Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha breezed into Goulais River on his 2001 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic Thursday in order to meet with residents who have concerns about safety along Highway 17 and roads throughout the area.
Mantha’s motorcycle ride was by design due to a serious collision involving motorcycles near Timberland General Store and LCBO outlet, resulting in injuries and an extended highway closure earlier this month. An online petition calling for a turning lane to be added at that location has garnered more than 3,600 supporters.
“People have been asking for turning lanes, identified turning lanes - and right now, there is confusion that happens there,” said Mantha, speaking to SooToday Friday. “People expressed concerns, there’s been a fatality there already. There’s been another accident that has happened where three individuals have major injuries.”
Mantha plans on bringing up those issues with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and boards in the area that deal with roads in the Goulais River area.
“I’m looking forward to having those discussions with the MTO and the local roads board to see what can be done, and where the help is required in accessing the funds to making sure the infrastructure is there for the community members and for the safety and well-being of everyone,” he said.
The member of provincial parliament met with roughly 30 Goulais River residents Thursday, hearing a number of concerns about highway and road infrastructure, as well as safety concerns arising from way-too-short turning lanes and drivers speeding excessively on secondary highways and roads.
Mantha said he witnessed the speeding himself while visiting with residents.
“The rates of speed are too high, and people are scared or worried - and they’re preventing their children from enjoying cycling,” he said. “Even cyclists brought it to my attention that they’re concerned for their well-being because of the high rates of speed.”
He says that discussions with the Ontario Provincial Police need to happen.
“This is for the safety and well-being of people. I would rather see certain individuals get warnings - possibly even tickets - for travelling at high rates of speed, instead of getting a call from a parent who has lost a family member, and the last thing we want to see is a child getting hurt while playing,” Mantha said.
Last summer Mantha fulfilled a lifelong dream of his to ride a motorcycle, receiving his M2 motorcycle licence and completing a motorcycle safety course at Sault College. He says it’s made him far more aware of the potential dangers of the road.
He has a long-range goal of having new drivers in Ontario and beyond take the same safety training course that motorcyclists take.
“It will make the driver look for the dangers and anticipate them, but it will also put you in the mind to look for bikes, because that’s a big part of the reason why we see injuries and we see accidents - because people are looking for vehicles, they’re not looking for bikes,” said Mantha. “A lot of times, bikes are missed.”
“Going through the safety course that I received over at Sault College, I think it would be beneficial for all of our new drivers to be exposed to the safety course that they’re doing.”