MINDEMOYA – Bicycling is one of the few things these days that has not felt a dramatic negative impact with the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, even with the prevalence of the pandemic, bicycle sales across the province have increased dramatically.
“We have been selling our maps (of bicycling on Manitoulin) like crazy and bicycling falls in line with self social distancing activities; it fulfills people’s need to be able to get out and be active and have fun, and bicycle sales have gone up 200 percent across the province. Businesses can’t keep up with the sale of e-bikes,” stated Maja Mielonen, president of Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) prior to the group’s annual general meeting held this past Monday. “E-bikes are amazing… six years ago just a few were being sold and now everyone sells them.”
Bicycling on Manitoulin Island and the attention it has been given in the past few years has also supported and helped a Mindemoya business, Twin Peaks Bed and Breakfast, and co-owners Cheryl Cashman and Ron Perreault (who are originally from Sudbury) were recently named Northern Ontario’s Best Bicycle-Friendly Business and have been so acknowledged for their efforts by Ontario By Bike.
Ms. Cashman was the guest speaker at the MICA AGM. “I spoke for a few minutes at the meeting, noting when we bought this property in November 2016, we took six months to renovate the building. At that time cycling was not on our radar for marketing our business. But I was lucky enough to meet Maja (Mielonen) a month before we opened in 2017 and she educated me on the fact that cycling interest was growing on Manitoulin Island and that our business would have a free listing on the MICA website if we became members.”
At Monday’s meeting, “I also spoke about how our base of bicycling customers has grown since we opened,” said Ms. Cashman. “At the start we would probably have one room out of 12 rooms booked by cyclists. Just before COVID-19, one of every five or six rooms included bicyclists.”
This past spring Twin Peaks Bed and Breakfast submitted a nomination for the Ontario By Bike award. The Bicycle Friendly Business Awards are presented by Ontario By Bike, whose network of certified bicycle friendly tourism businesses is over 1,500 strong. The certification program has criteria that helps ensure cyclists are welcome at businesses they choose to stop at whether it be as a cycle tourist, on a longer trip, or while biking closer to home. The network is free for businesses to participate in and the information on each location plus cycling trails and road routes in each region is easily accessible online. The awards are given to showcase the efforts of all those businesses out there that are working hard on keeping Ontario a top destination for cyclists.
“The level of service and enthusiasm that these 2020 award-winning businesses welcome cyclists with surpasses our bicycle-friendly certification criteria and truly is beyond exceptional,” said Louisa Mursell, executive director of Ontario By Bike Transportation Options, in a press release. “Cyclists are taking note and spreading the word. We are pleased to recognize their efforts serving the cycling community, both locals and cycle tourists.”
At the MICA AGM and in her speech, “I focused on our location, the quality of rooms and the hearty breakfast that we serve; that are all right up the alley of bicyclists,” said Ms. Cashman.
Ms. Mielonen said, “everyone is facing an added load with COVID-19, accommodations are either closed or at half-capacity, as are restaurants, and events are all being cancelled. But with bicycling we’re operating as normal.”
“I prepared a little oversight of the past year for MICA, since we held our last AGM in 2019. We held three bike kitchens at MSS, Little Current and Wiikwemkoong,” said Ms. Mielonen. “We also held a very successful Passage Ride that included a small celebration including the route from Ten Mile Point to where paving for bike routes had been completed.”
“In November we attended the Destination Northern Ontario summit where MICA won the Industry Leader Product Development Award,” continued Ms. Mielonen.
“Manitoulin Island is an incredible bicycling destination and we have various trails, trail heads, maps, trail signs, and the opportunity for visitors to take adventure tours (self-guided and all-inclusive),” stated Ms. Mielonen.
“When the winter came we partook in the Outdoor Trade Show and International Bike Show held in February and March before COVID-19 hit,” continued Ms. Mielonen.
Ms. Mielonen pointed out MICA has communicated with municipalities an investment of $6,000 has been made for 12 bicycle racks that “we will be donating to municipalities; this has been delayed due to COVID-19.”
“My speech at Monday’s meeting was about cycling during the time of COVID 19,” said Ms. Mielonen. “The pandemic has highlighted weaknesses; there is still an ongoing car-centric division of space in cities. But many cities across the world, Rome, Paris, Toronto have taken action to take some of this space back. For instance, Toronto is shutting down sections of highways and roads to provide space for people to walk, jog, or for cycling.”
At its meeting MICA welcomed three new board members, Linda Belton, Mary Dantouze and Luanne Stewart, who will make up the board along with Peter Ford and Maja Mielonen.