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Temporary foreign workers get paved bike lanes for safer travel

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Lenford Jones, Andre Williams, and Odanie Bull want to let Huron County taxpayers know how thankful they are for the paved bike lanes that will make their travel into Exeter a whole lot safer than it was.

“Before, it was dangerous. Some of us fall off our bikes because of the gravel. Now, it’s much safer. We’re where we’re supposed to be,” said Williams, who’s been working in Canada for the past five years.

“You consider us to pave that road, so smooth, that we can have a smooth flow back and forth. Thank you guys. We do appreciate it,” said Jones.

Jones, Williams, and Bull are three of 70 temporary foreign workers who pick peppers and tomatoes at Suntastic Hothouses/Huron Produce, east of Exeter.

For years, they’ve been riding their bicycles from work into town along the gravelled shoulders of Huron County’s busiest roadway, County Road 83, heading to Grand Bend.

“Before they’d drive on the gravel, and they’d jump on the road, because they’re allowed to, but it’s not that safe at that moment,” said the General Manager of Suntastic Hothouses/Huron Produce Albert Janssen.

Lenford Jones, Andre Williams, and Odanie Bull are three of 70 temporary foreign workers who now have a safer way to get to Exeter and back, thanks to paved shoulders along the side of County Road 83, seen on Nov. 30, 2023. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

While there hadn’t been any fatal collisions involving the workers on their bikes, South Huron Mayor George Finch, a former OPP officer, had heard of many near-misses and started work four years ago to try and get the shoulders of County Road 83 paved.

“As a retired OPP officer, I could see there was a challenge with the safety of the migrant workers travelling back and forth into Exeter,” said Finch.

This October, the paving finally took place, making for a safer ride into town for the temporary foreign workers whose only mode of transportation is by bicycle.

“Sometimes the bus doesn’t come daily, so we have to bike into town when we have important things to do for our family back home,” said Williams.

With a price tag of less than $1 million, Huron County officials consider the new 2.5 kilometre stretch of paved highway shoulders to and from Exeter an investment in economic development.

Municipal officials, Suntastic management, and Suntastic employees discussed the new paved highway shoulders east of Exeter, for temporary foreign workers on Nov. 30, 2023. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“We have bike lanes throughout Huron County, however it came to our attention that there were a number of employees that were using this highway, and their safety was at risk,” said Huron County Warden Glen McNeil.

“Before it was rough, but now it’s so nice and smooth to go town. I’m so happy for the road,” said one of the Suntastic workers that will be using the bike lanes this spring, Odanie Bull.

“It was rough at first, but now we have smooth sailing into to town and back and forth. And, I want to say on behalf of all us Jamaicans, thanks to you guys,” said Jamaican worker Lenford Jones.

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