• Matt Harrison

Unfinished business

Thanks to the recent unseasonably warm weather, I was able to get out for ‘one last bike ride,’ and, as a ‘last one,’ I thought I’d treat myself and travel from Chelsea to Wakefield via the new community trail.


As our regular readers know, this trail has generated a steady stream of letters. Now that the trail is close to being finished, many are expressing anxiety over the possibility of it being taken over by cyclists who, to quote one writer recently, “assume it was built for them” (Letter to the Editor, “A crash on the community trail is inevitable,” Oct. 21). My own editor, Nikki Mantell, witnessed “speeding road bikes” on a fall excursion, characterizing them as “Lance Armstrong-wannabees” (From the Editor’s desk, “Ready or not, here we come,” Oct. 21).


On my ride from Kirk’s Ferry to Farm Point, I saw no such cyclists in “matching black spandex” using the trail as their own Tour de France — but I did see cyclists going at or below the posted speed limit – 20 km/h – and for good reason.


As is, the trail’s unfinished surface is a deterrent against speeding; it’s nearly impossible, I would argue, to go fast on a traditional road bike. At 20 km/h, my handlebars were vibrating so hard that, by Farm Point, my hands were numb — so numb that I decided to give myself a ‘break’ and take Chemin de la Rivière. (You know you’re desperate when that road starts looking ‘smooth.’)


In contrast, I saw a lot of people out walking their dogs or with their partners out for a stroll — the I’m-not-paying-attention-to-where-I’m-going kind. Meandering couples were taking up both ‘lanes’ and when attempting to pass, I, like a poorly thrown bowling ball, had to force a split because they couldn’t figure out which side to walk on; dogs were off-leash, wandering far ahead of their owners; and when they were leashed, the owners had the leash stretched across the trail as though they were trying to clothesline me.


All I’m saying is that it’s a two-way street, pardon the pun — I’m sure cyclists are doing their part to ruin the experience, but I would argue, based on my own anecdotal evidence, that dog-walkers, joggers, and strollers are at fault too.


In the summer, I had a chance to cycle on a similar train track-turned-community trail in Prince Edward County: The Millennium Trail. The surface was indeed hard-packed fine gravel, perhaps finished with stone dust. Cycling on that surface allowed me to cycle fast — too fast, I’m sure, for those out for a stroll. Speed limits in some parts of the trail were 50 km/h, which was entirely possible given the trail’s finished surface.


And therein lies the solution: Chelsea, don’t finish the community trail. Leave it as is and it will act as a deterrent to most cyclists who desire speed. Right now, the trail is perfect for slower cycling and walking; I would argue it’s hell-on-wheels for “Lance Armstrong wannabees.”


Plus, by not finishing it, wouldn’t it save a chunk of coin on a project that has already cost $916,000 so far?


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