Edmonton cyclists frustrated at new $100 fine for riding across Groat Road Bridge

Cyclists have been asked to walk their bikes across the narrow temporary pathway on the Groat Road Bridge during the three-year road and bridge reconstruction project.

City says no fines have been handed out yet but verbal warnings have been given

A sign on the south side of the Groat Road Bridge asks cyclists to dismount to cross or risk a $100 fine. (Josee St-Onge/ CBC)

Edmonton cyclists are frustrated with a new $100 fine for riding their bicycle across the Groat Road Bridge on a temporary shared-use path. 

Michelle Brailey, who bikes across the bridge daily as part of her commute, noticed a sign earlier this week that states cyclists must dismount and walk across the narrow pathway on the east side of the bridge, or face a $100 fine. She took to Twitter to share her dismay.

"It was frustrating because it felt like a domineering or disciplinary approach," she told CBC News.

"It's like the dismount sign wasn't working so a more extreme measure was taken, as opposed to looking at why that sign wasn't serving the community in the first place."

The sign was put in place because the shared-use path will be narrowed to 1.5 metres in a later construction phase and has been deemed a sidewalk, City of Edmonton officials told CBC News in an email. 

"This means that cyclists are governed by Bylaw 5590, which prohibits riding bicycles on the sidewalk," wrote spokesperson Adriana Amelio. "This will also help make this path safer for both cyclists and pedestrians."

No fines have been handed out but verbal warnings have been given, the city said. 

Cyclists who don't want to dismount are allowed to ride on the roadway, she added. 

Coun. Andrew Knack responded on Twitter to Brailey's concerns, saying that he had brought the sign to the City of Edmonton's attention.

"It would make far more sense to have a 'cyclists yield to pedestrians' sign like we currently have on the west edge of the Groat Road Bridge," wrote Knack. "Dismounting means the entire sidewalk gets blocked, which seems inefficient."

Signs have been asking cyclists to dismount since construction started on the bridge, said Brailey. 

"If there was a pedestrian on the bridge, I would dismount to pass the pedestrian. When it was all clear in front of me, I would get back on my bike and safely ride across the bridge," said Brailey.

Fellow cyclist Grant Dryden uses the same approach, but isn't convinced that dismounting is necessary.

"I think there's enough room for people to pass safely if you're riding. In fact, there's more room if you ride," he said. 

Michael Betmanis also cycles on the bridge for his work commute and questions the need to dismount every time.

"When there are pedestrians or other cyclists to pass, it just makes sense to slow right down and pass safely," wrote Betmanis in an email. "I've never had an issue with this and no one I've ever passed has raised a concern with me."

Grant Dryden says the shared-use path is wide enough to accommodate two people safely. (David Bajer/ CBC)

Dismounting from a bicycle during a ride isn't feasible for everyone, said Chris Chan, the executive director of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society. 

"Walking across doesn't really make a lot of sense for people who are pulling trailers with their kids in them, or people who are biking because they can't actually walk long distances," said Chan. 

He also favours signs that ask cyclists to be courteous to pedestrians, as opposed to a blanket rule. 

"It kind of represents that need to spend more effort and spend more thought into how we ensure that people can get around walking or biking, and still feel safe and still have an efficient and effective way to get around."

Cyclists who don't want to dismount might opt to ride on the roadway instead, said Chan.

"Nobody enjoys that," he said. "Bikers are only doing it because they feel they've been pushed there."

The $48-million Groat Road bridge and road renewal project is a three-year project stretching from 87th Avenue to Victoria Park Road. The deck of the bridge will be demolished and removed, and the east sidewalk will be widened to the standard of a shared use path.

A temporary shared-use path has been set up on the Groat Road Bridge to allow construction work on the east side of the structure. (Josee St-Onge/ CBC)

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