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Trail incident calls for municipal action

June 7th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Penny Allan

I’m writing to raise concerns about safety on the Voie Verte. In particular, I’d like to address an incident that occurred on May 28, between a cyclist and one of my neighbours.

On Sunday afternoon in Farm Point, Chelsea, I heard a man yelling as clearly as if he were screaming in my own face (please excuse the language): ‘You fu%$*ng jerk! You fu%$*ng cut me off!’ He yelled this not just once, but several times. The tirade went on for several minutes.

I later learned that it was my 72-year-old neighbour who had been the target of this verbal abuse. According to witnesses, my neighbour was coming down his steep private road to turn onto River Rd. when a cyclist disregarded a yield sign and careened out in front of him on the Voie Verte. The cyclist was travelling much faster than the posted 20 km/hr and blew through the intersection without even looking, according to several witnesses. So began the verbal abuse. “You will have a short life; I know where you live,” the cyclist allegedly said.

My neighbour was understandably shaken by the cyclist’s aggressive body posture and verbal threat. This kind of bullying is unacceptable! Our Chelsea community should not have to live in fear for their safety.

Not all cyclists we encounter on the trail are rude or aggressive. I walk my dogs on the Voie Verte two to three times a day, and I encounter many friendly cyclists – seniors, young adults and families out on the trail enjoying the view or getting some exercise. These cyclists are polite and considerate of their surroundings and the people who live along the Voie Verte.

Unfortunately, there are more and more of the other types—the ones who use the trail as their personal race track and training ground.

While the Mayor’s call-out last summer to the cycling community to show respect for others on the trail seemed to work for a while, what worked even better were the saw horses that were temporarily installed at our intersections to slow cyclists down.

Many of us have recommended that swing gates be installed on the Voie Verte, particularly where the trail intersects steep roads or where visibility is impaired by foliage and/or curves in the trail. This is a common measure that has been taken on other trails and bike paths all across the country. Why not in Chelsea?

It’s been three years since the inception of the trail: We don’t need more studies and evaluations—we need the Municipality of Chelsea to listen to those who live along the trail who experience first-hand on a daily basis the reality of ‘sharing’ the trail with these types of cyclists. How many more close calls do there have to be before the municipality acts?

Sadly, this letter isn’t the first to address this topic, but I hope it will be the last.

Penny Allan is a concerned resident of Chelsea who wants to see users of the Voie Verte share the trail harmoniously.

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