Farm Point residents aren’t holding their breath that their trail situation will get better any time soon.
Doug Emmons, Jen Coorsh, Penny Allan, and Barbara Shaw all live in Farm Point along a 1.5 kilometre section of the community trail that is intersected five times by roads or driveways. Each have had close calls on the trail and have heard of even more near misses involving cars, walkers, or cyclists in the area. They’ve brought their safety concerns to the municipality of Chelsea and council multiple times over the past two years but feel that their worries fall on deaf ears because nothing gets done. They are worried that a trail user will get seriously injured or killed before Chelsea makes the trail safe in their neighbourhood.
Coorsh said she was walking the trail with her two children, a six-month-old baby, a three-year-old, and her friend and her child about a week ago. The two kids were riding bikes while the moms walked together with Coorsh pushing her baby in a stroller. Coorsh said she looked behind her and saw a cyclist riding so fast on a road bike that there wasn’t enough time to get the kids out of the way to let the cyclist pass. She was concerned that one of the kids would be hit so she stood in the middle of the trail to stop the cyclist. She tried to explain why she stopped the biker but she was met with a barrage of profanity, all for interrupting someone’s bike ride to protect her child.
“It was a bit of a nightmare,” Coorsh said.
Now, she avoids going for walks on the trail during weekends and holidays because it’s too dangerous with all the fast bicycle traffic.
Emmons said he’s almost hit bikers who don’t yield to traffic at the trail intersection of his driveway; Shaw was walking the trail with a friend last year when her friend got clipped by a biker and Allan said she and her dogs almost get hit each time they go on walks despite trying to time her outings when there are less cyclists on the trail.
They all worry that there will be a horrible accident on the trail near their homes but said that Chelsea will likely only take serious steps to improve trail safety in that area once that happens.
“That’s the only thing that will move them,” Emmons said.
“We don’t want to see it happen,” Allan added.
“We want to be proactive on safety before we see someone get hit,” Shaw said.
Despite their frustration and discouragement with the municipality, they’re still calling for improved signage and intersections along the trail in their neighbourhood. They would like to see stop signs for trail users along major intersections at Chemins Carnochan, Winnisic, Cora-Rose, and Carrière. They also want swing gates – that bikers and walkers can move through and can be swung outward to allow for the trail to be groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter – at those intersections because bikers aren’t paying attention to the flimsy, plastic bollards or yield signs that are present at intersections.
“I hate that I have to live where I’m afraid of hitting someone,” Allan said. “I don’t want more signage, I want the right signage.”
Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard said that municipal council and staff are aware of the concerns in the area and are working to address them.
“We do all the work in phases,” he said.
Guénard said it’s not fair to say that the municipality is waiting for a tragedy to act on trail safety. He said that Chelsea is being thorough in its research of different options to make trail intersections safer.
Those options do include more signage, and bollards or swing gates at intersections.
“Before doing anything permanent we want to analyze that with our partners, Sentier Chelsea Trail and les Amis du Voie Verte Chelsea, and our staff,” Guénard said.
He said that he hopes to budget for these safety features in 2023 so they can be installed by or before 2024.