Now that the downtown parking meter issue has been seemingly addressed, Midland has found a new avenue for controversy to while away the days.
This time around it's e-bikes and whether the machines and their operators have a place on town trails.
As an avid cyclist and dog walker, I’m divided on the issue.
Should trails be limited to machines, whether they be wheels or legs, that don’t require gasoline (other than perhaps a morning coffee)?
Having just returned from a week’s visit to Québec City, which has an enviable system of bike and walking trails that could keep one occupied, healthy and happy for many months, I never once spotted an e-bike on the paved trails that like Midland sit on former train routes.
On a daily basis, hundreds of riders are enjoying the trails, which start from the edge of the St. Lawrence River under the Pont Pierre-Laporte and can take one through the Vieux Port, to Montmorency Falls, the village of Wendake or even farther into steeper climbs and more rugged areas like Val-Bélair, Shannon and Fossambault-sur-le-Lac.
And unlike Midland, these trails are not used by snowmobiles during the winter months, but rather walkers and occasionally cross-country skiers.
All this said, I don’t find e-bikes on local trails whether in Midland, Tay Township or even the gravel offerings in Tiny cause an issue.
In fact, how can a municipality that allows snowmobiles on its trails in the winter really condemn one form of motorized transportation during the summer, spring and fall and then completely ignore the issue in another season.
It doesn’t make sense…a bit like the parking meter fiasco, but I digress.
And as I mentioned from the outset, I use the local trails a lot after years of enjoying the take-your-life-in-your-own hands thrill of road biking where I quickly learned the biggest threats to my own mortality weren’t vehicles on highways, but rather local streets.
The bigger issues on the trail front really come down to rude behaviour, speeding and complete obliviousness to one’s surroundings.
For many cyclists, the need for speed is often there and an important part of any ride. But you need to judge your surroundings.
If you’re passing through a crowded area or one with a young family, use common sense and exercise caution when passing others by either using a bell or vocalizing (saying “on your left” or “sur votre gauche”), which work wonders of alerting others you’re coming through.
Rude behaviour and complete obliviousness to others are close to being the same thing since they both cover similar areas.
These areas include leaving the gates open on your property, thereby jutting out into the biking/walking paths and forcing others to go around to be avoid being injured (yes, I’m talking to some of you Aberdeen Boulevard residents).
There’s also the problem with cyclists or walkers feeling the need to take over both sides of the trail, which doesn’t allow others to pass…even after employing the aforementioned bell and ‘on your left’ efforts.
And then there are people like me, who tend to daydream while walking. Sometimes even your best efforts will all be for naught as the person ahead takes a fair bit of time to actually figure out what’s going on.
And while I don’t have an e-bike or scooter, I’ve never found these riders to be rude or attempting to disturb others on the trails. (Now, don’t get me started on dirt bikes and ATVs, whose riders occasionally sneak unto the trails. They’re a different kettle of fish altogether.)
And if the town is serious about eliminating e-bikes, take the next logical step and eliminate snowmobiles on trails.
They’d be great for walking or cross-country skiing during the snowy winter months.