Saskatoon not yielding on rule barring bike riding on sidewalks

Bike riding advocacy group Saskatoon Cycles had asked for more relaxed rules for when roads are too hazardous to ride on.

Cycling advocacy group had asked for more relaxed rules for when roads are too hazardous to ride on

Murray Gross says he rides on the sidewalk to avoid hazardous road conditions. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

The City of Saskatoon is not showing signs of letting up on its rule barring cyclists from riding on sidewalks.

The city has responded to nine bike bylaw changes recommended by Saskatoon Cycles, a local biking advocacy group.

Among the asks was that the city remove its "blanket prohibition" on sidewalk riding and consider more relaxed rules, such as allowing sidewalk riding to avoid "hazardous road conditions."

The city's response thus far has been pretty resolute, however.

"A person must not ride on a sidewalk unless otherwise directed by a sign," it wrote back in a summary, though the city's final recommendations on bylaw changes are not expected until later this year.

Other big cities ban it, too

The city has cited a study released in 1998 that showed that "sidewalk cyclists incurred higher accident rates than road cyclists."

It also pointed to eight other cities, including Regina, Vancouver and Toronto, that have similar rules to Saskatoon.

"I have done it. I probably rode on a sidewalk — no, not probably, I definitely rode on a sidewalk — yesterday for a couple blocks," said cyclist Murray Gross just before a winter cycling group ride last month.

Why? "Because the particular road hadn't been plowed," said Gross. "It was really a safety piece. I went really slow. I stopped and let a couple pedestrians walk by me. I think we were able to find a reasonable compromise."

A ticket issued for riding on a Saskatoon sidewalk. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Saskatoon Cycles said it was worried the rule would force kids onto roads.

But as one of the group's own board members, Brodie Thompson, put it, "That's sort of a moot point."

Thompson and the city both point out that no one under the age of 12 can be convicted of a summary offence anyway.

Ringing endorsement?

The group's paths also diverge on the legally mandated need for a bike bell or horn.

Saskatoon Cycles says the requirement should be dropped; the city points again to other cities (including Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, as well as the province of Ontario) that insist on them too.

"That's definitely not a hill to die on for Saskatoon Cycles," said Thompson. "I think that would have been a common sense change to make but I understand the city's perspective too."

Brodie Thompson says the city's clinging to its requirement for bike bells is 'definitely not a hill to die on for Saskatoon Cycles.' (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

But, Gross said, "I can tell you that my voice is way, way louder and way more directive than a bell will ever be."

The city's ongoing bike bylaw review will also consider "enforceability and increase of penalties."

One city councillor has rung her bell on that point.

"We need to consider the ability to pay those penalties and whether or not we're penalizing those folks who might struggle with the ability to pay," said Hilary Gough.

"I'm not suggesting that that's all folks who ride bikes. But the reality is, cycling is a mode of transportation by choice but also sometimes by lack of choice. And we need to be cognizant of that."

Making sure powered bikes are also covered is also being looked at.

Now what?

The city plans to seek more public feedback during the summer. It's hoped the revised bylaw will be in force by January.

The bylaw review comes as the city also mulls the potential expansion of its downtown bike lane network, which has emerged as one of the most divisive issues in the city in recent years.

Existing lanes cover several blocks on both Fourth Avenue S. and 23rd Street E. The city is proposing to extend those lanes and make them lanes suitable for riders of all ages. The city also wants to add such "AAA riding facilities" on parts of 19th Street and Idylwyld Drive.

Cycling lanes meant for riders of all ages are also being proposed for Idylwyld Drive and 19th Street. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

A public meeting at city hall to finalize those plans has been proposed for June 20.

REPORTER'S NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, I was ticketed for riding on the sidewalk in downtown Saskatoon on Friday. I will document my paying of the ticket at city hall Monday on Twitter just so there's no suggestion that I wrote this article simply to get out of paying my ticket, which is pictured below.

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

All-platform journalist for CBC Saskatoon

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