater Sudbury's city council to better maintain and expand cycling infrastructure throughout the municipality.
There are numerous gaps in the city’s active transportation network, and bicycle lanes are not maintained during the winter months when snow makes them impossible to navigate.
“There are snow banks taller than me,” he told Sudbury.com this week of typical winter conditions. “Even the first snowfall earlier this week, all the snow got thrown onto them.”
Way has epilepsy, with seizures making him unable to drive. He navigates the city on a bicycle year-round, with his large fat bike tires helping him roll through snow during the winter.
Although he cycles out of necessity, Way said that between the cost of vehicles, insurance, gasoline and parking, there’s a strong case to be made for people using bicycles to navigate Greater Sudbury’s roads.
There would be an even stronger case, he said, if the city maintained its hodgepodge of cycling infrastructure throughout the winter months, and connected its many gaps.
Earlier this week, Way started a Change.org petition advocating for the city to maintain its bicycle lanes year-round instead of classifying them as “closed” during the winter months.
“Show (that) Sudbury people do ride in winter, some out of need, some out of leisure,” the petition reads. “The more signatures we get the more likely (we are) to have bike lanes open in winter. It’s time for change, not only for cyclists but the disabled people who also use bike lanes on mobility devices.”
Way said that although he’s a cycling advocate, he doesn’t let his seven-year-old daughter ride her bicycle to school on her own. There are too many gaps in the city’s cycling infrastructure, he said, people park in what few bicycle lanes there are and motorists don’t respect cyclists’ rights to the road.
“Drivers get violent when you’re in their way, and they see you as in their way on the road, even though you’re allowed on the road,” he told Sudbury.com, adding it becomes a “big safety issue.”
On one occasion, a motorist nudged Way’s back tire with their vehicle to get him out of the way, leaving him with a sore neck for a couple of weeks.
“If you want us to use your bike lanes, connect them,” Way said. “Otherwise, people are too scared, because you have to go on the sidewalk, you have to go on the road, you have to go on and off bike lanes, you have to cross at weird points and it’s just not safe.”
City acting director of Linear Infrastructure Services Joe Rocca said although the city does not currently offer year-round maintenance for cycling infrastructure, it’ll be up to city council whether they increase service levels.
“For us to provide winter maintenance on that infrastructure, we need to show council that we can develop an efficient route and an efficient method to maintain that infrastructure, and that’s going to come through connected infrastructure,” he said.
Way’s petition, which as of Wednesday evening had 62 signatures attached to it, is good news for this effort, Rocca added.
“We’re seeing a groundswell of people that want to use this infrastructure all year round, and there is that desire, there is that appetite to use a bike to get around our community,” he said.
“This petition’s going to demonstrate to council that they’re on the right path, and they’re making the right investments and people are seeing it and noticing it.”
City active transportation co-ordinator LyAnne Chenier told Sudbury.com that progress has been made in recent years.
The Transportation Master Plan, which the council adopted in 2016, “lays out a recommended network of cycling infrastructure.”
It recommended phasing in 268 kilometres of various types of cycling infrastructure.
At the time, the city had 21 lane kilometres of cycling infrastructure. Since 2016, more than 104 additional kilometres have been installed.
The effort to receive the most attention has been the Paris-Notre Dame Bikeway, which is proposed to stretch from north of Lasalle Boulevard, 8.76 kilometres south to the Four Corners.
By the end of next year’s construction season, 5.97 kilometres of the project are expected to be complete.
As for filling out the full 268-kilometre network of cycling infrastructure, Rocca said there’s no exact timeline in mind.
“We’re keeping our eye on the prize and trying to find other funding opportunities to try and advance it as quickly as possible,” he said.
“We’re trying to do it in a prudent way,” he added, noting, “the best use of our tax dollars” is always front of mind.