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Athol Street cycling track open

Durham Region’s first cycling track recently opened on Athol Street in Oshawa. (Photo courtesy of the City of Oshawa)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Downtown Oshawa has become a little safer for those on two wheels with the region’s first cyclist track.

Located on Athol Street, the track provides cyclists with a safety barrier to keep vehicles at a safe distance.

According to Ranjit Gill,  policy advisor for the Oshawa active transportation advisory committee, this all began after the city approved its integrated transportation master plan.

“After it was approved, there was a desire within the city and staff that we should do something that’s unique within the region, and can also help out with promoting and providing safe cycling within Oshawa,” says Gill.

In 2016, city council approved a budget of $250,000 for the project.

Gill notes the city previously had bike lanes on Athol from Mary Street to just east of Ritson Road.

“We didn’t have anything that connected the bike lanes to the Joseph Kolodzie Trail, or the Michael Starr Trail,” says Gill.

The cycle track is the first in Durham Region to have a physical barrier.

Gill believes the cycle track is a great step forward.

“Having a physical separation promotes comfort and safety for the cyclists,” explains Gill. “We didn’t want to provide a facility just for the average cyclist, we wanted to promote something that could encourage the regular resident.”

There are currently no plans for another track, but Gill potentially sees some installed in new development areas.

“But for a retrofit road, it’s on a case-by-case basis,” he says.

The city has to look at cost effectiveness and priorities in terms of providing a connection, he adds.

“You select the best option for that road,” he says.

Some cyclists were using it before the track was even open.

“They pretty much told me that it is a great thing for Oshawa and they love it,” says Gill.

Ward 4 city councillor Derek Giberson lives downtown, and he thinks the addition of a cycle track will help make the community healthier, but there will be a learning curve.

“Change can be difficult sometimes. It’s a little bit clichéd to say that, but creating proper cycling infrastructure takes a long time, and a lot of places that have done it successfully have taken a long time to do it,” he says.

He notes detractors argue sophisticated cycling infrastructure isn’t needed in countries with cooler climates such as Canada, because it is only used for half of the year at most.

However, Giberson believes this argument doesn’t hold much value.

“Some of the most successful countries with great cycling infrastructure are Scandinavian countries [such as Finland]… You certainly can’t make the argument that they’re warm and balmy all year round,” he says.