Busy streets in Lindsay, Bobcaygeon could soon be forced to accommodate ORVs
If the Off-road Vehicle Task Force gets its way, ORVs could soon be permitted on such busy Lindsay streets as Logie, Wellington, Cambridge and Angeline Streets, among many other choices. Bobcaygeon, too, could see ORV use on some of its main roads.
In what is expected to be another contentious meeting on June 1, Kawartha Lakes council is being asked to approve a new set of off-road vehicle (ORV) routes through Lindsay and Bobcaygeon.
More routes through Lindsay and from the south into Bobcaygeon will be considered this September by the ORV Task Force along with rural routes and a specific road linkage between Bethany and the Ganaraska area, before going to council in the last quarter of 2021.
Few council issues have so polarized city residents as the ORV debate, with those who own the vehicles largely in favour of their expanded usage south of Glenarm Road, and those who don’t own them largely opposing the expansion. Both sides have made petitions and deputations to council.
The committee of the whole meeting is expected to hear once again from a cross-section of both groups on Tuesday, with one presentation looming large from Dr. Natalie Bocking, medical officer of health, Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit.
Since the early 2000s, the health unit has consistently spoken out strongly against the expansion of ATV access to municipal roads citing well established evidence of personal injuries, accidents, and trips to emergency rooms tied directly to ORV accidents.
Bocking is expected to speak against ORV usage being expanded in the south of Kawartha Lakes, and her participation could certainly have an impact on a number of councillors who have been recently inundated with calls from opponents of expanded ORV usage.
So far, only Deputy Mayor Patrick O’Reilly has stated for the record that he will vote against the ATV expansion proposal being brought forward by the municipal task force helmed by councillors Dunn, Richardson and Seymour-Fagan, who not only support the expansion of ORV access to municipal roads, but favour road use through both Lindsay and Bobcaygeon, eliminating what the ORV community has called “choke-holds” in both those communities.
Dunn and his task force will recommend that council select two of the following three routes through Lindsay and approve the one route that will access Bobcaygeon to ATV traffic.
Lindsay Option 1
The Victoria Rail Trail (VRT) trailhead at Logie Street to King Street, King Street to Lindsay Street, Lindsay Street to Wellington Street, Wellington Street to Victoria Avenue, Victoria Avenue to Elgin Street, Elgin Street to Angeline Street, Angeline Street to Thunderbridge Road, Thunderbridge Road to the VRT trailhead.
Lindsay Option 2
The VRT trailhead at Logie Street to Lindsay Street South, Lindsay Street S to Russell Street, Russell Street to Cambridge Street, Cambridge Street to Peel Street, Peel Street to Victoria Avenue, Victoria Avenue to Elgin Street, Elgin Street to Angeline Street, Angeline Street to Thunderbridge Road, Thunderbridge Road to the VRT trailhead.
Lindsay Option 3
The VRT trailhead at Golden Mile Road, Golden Mile Road to Cloverhill Road, Cloverhill Road CR 36, CR 36 to Queen Street, Queen Street to Lindsay Street, Lindsay Street to Wellington Street, Wellington Street to Victoria Avenue, Victoria Ave to Elgin Street, Elgin Street to Angeline Street, Angeline Street to Thunderbridge Road, Thunderbridge Road to the VRT trailhead.
Bobcaygeon Option 1
CR 36 from City Limits to King Street, King Street to Mansfield Road, Mansfield Road to road’s end, Sherwood Street to Canal Street, Canal Street to CR 36, William Street from King Street to Canal Street, Main Street from Canal Street to Joseph Street, Joseph Street from Main Street to CR 8, Duke Street from CR 36 to CR 8.
In an email to council, former Manvers area councillor, Heather Stauble, pointed out that the routes are different than ones proposed a few months ago and there is no map included in the package available to the public on the city council webpage.
“The vast majority of the 20,000 residents of Lindsay and the 3,500 residents of Bobcaygeon do not know about the new proposed routes,” said Stauble. “The proposed routes involve travel through densely populated areas, past homes, schools, a hospital and businesses. They involve multiple turns on hard surfaces, past pedestrians, children on bicycles, mobility scooters, trucks, emergency vehicles, school buses and construction equipment. The routes go through the busiest intersections in the municipality.”
Stauble noted that Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville, Cobourg, Port Hope, Peterborough, Oshawa and Bowmanville do not allow ATVs within their settlement areas. Northumberland and Peterborough Counties prohibit ORVs on most roads. Durham Region prohibits ATVs on all roads except Brock Township during ice fishing season.
She adds that lower tier municipalities such as Cavan-Monaghan prohibit ATVs. Selwyn has a warning that access may be restricted while Clarington, Hope, and Hamilton Township prohibit ORVs.
Stauble said every ORV and manual has warning labels stating for “OFF ROAD USE ONLY” with additional warnings that their design poses a risk to the operator and others if used on a roadway.
The largest lobby group for ORVs in the United States has long had a very public stance against ORV usage on paved surfaces citing accidents, injuries and liabilities for the vehicle owners as reasons for the vehicles to stay on designated trails.
Input from Kawartha Lakes Public Works, which recommends deferring the issue, advises that “public safety is paramount” adding that “manufacturers and experts warn against the use of ORVs on roads” and warning that “incidents on municipal roads would increase.” They also cited the lack of criteria for a road safety review and a pilot.
In a letter to the ORV Task Force Chair, Bocking, the medical officer of health for HKPR noted that over a five year period, 2015-2019, Kawartha Lakes ORV related emergency department visits among HKPR residents increased from 30 to 60 per cent and the age-standardized rate of ORV-related hospitalizations in Kawartha Lakes in 2019 was five times greater than the rest of Ontario.
Referencing numerous studies where ORVS are allowed on roads, Bocking stated there are “higher rates of fatalities and serious injuries for ORV riders on roadways compared to off-roadways”; “[ATV/ORVs] being on roadways increases the risk of collisions with other motor vehicles”; and “certain design characteristics of these vehicles, particularly ATVs, make them unsafe on roadways.” Bocking said, “Restricting ORVs to trail use only would be the preferred best practice from a public health standpoint.”
Stauble said there has been an increase in the rate of ORV accidents in this area and every expert warns that incidents will increase if more ORVs are allowed on roads, which means more accidents, injuries and inevitably, more deaths. “You cannot justify expanding ATV road access – even for a pilot — where the known outcome is injuries or deaths. It is just not okay.” said Stauble.
A growing number of accidents and deaths from ORV use have led to recommendations from a coroner’s inquest for design changes, education, and specialized licensing, like a motorcycle license. The ORV task force has made recommendations for more education, which Stauble fully supports, to build public awareness around safety and regulations to reduce accidents.