Windsor Coun. Paul Borrelli sparks debate on sidewalk cycling

Windsor city councillor Paul Borrelli has sparked a debate on whether cyclists should be allowed to ride on sidewalks, something which is currently prohibited in Windsor.

'Since most ignore (the bylaw), maybe we should re-think it,' councillor tweets

Windsor councillor Paul Borrelli (right) has sparked debate after suggesting cyclist should be able to ride on city sidewalks. Bike Windsor Essex executive director Lori Newton (left) disagrees, calling it illegal and potentially dangerous. (Sinan Sbahi/CBC)

A Windsor city councillor, who has been the subject of some harsh social media attacks, is under fire once again for suggesting cyclists should be able to ride their bikes on sidewalks.

Coun. Paul Borrelli took heat last month when he turned to Twitter to say he saw people biking "nicely" on city sidewalks, which are legally restricted to pedestrians or children's bicycles.

The reaction was nearly immediate with people chastising the councillor for his comment, suggesting he should remind everyone that cycling on sidewalks is illegal.

After more than two weeks of silence, Borrelli replied with a response that only prompted more criticisms. He has since said he wants to have a conversation about making some spaces for both cyclists and pedestrians.

"When I first read Coun. Borrelli's tweet, I thought maybe it was a joke I wasn't getting," said Lori Newton, executive director of Bike Windsor Essex, a cycling advocacy group. "(But) clearly, he was somewhat serious."

Borrelli mentioned Walker Road, Dougall Avenue, Cabana Road, Tecumseh Road and Riverside Drive as examples of busy roads where sidewalks could be used by both pedestrians and cyclists.

"All I want to do is have a dialogue to entertain the idea," Borrelli told CBC News. "I'm not advocating that we should use all the sidewalks, I'm looking at a shared way for pedestrians and cyclists at the most challenging points."

Sidewalk cycling dangerous

Newton is opposed to the idea of allowing adult cyclists on sidewalks, characterizing it as not only illegal, but dangerous.

Under the current city by-law, only bicycles with a wheel diameter of 60 centimetres or less — child sized — are allowed on the sidewalk.

Windsor councillor Paul Borrelli has sparked a debate on the issue of allowing cycling on sidewalks. (Kenny Louie/Flickr)

She says there is plenty of research out there that demonstrates a large portion of cycling accidents occur where sidewalks meet driveways, alleyways or roadways. 

"A driver is going to do a quick check both ways (but) they're anticipating someone coming down the road at the speed of a pedestrian," she said. 

Lori Newton is the executive director of Bike Windsor Essex, a cycling advocacy group. (Derek Spalding/CBC)

When asked about the series of multi-use trails or "shared pathways" in Windsor, Newton was quick to bring up the high number of collisions at the intersection of Tecumseh Road and Lauzon Parkway, where a shared pathway is available.

"The fact that we have the most vehicular-cyclist collisions at Lauzon and Tecumseh might suggest that the shared pathway down Lauzon Parkway is problematic," she said. "I mean, it looks like a sidewalk (and) it feels like a sidewalk."