Cycling advocates group reflects on last year at annual meeting

SPRING BAY—Canada is seeing a large upsurge in cycling lately and here on Manitoulin that interest is due, in part, to the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA), an organization that formed four years ago.

Chaired by Mindemoya resident Maja Mielonen, the association held its annual general meeting (AGM) on May 26 at the Spring Bay Community Hall and in Wikwemikong on May 27.

Ms. Mielonen welcomed everyone to the meeting and oversaw the approval of the minutes for the 2013 AGM as well as the acceptance of the agenda and the treasurer’s report presented by treasurer Pam Jackson. Ms. Mielonen remarked on how each program outlined in the treasurer’s report was sustaining itself whether it be the sales of t-shirts, maps or the Manitoulin Passage Ride. Last year, 83 riders took part in that popular outing.

Ms. Mielonen also talked about the correspondence MICA members received from the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) outlining Bill-79, which, if passed, would allow for paved shoulders on highways throughout Ontario. It has been shown that there are fewer accidents on highways with paved shoulders and there is less maintenance involved as roads with paved abutments last five years longer.

“It is nice to see that municipalities are starting to understand,” Ms. Mielonen said as she went on to say that cycling is good for tourism as people on bikes stay longer than people in vehicles and healthy cyclists make for a healthy community. It is expected that Highway 551 between Mindemoya and M’Chigeeng will have paved shoulders next year as that highway will be repaved.

MICA members were told about the success of the three day, 28th Annual Bicycle Show in Toronto which Ms. Mielonen and Guy Nielen attended to set up a booth and promote cycling on Manitoulin. It is estimated that 28,000 people attended this event and the couple were grateful for the This is Manitoulin’s sent directly to them from The Expositor as well as other literature, pens and pins from the municipalities and ferry schedules from Owen Sound Transportation. As Mr. Nielen explained, “we promoted the whole Island with an emphasis on cycling.”

Ms. Mielonen also informed MICA members that the new Manitoulin road and cycling routes maps are available and talked of how some businesses are buying the maps at $1 each for lots of 20 and over and leaving them out to give to guests. Over 4,500 of the new larger maps have been sold with enhancements that include four new cycling routes including the Georgian Bay circuit. It was also explained that there are a number of ads, not just on the other side from the routes, but also on the map as people saw didn’t know where the particular place was.

MICA member Emma Gardner also spoke at the AGM and explained results of two surveys that show that 86 percent of tourists bring their bikes on vacation, 27 percent were aware of cycling on Manitoulin, 28 percent had learned about Manitoulin from the MICA website and 69 percent used the cycle route maps which were helpful to all but one person. About half of the visitors to the Island are from Toronto with others coming from other provinces and states such as Illinois, Michigan and Indiana. The average stay was six days. There were 252 surveys completed and people at the bike show showed that 99 percent would consider visiting the Island with bikes. Survey results showed that there was a low awareness of cycling on Manitoulin but high enthusiasm which showed potential for more tourism. It was evident that more support and infrastructure was needed including a luggage shuttle service, more paved shoulders, more route signage, cycle racks and water fountains.

Jeff Brankley, owner of Lightfoot Bikes situated just outside Mindemoya, spoke at the meeting and was very grateful MICA for all the work the members do. “Thanks to MICA,” he said. “We are very lucky to have this organization.”

Mr. Brankley also shared some tips on comfortable biking, telling people to raise the seat of their bike if one is experiencing pain in their knees, back or neck. “We are happy to give people tips and we will show you how to measure where your seat should be,” he explained, “and we sell bikes that are geometrically more comfortable. Also keep your tires highly inflated and padded shorts and gloves will help you to be more comfortable.”

Ms. Jackson told the members about a new program to be held in Providence Bay and starting on June 7. Called Get Active with the Arts, the course is a 4Elements Living Arts group initiative and welcomes children and adults from 10 am to 3 pm This association seeks to investigate and integrate relationships between land, creativity and community.

Adam Hayden, a community development assistant with LAMBAC, also spoke at the MICA meeting and, as he said, was there to inform cycling stakeholders about the LaCloche-Manitoulin Project to improve destination development and market this area as a cycling destination. Tasks for this would include road improvements, route layouts and maps, signage, the promotion of Ontario by bike networks and community development. A marketing plan would have to be drawn up as well as a website with the goals being to encourage cycling tourists to come to LaCloche-Manitoulin, but also to encourage residents, both full time and seasonal, to cycle. Those interested in joining a steering committee or to obtain more information are asked to email Mr. Hayden at adam@lambac.org.

Ms. Mielonen informed the MICA members that the 4th Annual Passage Ride has been sold out, that the organization’s website has received over 18,600 hits in the past two years and there have been many compliments for the site. Anyone interested in advertising their business on the site is asked to call 705-377-4471.

Elections at the end of the MICA meeting saw Guy Nielen re-elected as co-chairperson and Emma Gardner and Jeff Brankley joining the organization’s board.

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