A cyclist rides around parked cars next to the bicycle lane at King and Talbot Streets. (SHALU MEHTA/THE LONDON FREE PRESS)

Get ready for more cycling infrastructure in Middlesex County.

Middlesex County Council endorsed a draft cycling strategy on Tuesday. County engineer Chris Traini said the Middlesex County Cycling Strategy is the end of a long process that started in 2016.

“Cycling in a county context is difficult to tackle,” he said to the council on Tuesday.

The strategy was developed between February 2017 and June 2018. It has seven goals, including making recommendations in support of a continuous, connected system of cycling routes, providing cyclists with well-maintained infrastructure, and establishing policies to strongly support and make cycling a priority.

London Bicycle Cafe owner Ben Cowie sees the decision to endorse the cycling strategy as a step in the right direction.

“It’s definitely a good start,” he said.

The goal of the cycling strategy is to establish cycling facilities, such as signed routes, paved shoulders, bike lanes, cycle tracks, bicycle parking and trails.

The strategy proposes 703 kilometres of new cycling facilities for county and local networks. Along with the existing cycling infrastructure, the proposed facilities would total 1000 kilometres of cycling infrastructure in the county.

News about new safe trails to ride is exciting for Matt Newman. He rides with youth riders on the Kallisto Cycling Team, which he said includes some riders as young as ten years old.

“It’s really hard to take them out of the city,” said Newman, who manages the Trek Bicycle Shop of London. “Any cycling infrastructure is great for us.”

The cycling strategy mentioned that a lot of London cyclists use county and local roads to bike for recreational purposes. Newman agrees, citing the MS Bike Tour from Grand Bend to London as an example.

“After the ride is done, you don’t see a lot of those people riding on those kinds of roads,” he said.

Cowie thinks more people will be open to biking on county roads if they know it’s a possible and feasible thing to do.

“People want to have direction for how to get from point A to point B safely,” Cowie said. “It’s a mystery for some people who are not in a cycling club.”

The cycling strategy comes at a hefty cost. The bill totals about $59 million, with Middlesex County covering $44 million and the remaining $15 million being divided among the local municipalities.

“I understand that this is a big capital commitment,” Traini said to the council.

Traini added there are funding opportunities available to help cover the cost of the strategy.

The cycling strategy is broken down into two phases to help implement it: short-term (under ten years) and long-term (ten years and beyond). In the short-term phase, just over 200 kilometres of proposed infrastructure would be added, with a significant portion being signed cycling routes. The long-term phase would see the remaining distance of about 500 kilometres added, with most improvements focused on paved shoulders.

Basic cycling infrastructure — such as a paved shoulder, signs and paint — made a big difference for Newman when he recently travelled from St. Thomas to Port Stanley on Sunset Drive.

“That’s one of the safest stretches of roads. You feel very safe on a bike,” he said.

With the council’s endorsement, the proposed strategy will be circulated to all local municipal councils for concerns and comments before seeking approval and commitment to invest in cycling infrastructure.

Traini said the finalized plan would then be used as a basis for a joint application between Middlesex County and the local municipalities for infrastructure funding in the short-term portion of the strategy.


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