Pave highway shoulders for cyclists: Ont. bill

There could soon be more paved shoulders on the side of some secondary Ontario highways to encourage cyclists and make roads safer for everyone.

There could soon be more paved shoulders on the side of some secondary Ontario highways to encourage cyclists and make roads safer for everyone.

Progressive Conservative Norm Miller's private member's bill, which would require a one-metre paved shoulder be added whenever designated secondary highways are being resurfaced, passed second reading Thursday with support from all three parties.

The paved shoulder would allow vehicles to pass cyclists without having to swerve into the lane of oncoming traffic, said Miller.

"Without a paved part of the shoulder, you're taking your life in your hands to go out for a ride on a provincial highway," he said.

"Obviously if the shoulder is paved there's also a bigger margin of safety for the motorist, too."

Cycling advocates strongly support Miller's bill.

Eleanor McMahon, founder of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, said her husband, Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Greg Stobbart, was killed in 2006 while riding his bike north of their home in Milton, north of Burlington.

"Had Greg had a paved shoulder, he would have been riding on it and he almost certainly would be here today," said McMahon.

"If we can pave shoulders in Ontario the benefits are obvious: to the health of our communities, to the safety of our cyclists [and] to the safety of all road users."

Last year Ontario passed Greg's Law, which targets motorists who drive suspended, unlicensed and uninsured, in honour of Greg Stobbart. The driver who killed Stobbart had five previous convictions for driving while his licence was under suspension. 

Cycling policy under review

An Australian study found bicycle-vehicle accidents dropped 41 per cent on roads with paved shoulders, said Miller.

Quebec reduced the number of fatal bike-vehicle collisions by two-thirds in a decade after adding paved shoulders, even though the number of cyclists in the province increased steadily during that time, he added.

Private member's bills, especially ones from opposition members, rarely become law in Ontario, but Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said she was in favour of paved shoulders in some areas.

"Where there's a strong tourism demand and where there isn't an alternate route, I think it's something we need to look at. That's why we're reviewing the cycling policy," said Wynne.

"Obviously cost is something that has to be considered but I think we need to do everything we can to make roads as safe as we can."

The government doesn't have estimates on the cost of adding a one-metre paved strip on each side of a roadway that's being upgraded, but Miller said U.S. figures show it is about $53,000 a mile.

New Democrat Cheri DiNovo also spoke in support of Miller's bill, citing the environmental benefits of more cycling.

"Cycling needs to become easier and it needs to become safer if we're going to help our environment," said DiNovo. 

"One of the major causes of climate change in this country is too much driving."

The province already has a pilot project underway to pave one metre of each side of Highway 6 on Manitoulin Island.