From The Sudbury Star:
Local cyclist a champion for new bike paths
Years ago in Toronto, Nathalie Gara-Boivin took the kind of spill that might force anyone to hang up their bike for good.
She was 17 and biking along the road when she went to turn into a local plaza. Taking the turn, she hit a difference in pavement heights and her bike skidded out from underneath her. In a split second, she landed hard and broken her jaw. She couldn’t speak for three months. Then her jaw had to be re-broken because it wasn’t done correctly the first time.
So Gara-Boivin totally gets it when people tell her they are scared to cycle. But as chair of the Sudbury Bicycle Advisory Committee, she isn’t letting fear and a near complete lack of cycling infrastructure stop her from promoting more cycling in Sudbury.
Her main focus now is to ensure the Bell Park Path is constructed properly as part of reconstruction of the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre. It would be a rare victory on the infrastructure side for a committee that has seen pathways disappear.
Cyclists ride past almost on cue during a recent interview with Gara-Boivin as she explains how the current makeshift pathway needs upgrading and extending through the park.
“This is a main connector. Right now it’s a makeshift path. It’s hazardous. The city needs to allocate dollars. I think people need to be more vocal. If they’re scared to ride their bikes they need to voice their opinion that we need to see more done,” she says.
The path is the BAC’s proposal as part of reconstruction of the amphitheatre. The path would run from the Sudbury Canoe Club, behind the hospital where the road needs reconstruction, and finally past the amphitheatre.
The path would likely pass where the washrooms are located so cyclists can commute while events are ongoing. Then it would be brought along to connect with the path on Paris Street. That path will link shortly with the Rainbow Routes Ramsey Lake Path, where construction is humming along, almost at frightening speed.
Oh, the potential, oh, the possibilities.
Yes, but cycling in Sudbury is like a fast food snack cake of creamy icing that looks tasty at first then leaves you feeling sick at the end. Lord, why did I eat that?
On one end of the spectrum is Sudbury’s proud cycling history. Three Sudburians made Canadian Olympic teams in 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2004. Eric Wohlberg rode on three Olympic teams and won gold at Pan American and Commonwealth Games. There’s Delki Dozzi cycling track. Imagine trying to build that today.
On the other end is the lack of cycling infrastructure. It’s especially troubling to BAC members who see what’s going on in (insert any city here). How come bike paths in Sudbury disappear?
Gara-Boivin knows the shortfall on infrastructure has been a challenge.
“I don’t know why. We need someone dedicated at the city, whether that’s in the transportation division, who is looking at bike infrastructure, bike lanes, bike racks. We don’t even have an inventory of where current bike racks are.”
Gara-Boivin worked once as a co-op student in Ottawa’s transportation division where several staff were dedicated exclusively to Ottawa’s bike infrastructure. Sudbury also lacks a cycling master plan, she adds.
Gara-Boivin takes heart with some of the BAC’s success stories, primarily on the education front. She remains a strong advocate for the proper wearing of bike helmets.
The BAC has achieved a rack-and- roll program where cyclists can put their bikes on racks at the front of city transit buses. There’s the annual Ramsey Lake cycle tour. BAC members have supported bike rides with different community groups. They’re working on furthering the Share-the-Road program and developing a cycling map.
Photo of a bike rack in Sudbury via Flickr