Plateau-Mont-Royal borough seizes bikes locked to trees after ignoring pleas for more racks

Emma Avery was shocked to see city workers cutting locks and loading bicycles into the back of a pickup truck without warning this week. She says on her densely populated street, there need to be racks where cyclists can lock their bikes.

'It’s just really frustrating': Emma Avery says city wants people to bike but gives them few places to lock up

Emma Avery says the fact that she has asked twice for more bike racks to be installed on her street made it even more frustrating to see city workers seizing bikes locked to trees earlier this week. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

After asking the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough twice in the past year for more bike racks on her densely populated street, Emma Avery was shocked to see city workers cutting locks and loading bicycles into the back of a pickup truck without warning last Tuesday.

"It feels like mixed messaging from the city," said Avery, who lives on St-Hubert Street, just north of Laurier Avenue. 

On one hand, she said, the city is blocking off streets, promoting new express bicycle routes and installing pop-up bike paths for the summer, but it's not ensuring cyclists have adequate places to legally lock up their bikes. So people tend to lock them to the young trees that line the curb. 

But it's illegal in Montreal to attach bikes to trees, private fences or urban outdoor furniture, and the city enforces that bylaw by seizing bikes.

"Enforcing these ridiculous regulations," she said, "wouldn't be an issue in the first place if there was adequate infrastructure."

Though there are a few bike racks on her block, they are always full, and they are difficult to lock bikes to securely, Avery said.

Having had her own bike stolen in Montreal, she said, she knows that bike racks need to be properly designed so the frame and wheel can both be secured.

It's illegal to lock a bike to a tree in Montreal. However, Emma Avery says what few bike racks there are on St-Hubert Street are always full and don't allow cyclists to easily secure the frame and front wheel. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

Avery said in the middle of a pandemic, the city has bigger things to worry about than improperly parked bikes that are not in anyone's way — especially when cycling is the most affordable, safest way to travel around the city as people avoid public transit to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.

People can't bring their bikes inside their cramped living spaces, Avery said, and while she's found a pole in a back alley for her own bike, she said others prefer the convenience of parking in front of their apartment buildings for easy access.

To top it off, Avery said, the city did not issue any warnings before seizing bikes Tuesday. The workers were sawing through locks when her neighbour ran out to see what was going on, she said.

"If he hadn't come out at that exact moment, he would have lost his bike," Avery said. 

People may see their bike is gone and assume it was stolen, she said, and this level of enforcement can dissuade people from cycling.

Borough says nearly 4,000 bike racks are coming

Plateau-Mont-Royal spokesperson Michel Tanguay said protecting trees is a "top priority for the borough."

The borough does install hundreds of bike racks every year, he said, only refusing to install them in places where the sidewalk is too narrow to accommodate them.

The borough provides an interactive map of bike racks and other services on its website, he said. The borough council announced on March 9 that it will be installing 3,900 new bike racks by the summer of 2021.

All the bike racks on St-Hubert Street just north of Laurier Avenue were full of bikes in the middle of the day Friday. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

If Avery feels her request for more racks has been refused unjustly, she should contact her councillor, said Tanguay, "but parking her bike on a tree is not the solution."

If someone suspects their bike was confiscated, they can contact the city with a receipt or sufficiently detailed description of the bike. It can take a few days to get a bike back, and those left unclaimed are donated.

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