Regina plugs into block heater gripe

A Regina man's complaint about a bylaw prohibiting running electrical cords across sidewalks to reach a block heater will be addressed by city council.
An extension cord running across a Regina sidewalk to a parked vehicle contravenes a city bylaw. ((CBC))
A Regina man's complaint about a bylaw prohibiting running electrical cords across sidewalks to reach a block heater will be addressed by city council.

Bob Klassen sparked the fuss after receiving a $25 ticket for running an extension cord from his car's block heater across the sidewalk to a power outlet.

The city says people could trip over the cord.

Block heaters, foreign in warmer climes, are a winter driver's lifeline when the mercury dips. An electric heating element keeps an engine from freezing up on long, cold nights. It draws power from a cord that pokes out from a car's front grill.

Klassen doesn't have a garage, or a driveway on which to park his 1991 Corolla, so he has to run an extension cord from his house to reach his car on the street.

"For an older vehicle it is really reliable, but it does need that extra little bit of TLC, you know," Klassen said in a recent interview.

But Regina's has a bylaw that states: "No person shall allow any cord or cable left across, above, or on any public highway or sidewalk to be attached to their vehicle while that vehicle is parked on a street."

"I was dumbfounded," Klassen said about receiving the ticket. "Let's face it. We live in Saskatchewan and not everybody is really rich. We don't all have off-street parking. We don't all have garages.

"I'm thinking, that's a law for Saskatchewan? It just makes no sense. We get down — often for weeks on end — to -40 C."

Regina resident Bob Klassen has struck a chord as he battles city hall over his extension cord. ((CBC))
Initially, Klassen took his concerns about the bylaw to city hall.

But he was told by bureaucrats that the bylaw addressed a safety issue. Klassen was told the city does not want pedestrians tripping on power cords.

He then expressed his outrage in a note to CBC News and the matter began to snowball.

Debate has raged in online forums ever since. Some people urge a more common-sense approach to bylaw enforcement, while others warn that anyone given an inch of cord will take a mile.

Review suggested

Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco and Klassen's ward councillor Mike O'Donnell put forward a motion, on the agenda for Monday night's city council meeting, asking a committee to review the bylaw and consider options.

According to the motion, some 400 tickets have been issued under the bylaw since 1997.

Whether they are enforced or not, similar bylaws appear elsewhere on the Prairies. Some larger municipalities, however, have hit on solutions.

In Medicine Hat, Alta., drivers are allowed to run a cord through trees or anything else at least 2½ metres above the sidewalk. In Grande Prairie, Alta., a cord may snake across a sidewalk if it is "done in such a manner to ensure due care and attention for the safe passage of vehicles or pedestrians."

Klassen said his situation is particularly galling because he meticulously clears his sidewalk of snow and makes sure walkers can see his cord.

"Let's face it. When you are out walking in the winter you are watching for icy patches on the sidewalk anyways," Klassen said. "There's no perfect solution. I think the best we can do is try to take into consideration all possible aspects."

With files from Kevin O'Connor