“Riding that stretch of road can be a white-knuckle experience especially when there is weekend traffic and people are rushing to and from their cottages,” said Mike Varieur. He was referring to a stretch of Hwy 60 east of Huntsville that many cyclists avoid because conditions make it unsafe for riding.
But after a repaving project is completed in 2019, local cyclists like Mike and others won’t have to contend with dangerous conditions on Hwy 60 between Hidden Valley and Dwight—based on public feedback, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has approved paved shoulders for the project.
“As part of the project’s consultation process, a number of requests were received from the public to fully pave the shoulders within the project limits, to connect with the existing fully paved shoulder sections of Highway 60 on either side of the project,” said Kristin Franks, Regional Issues and Media Advisor for the MTO in an email to Doppler. The initial plan for the project was to maintain the existing 0.5 m paved shoulders.
The decision to expand the width of the shoulders was cheered by local bike shop owner and avid cyclist Kristi MacDonald. She was one of those who contacted the MTO to request paved shoulders and she applauded those in the community who have been advocating for the move for many years.
“You are playing Russian roulette with your life (on that stretch),” said MacDonald, adding that once that section is paved people will be able to ride from Huntsville all the way through Algonquin Park on paved shoulders with the exception of a short stretch near town. “It provides clear lines where each person and vehicle or bike belongs…and it connects some good cycling corridors.”
Through her business, The Bike Shops in Gravenhurst and Huntsville, MacDonald is well aware of the potential economic impact of safe cycling routes for Huntsville and Muskoka.
“We are missing the boat—there are so many places that are cycling destinations. Give riders a safe, positive experience and they will take that back to their cycling clubs and tell them how amazing it is. We have the beauty, we are just missing the safety. This new paved shoulder will just add to that.”
It’s something that Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller has been asking for at the Ontario Legislature for almost a decade. At least three times he has introduced a private members bill that, if enacted, would have required a minimum of a one-metre paved shoulders on designated highways as they are rebuilt or resurfaced.
He cited the positive impact the shoulders would have—for cycling tourism and safety and for providing more opportunity for recreational activities like cycling and walking.
One of those bills passed a second reading in the legislature but didn’t make it beyond that. Miller said he is pleased this stretch of Hwy 60 has been approved for paved shoulders by the MTO, and said he will continue to advocate for other roads in Parry Sound-Muskoka where it makes sense for them to have paved shoulders.
The Hwy 60 design-build project, which will run from Hidden Valley Road to 0.3 km west of Highway 35, is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2019. The contract for the project was awarded to McIntosh Perry.
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