Bike bylaw review: City reiterates cyclists' choice to not ride in bike lanes

Saskatoon city councillors are scheduled to talk bike rules again at city hall Monday.

Saskatoon city councillors are scheduled to talk bike rules again at city hall Monday

Saskatoon city councillors are set to potentially talk bike rules again at city hall Monday, including whether or not cyclists should use bike lanes only. Ward 4 councillor Troy Davies argued that if the city is going to spend money on cycling infrastructure, then people should use it. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Saskatoon city councillors are poised to revisit the issue of where cyclists can ride on certain streets as a review of the city's bike bylaw continues.

The city has been working to update the bylaw in a number of ways, in a process that started more than two years ago.

The last time councillors discussed the bylaw, last November, they backed some changes but also asked the city to report back on a section that currently requires cyclists to use the "exclusive lane" for bikes on any streets that have them. Examples include Preston Avenue between 14th Street and Research Drive.

The city had recommended removing the requirement. That sparked some discussion at council, particularly about bike lanes in the downtown core. 

Ward 4 councillor Troy Davies argued that if the city is going to spend money on cycling infrastructure, then people should use it. He pointed to the bike lanes that will eventually be built on 3rd Avenue.

"So we're going to go out, we're going to clean these, we're going to remove snow into the street and pay that amount of money but then cyclists can either ride the street or ride the bike lane. It doesn't make sense to me," Davies said.  

In a new report to council's transportation committee, the city has reiterated its belief that cyclists should be able to choose where to ride on streets with bike lanes, pointing to several other cities that have repealed their own where-to-ride strictures in recent years (Kelowna, B.C., being a lone holdout). 

"The recommendation [to remove the requirement to ride in bike lanes] was provided primarily in consideration for people who are comfortable riding with traffic and are able to sustain higher travel speeds," the city wrote. 

"For this reason, it is the predominate practice not to legislate that cyclists use exclusive bike lanes only."

Cyclists 'don't all move fast': councillor

The city also pointed out that the future AAA cycling lanes planned for areas like 3rd Avenue are meant for cyclists of all ages and abilities — not just experienced riders comfortable riding outside the bike lane with cars. 

"But they don't all move fast," Ward 1 councillor Darren Hill said in November. 

Hill asked whether motorists shouldn't "have the ability to go downtown and go to one area where they know that there's not going to be a bicycle in front of them slowing them down because they have to be in that separated bicycle lane.

"It's fair for the cyclists to be safe. But it should also be that one street maybe is designated as no-bicycles-in-the-middle-of-the-traffic-lane."

The Saskatchewan Healthy Authority and Saskatoon Cycles, a biking advocacy group, called for the current stricture to be removed. Other groups have since supported the move, according to the city. 

Sidewalk riding

The city is also seeking to clarify that children 14 and under can ride their bikes on sidewalks. 

In November, Ward 3 councillor Ann Iwanchuk asked the city to report back on restricting sidewalk riding in business improvement districts (BIDs) and industrial areas. 

"I'm concerned about safety," Iwanchuk said. 

In its response, the city said that children riding their bikes with vehicular traffic are more vulnerable and may simply choose not to ride their bikes if a no-sidewalk-riding rule existed. 

Councillors on the transportation committee will meet to discuss the city's response Monday at city hall some time after 2 p.m.

Nothing is final. City council as a whole still needs to have its final vote on the changes once the fully-updated bylaw is drawn up. 

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

All-platform journalist for CBC Saskatoon

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