September 21, 2011

Getting serious about transportation alternatives

As published in The Erin Advocate

For the past 15 years, I've been thinking about cycling to Hillsburgh and back, along the route of the old Credit Valley Railway, but have never gotten around to it. I've needed a special event to prod me into action, and now it has arrived.

There's a community bike ride this Saturday, September 24, on the Elora Cataract Trail, with registration starting at 8:30 am in Erin and at 9:15 am in Hillsburgh. It is a political demonstration, of the decidedly peaceful variety, to show local politicians and provincial candidates that people feel strongly about curbing greenhouse gases, promoting alternative methods of transportation and reducing Canada's carbon output.

Sponsored by Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVC), the Climate Change Action Group of Erin (CCAGE) and Erin Trails, it should be an enjoyable way to bring people together. It is part of a world-wide day of cycling action called Moving Planet: A Day to Move Away from Fossil Fuels. A visit to will update you on the many efforts to reduce the earth's carbon dioxide level to 350 parts per million. For more information on the Erin "Ride for Change", contact Heidi Matthews at 519-833-9816 or email:

A bike ride won't shut down the carbon-producing tar sands in Alberta or produce immediate changes in our consumption-driven, car-dependent economy. But doing something is always more powerful than just talking. If millions of people not only speak up to say that current trends are unacceptable, but also demonstrate that they are willing to make lifestyle changes to benefit the planet, they will have an impact.

Another way to make a difference locally is to fill out the on-line survey that is part of the Wellington Active Transportation Plan, which aims to get more people involved in things like walking, jogging, running, cycling, in-line skating, skateboarding and even snowshoeing. The goal is to make non-motorized transportation more practical for commuting to work or school, for recreation and exercise, and for destination travel such as shopping and visiting friends.

This would be achieved not just through education, but by improvements to infrastructure such as bike lanes and trails. It is a joint effort involving the Public Health Unit, the County and local municipalities.

Do a search on Wellington Active Transportation or go to to access the survey. It will take about 15 minutes to complete, asking about current activities and priorities for improvements. You do not have to provide personal information.

In the Comments section at the end, I made two suggestions. If you agree with them, please back them up with your own comments. First, that both the County and local municipalities should commit to creating paved bike lanes whenever a road is being rebuilt. This does cost more initially, but some costs are recovered over time because the wider pavement lasts longer.

Second, that Wellington County establish a fund, similar to those in Peel and Halton Regions, to contribute towards the purchase of lands for protection of natural areas and development of recreation and trails. Such deals are typically coordinated by conservation authorities and often require funding from several sources – provincial, region/county, town and charitable foundations.

I saw a notice recently that Centre Wellington (Fergus-Elora) is launching a formal study to create a Trails Master Plan, a process they expect to cost about $50,000. Erin does not have that kind of money for trails, but it is worth noting that trails have become a high priority for many municipalities.

Trails are not a recreation luxury. They should be a key part of the local infrastructure, supporting physical and mental health, environmental protection, road safety, tourism, economic development and the town's reputation at large.