Seven Manitoulin municipalities to see e-bikes and charging stations in 2022
E-bikes and e-bike charging stations will arrive on the island in 2022. The location of the charging stations is being finalized, said Maya Mielonen, president of Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA). The stations will be located on municipal property and will be connected to the existing municipal hydroelectric service.
The MICA visited the municipalities of the island to find out the public opinion on the electric bicycle project and received agreements in principle from all the municipalities concerned. The organization will install a charging station on municipal property that will use existing municipal electricity. MICA is responsible for all material costs, installation and insurance of the charging stations and has requested municipal assistance for site preparation and the supply of limestone rocks to protect the bikes from damage caused by automobile traffic on the sites.
“We have worked closely with municipalities to find visible and attractive places where people are,” said Mielonen. “We are very excited. It took a bit of thought to find the best places to serve the public. Each location must be accessible to families, guests, boaters and other cyclists.
The Little Current e-bike docking station will be located across from Breakaway Sports in the park adjacent to the municipal building. This place is accessible to locals, boaters and other tourists, Mielonen said. Little Current will have a docking station with four rental electric bikes available for hire. South Baymouth will have two docking stations with a total of six e-bikes available for hire. Manitowaning, Mindemoya, Providence Bay, Kagawong and Gore Bay will each have a station and two rental electric bikes. Each docking station accepts six bikes, so anyone with an e-bike will be able to charge. The rental system will be app-driven and user-friendly, she said.
“After almost two years of deliberation and research, we are truly delighted to be working with PD International (PDI) in Markham, Ontario,” said Ms. Mielonen. The focus was on e-bikes and micromobility at the 2020 Toronto Bike Show and almost all of the distributors held an e-bike exhibit. MICA spoke to several different stores and manufacturers. Ms. Mielonen and Guy Nielen tested over 40 makes and models available at the show. They met PDI at the show in February 2020 and corresponded, “working together to meet our needs,” she said.
MICA actually started looking for a bike share provider in 2017. “We quickly realized we were a tiny fish,” Ms. Mielonen said. “Big companies don’t want to deal with anyone who doesn’t want to buy at least 100 bikes. They’ve all had to deal with bike sharing in the big cities and don’t want to play with us little fish.
There is potential for growth if the interest is there. The fleet of 20 e-bikes could potentially provide island-wide access, a form of micromobility, and could also be a driver of economic development. A boater can rent an electric bike in Little Current and ride to Ten Mile Point or a boater in Gore Bay can ride to the Perivale Gallery, for example. “These places would generally be inaccessible to a boater, so this e-bike project can extend the reach of tourism,” said Mielonen. MICA will seek to develop additional partnerships with Island companies for cross promotion.
E-bike riders have the ability to cover greater distances with ease over hills and against the wind with this charging system in place, Nielen said. “They will be able to recharge the bikes on the road while visiting many museums, galleries, events without having to return to their homes to recharge their batteries. We know that our overseas visitors will be especially happy to see bicycle rentals available as it is difficult to travel abroad with a bicycle. It is not impossible but it is a little more cumbersome.
MICA anticipates increased international interest and will expand its advertising campaigns for all-inclusive bike tours on Manitoulin. “European markets are 60-80% electric bikes, so there is a general expectation to rent electric bikes when renting bikes or touring,” Mielonen explained. To remain relevant and satisfy European customers as well as the growing number of local and provincial visitors, MICA had to anticipate. MICA’s all-inclusive bike adventure tours are already attracting e-bike users. Last year there were two and last month there were three participants. Each month, they respond to several requests for bicycle rental and with the e-bike project, they will finally be able to answer yes to these requests.
Overall, MICA has seen more cyclists of all kinds riding Manitoulin. MICA has successfully lobbied for paved shoulders on three of the island’s four highways and has installed eight orienteering trailheads to date. There are over 60 bicycle signs on municipal roads and 12 bicycle racks at different locations on the island. The MICA Cycling Map, now in its fifth edition, features more than 850 km of cycle paths on Manitoulin. “Adding electric bike rentals and charging stations is another way MICA is working hard to make it a safe and comfortable place for people to ride,” Ms. Mielonen said.
MICA has been a non-profit, volunteer-run organization for over 10 years and is contributing 20 percent of the project cost of $ 157,000. Other funders include FedNor, the NOHFC and Destination Northern Ontario.