Cyclist skeptical of shoulder safety on rural roads

Jeff Tindall commutes by bike during spring, summer and fall, but not winter. During the colder months he rides inside. We staged this shot near his house on one of the coldest days of the year. Photo by Glen Gower.

(PHOTO: Jeff Tindall commutes by bike during spring, summer and fall, but not winter. During the colder months he rides inside. We staged this shot near his house on one of the coldest days of the year. Photo by Glen Gower.)

The city has paved the shoulder of a stretch of Fernbank Road in an effort to improve cycling infrastructure in the Goulbourn area, but one local cyclist isn’t convinced.

A portion of Fernbank Road between Shea Road and 500 metres west of Terry Fox Drive was paved over the summer with the goal of better connecting bicycle facilities with OC Transpo. It was one of the projects funded by a $4-million grant from the federal government’s Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.

“The options are limited in the rural area to figure out how to connect transit to cycling,” said Scott Moffatt, councillor for Rideau-Goulbourn, the ward which the section of Fernbank Road is a part of.

Moffatt said having a paved shoulder is good for cyclists, but also for cars as well because it extends the life of the road. With an unpaved shoulder, cars sometimes ride on the edge of the surface which over time can chip away and cause cracking.

“It’s a better road to drive on (and) a better road to bike on,” he said.

Having at least more paved shoulders would go a long way to improving cycling in the rural area, he said, because communities like Stittsville and Richmond have little or no routes to connect them to other places.

“People in Richmond… they’d like a pathway to communities like Stittsville and Nepean,” he said.

Roads like Flewellyn, which has a narrow gravel shoulder, are popular with cyclists because they provide decent connections and very low traffic. When Shea Road was repaved a while ago, he heard from one local cyclist who thanked him for the new shoulder.

“It’s perfect now,” Moffatt said.

But Jeff Tindall, a Stittsville cycling enthusiast, said it doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

“Paved shoulders are certainly better than gravel shoulders, however this shouldn’t be misconstrued as cycling infrastructure,” he wrote in a message to StittsvilleCentral.ca. “While they do provide a bit more separation between cyclists and automobiles, it’s a shoulder, and as such I fully expect vehicles to drive (on) it.”

He pointed to the recent repaving of Shea Road and said vehicles often use its shoulder as a parking zone or a lane to pass other vehicles.

“I witnessed a very close call on Iber when an SUV did just that only to realize a pedestrian was walking past the turning left car along the shoulder,” he wrote.

He would like to see actual cycling infrastructure be built in the area – meaning real lanes instead of shoulders, complete with signs reserving them for cyclists.

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