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Cyclists call for better and safer infrastructure

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

“It is my hope that the need in the region and Oshawa for bikeways be on the agendas…that any new road resurfacing or widening should include room for bikes.”

“(I hope) everyone present here will do their best to have a voice and put active transportation first.”

These are two very similar sentiments that have been directed at Oshawa city council; the first from Joe Arruda, the chair of the Durham Region Cycling Coalition (DRCO), and the other from avid cyclist Sandra McRae.

The only difference is McRae’s was spoken at a meeting of the development services committee this month. Arruda’s comments to councillors was nearly six years ago.

Once again, cyclists are appealing to the city for help in making local and regional roadways safer, this time along Ritson Road where rehabilitation work is currently underway.

McRae, who cycles the route along Ritson from Howden Road to Conlin Road to her work at Durham College on a daily basis, says the increase in traffic – especially that of big trucks – is starting to pose an ever present danger for cyclists.

In addition, the few inches of shoulder cyclists are able to use along this section of road are crumbling and littered with potholes waiting to snag a thin bike tire.

“I have become frightened of commuting,” McRae says.

“It may very well be I have to stop.”

Currently, the work on Ritson Road will only include a road widening to 3.5 metres, a half-metre of paved shoulder followed by gravel.

McRae is calling on the city to install bike lanes as part of the project, something she says she has been requesting for years.

And while the city’s Active Transportation Master Plan (ATMP) calls for a multi-use path in Oshawa’s north end, there are no plans for implementation until 2032 – another 16 years away.  McRae says it would be logical and cost-effective to install the bike lanes now while there is work already underway.

Founding members of the DRCO, Derek Lee and Bruce MacDonald were also on hand to push for the addition of bike lanes – something Lee said is “potentially a life saving measure.”

As a regional road, the city must confer with its regional counterparts before any changes can be made. At the regional level, requests for funding for cycling infrastructure are, for the most part, ignored, as previously stated by Cliff Curtis, the region’s works commissioner.

“We have been in discussions…for a great length of time,” says Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who also chairs the region’s works committee.

“We’re getting nowhere with the province.”

Councillors also attempted to assure the cycling community that it is being heard.

“Councillors are aware of that and are trying to do something from where we sit,” said Councillor Bob Chapman.

“We keep pushing things that are important to our citizens.”

Prior to the ATMP’s approval last year, calls for bike lanes and more cycling infrastructure have been ongoing for years in Durham Region, dating back to the early 2000s, prior to the region’s first cycling plan approval in 2008. In 2012, a renewed version was approved, including requests from Arruda for a policy that would have seen bike lanes constructed on any new or redeveloped roads. At the time, McRae also expressed her concerns about Ritson Road and requested bike lanes on Ritson from Taunton Road to Howden Road. However, the new plan, which is in effect until 2032, does not include any bike lanes for Ritson Road.