by Isobel Harry
As always, MICA (Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates) is on the move – and making it easier for you to move too!
During the past year, MICA’s new electric bicycles program got off to a fast start with the installation of seven e-bike charging stations around the Island. “In 2023,” says Maja Mielonen, MICA’s passionate president, “active living enthusiasts who reside here or visit can choose from our current fleet of twenty e-bikes to tour Manitoulin, run errands or go to work with ease from May to October.”
Booking an e-bike is straightforward with the Ryde app that can be downloaded onto an iPhone or an Android phone right from MICA’s website (www.manitoulincycling.com/e-bikes). The app lets you find your ride’s charging station on a map, reserve your time slot and, once there, allows you to wave your phone at the QR code on the bike and you’re good to go. E-bikes may be left at any charging station after your ride.
“Enthusiastic” barely describes Ms Mielonen’s zeal for e-bikes. “Their range is 65 kilometres, they have non-puncture tires, a wide seat and a basket,” she explains, with ‘what more could you ask for?’ being implied. “You just pedal and the assist kicks in. You get up to speed right away and quickly learn how to brake or just stop pedaling; there’s no shifting. The learning curve is short
“Immediately you go, go, go. The battery takes over the bike. It goes 32 km an hour and when you pedal the motor gives you a boost so you can keep going without tiring yourself out. E-bikes are allowed on trails because of their top speed and you only need a helmet if you’re under 18.” Pedaling is also more fun, extends the range of your battery and the life of your motor and is good exercise too.
The charging station locations on Manitoulin Island are at the Marina in South Baymouth, the Assiginack Township office at 156 Arthur St. in Manitowaning, the Town of NEMI office at 14 Water Street in Little Current, Kagawong Marina, Gore Bay Marina, the Information Centre, 2207 Hwy. 551 in Mindemoya, and at the Community Centre at 11 Mutchmor St. in Providence Bay.
As of this writing, exact fees had yet to be determined but are anticipated to be in the range of $15/hour and $90/full day.
Also new and exciting on the MICA menu this year are three ‘Accompanied E-Bike Adventures,’ each for five days and four nights in June and September that include e-bike rental, accommodation, guide accompaniment and support, four breakfasts, lunches and dinners, roadside snacks, entrance fees to many pre-planned, cool cultural experiences, and gratuities. Full details are at www.manitoulincycling.com/events/guided-e-bike-adventure-on-manitoulin/
MICA works hard to cover all the bicycling bases on the Island, from their tireless advocacy efforts on behalf of paved highway shoulders, ‘Bicycle Route’ signs on municipal roads along with cycle racks in choice locations and eight trailhead installations for route mapping, to their Manitoulin Cycling Map with fourteen routes over 850 kilometres available for downloading or to order for $2 from the website. Further encouraging self-guided touring, their website listings under ‘Eat, Sleep, See’ enhance the experience.
Never content to rest on a heap of successful achievements, MICA had yet another initiative up their sleeve for a Spring, 2023 launch: the Manitoulin Outdoor Digital Experience Museum (MODEM).
With the backing of Fednor’s Tourism Recovery Fund and Destination Northern Ontario, MICA hired ‘story collectors’ to compile anecdotes, photos and film and video clips from all over the Island to be integrated on an app, similar to ones now common in museums around the world.
“MODEM is a digital tour guide at your fingertips,” Ms. Mielonen explains.
“Using the app at the seven MICA e-bike locations, riders are guided past points of interest and at certain GPS locations one can read, listen and view the story attached to that location in English and French.
“MODEM is a tool that increases the knowledge of our Island’s diverse history, environment, fauna, flora and the stories of the people living here; it will create a deep sense of place, a healthy sense of pride and the will to protect them,” said MICA’s president in an interview with the Manitoulin Expositor when funding was announced last year. Plans include free distribution to the Rainbow District School Board for use on student field trips.
And so MICA rolls on, initiating and refining their cycling programs and fueling the noticeable increase in riders on Manitoulin.
Bookings were open last fall for the annual (and free) Passage Ride for cyclists (June 3-4, 2023); sold out last year, 250 riders boarded the Chi Cheemaun ferry with their bikes for two days of Island touring, including lunch and a dinner-dance.
MICA’s popular guided Alvar Cycle Tours of the Island continue to be offered, with five dates in June and September, 2023, including accompanying car escort for pannier-free riding.
Maja Mielonen delights in telling of “the two single riders who met on an Alvar tour in 2021 and are now a love story to be told!”
This is what’s really important, she says: “MICA brings joy!”