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Swing gates a simple solution to Voie Verte problems

June 21st,2023 | Valley Voices

By Barb Shaw

A group of residents who live on hills that intersect the Voie Verte (VV) in Ward 5 (Chemins Carnochan, Winnisic and Cora Rose, as well as the driveway at 243 ch de la Riviere) have urgently expressed our concerns about the safety of all users of the trail to the municipality of Chelsea and our councillors.

We have written letters and emails and also presented our concerns during numerous question periods at council and committee meetings for several years now. We have been arguing for signage and barriers at the intersections of the VV with our steep roads on the one-kilometre-plus section of the trail that runs north of the intersection with Chemins de la Riviere and St. Clement since the trail was first created. There have been numerous “near misses” that are heart-stopping for those of us who have had them, both as we leave or return to our homes in our vehicles and when we are pedestrians on the trail.

Please note that many of us are cyclists as well as regular users of the trail. I am a cyclist. Swing gates are found on every other trail I have been on in the region (Wakefield, Veloroute des Draveurs, Veloroute des Voyageurs, P’tit Train du Nord). I don’t understand why they are also not being used on this trail. Slowing cyclists down at intersections improve safety for all trail users, as well as for those who access their homes via roads and driveways that cross the trail.

The Veloroute des Draveurs (which runs along Blue Sea Lake in part), for example, has warning signs, gates, and stop signs at every single intersection, including minor ATV trails (even a speed bump at one!) I am shocked that our municipality is not taking similar steps on this trail.

As a cyclist, gates and stop signs alert me to the fact that I need to exercise caution since an intersection with a road or driveway is coming. Proper signage not only slows down cyclists but also helps to protect pedestrians, especially given that this is a multi-purpose, multi-use trail.

Regarding the use of stop/yield signs on the trail, correspondence with Greg McGuire, then Ward 3 councillor and chair of the Chelsea Trails committee, confirmed that it was the Ministry of Transport that indicated that the signs belonged on the trail and not on the roads that intersect it.

As we have stressed over and over again, along this stretch of the trail north of its crossing with Chemin de la Riviere, residents do not feel that they can access their homes safely when cyclists are not slowing down or checking for vehicles coming up and down the hills. Our hills are steep and can be difficult both on the way up and down. Installing a single-lane divider in the middle of the trail at a crossing does nothing to remedy this problem.

Do we have to wait until someone is hit and the municipality is sued before gates are installed? Swing gates are used on all the other regional cycling trails. Why is this not the case on the VV?

Barb Shaw is a resident of Chelsea and a regular trail user, both as a pedestrian and a driver.

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