Alliance responds to Minister Del Duca, presses for public education

OVCATA has replied to Transport Minister Steven Del Duca, who informed the Alliance on July 27 of the decision to build partial bike lanes on newly repaved sections of Highway 17 west of Petawawa, with the following letter:

September 23, 2016

Stephen Del Duca
Minister of Transportation

cc: Eleanor McMahon, MPP

John Yakabuski, MPP

Dear Minister:
We are writing in response, with apologies for delays, to your letter of July 27, 2016  regarding cycling on Highway 17 between Chalk River and Petawawa, and paving plans for the section of highway. We are appreciative both of your letter and your actions.

As you may have seen in local media, we find your Ministry's response to our concerns a good first step toward resolving safety concerns of the many cyclists who must use this highway to travel across Canada. The width of the lane to the right of the buffered paved shoulder your Ministry is building in the sections in question constitute a definite improvement, but it does not conform with provincial policy for a road with the amount of traffic the highway has, so really, the move can only be considered a good first step. In our opinion the paved shoulder should be 1.2m or greater. Anything less is not acceptable in regards to the safety of active transportation users. We hope you are considering widening these lanes or investing in the CP rail trail alternative in the near future.

In the meantime, it's important that drivers and cyclists be educated so as to reduce risk and enhance safety. We believe highly-visible, frequent signage alerting drivers to the presence of cyclists on this highway is needed. Also needed is signage that will direct eastbound cyclists away from the highway onto regional roads at the Paquette Road intersection outside Petwawa.

We do appreciate your significant response to our concerns regarding this highway, and we look forward to opportunities to engage with you in future sessions to plan for maximum safety for all users of all the province's roads.

In particular, we would like to ask your ministry, in conjunction with the OPP, to take responsibility, in consultation with stakeholder groups, for the development of comprehensive public education campaigns to educate motorists and cyclists on safety issues. Last year, your government introduced a new law with many new requirements of which the public is poorly informed. It should not be the responsibility of citizens' groups to do the kind of massive educational effort needed to foster safety and understanding. We believe a comprehensive educational campaign including signage, public service announcements, inclusions in provincial and municipal mail-outs and training sessions is needed, and we would like to be involved in discussions on how to make such a campaign effective.

Thank you for your action.

Ish Theilheimer
Co-Chair, Ottawa Valley Cycling and Active Transportation Alliance

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