Edmonton

Motorcyclists defy 2-metre rule outside Old Strathcona Tim Hortons

Motorcyclists refusing to obey the two-metre physical-distancing rule while congregating on Whyte Avenue are frustrating community leaders.

Whyte Avenue Tim Hortons owner erects barricades to prevent clustering

Motorcyclists continue to gather at Tim Hortons on Whyte Avenue despite barricades put up by the coffee shop owner to limit parking spaces. (CBC)

Motorcyclists refusing to obey the two-metre physical distancing rule while congregating on Whyte Avenue are frustrating community leaders.

Coun. Ben Henderson says he saw people clustered outside the Tim Hortons on Whyte Avenue a few days ago. 

"If we can't get compliance then we'll be forced to make him shut, which nobody wants to do," Henderson said.  

"I'm guessing that that's the real fear," he added. "If people will not behave, then we may have no choice."

CBC News contacted the owner of the Tim Hortons, who did not want to be quoted or have his name published, but said he had asked the city and police for help with motorcyclists.

The city delivered traffic barricades which have been erected around the majority of parking spots outside the restaurant, he said. 

In an email to CBC News, the city confirmed it supplied barriers to the restaurant on April 17 at the request of the Edmonton Police Service, which wanted to close the parking lot to motorcycles.

'Putting more people at risk'

Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said she's heard from several business owners and residents who say they're disconcerted by ongoing defiance of Alberta's public health orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's concerning to me that, in our area, people wouldn't be following those rules and be putting more people at risk," Klassen told CBC News Monday. 

Most businesses in the area are co-operating with the province's orders and setting a positive example for the public, Klassen said.

"They're very concerned about the safety of their patrons, their staff and the public and so they've been very co-operative," she said. "So this is very frustrating when we are trying to create a safe environment — as we always do — and then for the people in the public to not pay attention, that is quite frustrating."

Liane Langlois, founder and president of the Alberta Motorcycle Safety Society, is urging fellow riders to follow the rules. 

"There's no reason you can't go out and ride," Langlois said. "We need to be responsible with that."

Fines may be the answer

Riders are expected to obey the same rules as passengers in vehicles — they can only ride together on a bike if they live in the same household. 

In an interview Monday, Langlois noted that with few outdoor hobbies left, it's important now more than ever to adhere to the public orders. 

"The last thing anybody wants to be is the cause of the City of Edmonton or the province of Alberta [deciding that] riding a motorcycle is non-essential and therefore we're stuck without being able to ride." 

Motorcyclists also gather near Tim Hortons south of Whyte Avenue on Gateway Boulevard this week. (Mark Wilson)

Henderson said he expects peace officers and police will soon switch gears and, instead of issuing warnings, start handing out $1,000 tickets.

Complaints about noisy motorcycles and vehicles with modified mufflers are the same every year in and around the river valley, he said.

"My email's exploding with people complaining about loud vehicles again, which obviously includes those bikes," Henderson said. 

'It's the same idiocy'

But Henderson noted the noise is worse now because there are fewer vehicles on the streets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I can't tell you how frustrating this is," he said. "This is just not a time for people to be idiots. 

"Whether or not you somehow think it doesn't mean you — not to cluster in a parking lot, jeopardizing a business — it's the same arrogance, it is the same selfishness, it's the same idiocy." 

The city launched a noise-detecting pilot project in August 2018 and began issuing tickets for noise infractions last spring. 

At a council meeting last week, Henderson asked city managers about the progress of the program. Managers said they are still gathering data on noise infractions and plan to report back at a later date. 

@natashariebe

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