Homeless man 'embarrassed,' fined by Montreal police after biking on a sidewalk

A homeless man in Montreal says he was belittled, humiliated and fined $240 by Montreal police after they spotted him riding his bike on a sidewalk downtown.

Herbert Maguire, 59, says officers grinned at each other as they handed him $240 in fines

Herbert Maguire holds up the five tickets he was given on Wednesday night. Police initially stopped him for biking on the sidewalk. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

A homeless man in Montreal says he was belittled, humiliated and fined $240 by Montreal police after they spotted him riding his bike on a sidewalk downtown.

Herbert Maguire says February has been a challenging month.

The 59-year-old arrived in Montreal by bike, from Ontario, at the beginning of the month. He's been sleeping at a downtown shelter because he has no permanent address or current employment.

But he did have his bike. For years, it served him well. He's cycled across the country multiple times.

Earlier this month, he experienced a devastating loss when it was stolen in Montreal. He reported the theft to police, but it never resurfaced. 

"My bike is my life. That's all I know," he said. 

Then, on Wednesday, he received good news: the charity organization Sun Youth would give him another bike.

Ecstatic, he made his way across the city to pick it up. Four hours later, he was riding in downtown Montreal, near the Bell Centre, when police pulled him over for riding on the sidewalk.

His new bike was not yet equipped with gear to ride in the dark. He says he was riding on the sidewalk for a short distance to avoid traffic.

"I saw the police lights go on," Maguire said.

He said police stopped him and asked for identification. When he complied, they told him they'd run his name to see if there were any outstanding warrants for his arrest.

He says they asked him to wait in the car — and he stayed there for the next 45 minutes.

"They're making me embarrassed. They're really making me feel like I have done wrong. And I did not do wrong," said Maguire. "People were looking at me, the lights were flashing."

Eventually, two officers approached the patrol car and handed him five fines, each for $48. He says when they handed him the fines, they looked at each other and grinned. 

"I tried to explain my situation… that I just got this bike because my other bike was ripped off," he said. "They didn't want to hear nothing."

CBC News has seen the tickets. Maguire was fined for:

  • Not having a white tail light on his bike;
  • Not having a red tail light on his bike;
  • Not having a white reflector on the front of his bike;
  • Not having a red reflector on the back of his bike;
  • Biking on the sidewalk.

The fines total $240 — a sum Maguire says he'll try to pay. He says he's been working hard trying to find work as a dishwasher in the city.

He said the ordeal left him feeling victimized and humiliated.

System rigged against the homeless

Advocates have long said that homeless people are overticketed.

Duane Mansveld, a street worker with the homeless outreach group Pax Communauté de la Rue, says the entire ticketing system is unfair to the city's homeless population, as it's up to the officers to decide whom to ticket.

"Homeless people are not the only ones riding their bikes on the sidewalks," he said.

"The police see it as a way of controlling the population and if there's undesirable people in a park or in a certain area then they can give them tickets and hopefully the person will leave."

Montreal police did not respond to a request for comment.

About the Author

Kate McKenna

Kate McKenna is a journalist with CBC Montreal. Email her at kate.mckenna@cbc.ca

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