A gravel road bicycle race held recently in the rural areas of The Blue Mountains did not go over well with local residents.
On June 11, The Blue Mountains Gravel Fondo cycling event was held in The Blue Mountains. The competitive event attracted 250 bike racers to the area, but it also received criticism from local residents who had to deal with road closures and traffic interruptions for the race.
Local residents Duncan McKinlay and Carolynne Jewett wrote to council about the impacts felt in their community by the race that was held on multiple sideroads in The Blue Mountains and Grey Highlands near Ravenna, Kolopore and Little Germany.
“These races impact us negatively both financially and personally. It also causes a traffic hazard during our busy farming season. We are currently in the hay season, making high-moisture hay. This is a time-sensitive feed to make, so we simply cannot afford to let it sit in the field while cyclists commandeer the roadways for their recreation,” Jewett said in her letter. “The 12th Sideroad, as a gravel backroad, was obviously never designed for this type of traffic.”
Other concerns included: vehicles being parked on both sides of local roads, three portable washroom units being placed in the ditches and farm entrances being blocked.
Members of council acknowledged receiving multiple phone calls and emails about the cycling race.
Town staff said the request for a temporary road closure for the event came to council later than what would normally be required. The town usually requires a minimum of 90 days notice through its special events bylaw. Staff said there will be debriefing between town staff, event organizers and police about the event with more information to come in a later report.
Coun. Gail Ardiel said she was disappointed to hear about the event having negative impacts on local residents.
“It’s not conducive to the farming area and it’s not conducive to healthy living having these bike races,” said Ardiel. “I’m very disappointed.”
In response to the concerns from local residents, council passed a resolution directing staff to ensure that the organizers of all future events proposed for rural areas liaise with the agricultural community and the town’s agricultural advisory committee.
Mayor Andrea Matrosovs said in the future it will be necessary for the town to receive full event details in advance.
“We are all on the same page that we want more advanced notice,” said the mayor. “I don’t remember anything in the pitch that there would be parking on both sides of the road.”
CAO Shawn Everitt said staff would come back to council with a full report about possible options. He said one possibility would be to tighten up the special events bylaw and no longer permit road closures for events in rural areas.
“If you limit the road closures, you limit the impacts,” said Everitt. “That is an option.
Local resident and former councillor Bill Abbotts was one of the organizers of the event and attended the meeting in the public gallery. Abbotts did not speak to the issue during the meeting. Afterwards, he provided CollingwoodToday with a written comment on the matter.
“The Blue Mountains Gravel Fondo was a cycling event for a few hours on a Sunday sharing a public road with 250 elite cycling athletes from here and all over the world,” Abbotts said in the statement. “We had dozens of police officers to help keep the roads safe and passable for the competitors and all types of vehicles at all times. There may have been a few seconds delay at intersections of the start/finish line while riders passed.”