Ottawa

Gatineau cyclists ticketed at much higher rate

Cycling associations on both sides of the Ottawa River are struggling to explain why more tickets are being issued to Gatineau cyclists than their more numerous Ottawa counterparts.

Ottawa cyclists fined less, but far outnumber Gatineau counterparts

A cyclist pedals past the Papa sculpture at the corner of Des Allumettières and Maisonneuve boulevards in Gatineau, Que., on April 4, 2018. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Cycling associations on both sides of the Ottawa River are struggling to explain why more tickets are being issued to Gatineau cyclists than their more numerous Ottawa counterparts.

According to police, cyclists in Gatineau received 285 tickets in 2018, while those in Ottawa were fined just 180 times.

Along with Ottawa having more than three times the population of Gatineau, Statistics Canada said in 2016 Ottawa had far more people who regularly biked to their job: 2.5 per cent, or about 11,700 people, compared to Gatineau's 2.1 per cent, or about 3,350 people.

The councillor for Gatineau's Versant district said one reason may be that Gatineau police have been more vigilant about enforcing the rules of the road for cyclists.  

Last year, Daniel Champagne called on Gatineau's officers to keep a close eye on cyclists in the city.

"The Highway Safety Code is applicable to all road users, including cyclists. There is no exception," he told CBC Radio-Canada in a French interview. 

Last year Gatineau Coun. Daniel Champagne asked police to make sure cyclists were following the rules. (Radio-Canada)

Gatineau police spokesperson Renée-Anne St-Amant says that in 2018, the force organized 34 operations directly targeting cyclists. 

"We watch for recklessness, we monitor whether equipment is compliant or not, and whether riders are respecting the rules," she said, adding that she doesn't believe the high number of tickets in Gatineau is the result of overly zealous agents.

Nowhere to ride?

Another possibility is that some cyclists feel they have no choice but to break some rules simply because there isn't enough suitable cycling infrastructure.

"Sometimes cyclists will feel obliged to ride on the sidewalk because they do not feel safe on the layout that is in place," said Daniel Varin, president of Action Vélo Outaouais.

"When we provide a safe infrastructure for cyclists, we have [safe] behaviours that go with it," said Florence Lehmann, a member of the Bike Ottawa board of directors.

Gatineau plans to invest more than $30 million over the next five years to extend and better maintain its cycling network, which may encourage cyclists to use legal options.

Varin says some of the money will also go toward education and prevention.

Lehmann points out that Ottawa already has these kind of initiatives, such as the free distribution of visibility equipment in the fall for cyclists traveling at dawn and dusk.

With files from Radio-Canada's Claudine Richard and Martin Robert

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