Size doesn't matter when it comes to kids bicycle tires; committee supports sidewalk riding for youngsters
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Children under the age of 14 will be able to legally ride their bikes on city sidewalks if council accepts a committee recommendation — and it won’t matter how big their tires are either.
During their regular meeting on Monday (Sept. 10), members of the Civic Works Committee discussed a staff recommendation to allow children under age 14 to ride their bicycles on city sidewalks. The report, also suggested the bicycles of those children be restricted to those with a wheel diameter less than 61 centimetres.
The committee voted to support the idea of allowing kids to ride on the sidewalk, but the majority also decided to eliminate any restriction on the size of bicycle’s tires.
“What we have before us is reasonable and balanced to a situation that really has no perfect solution,” said Ward 10 Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen. “We are basically codifying what is already happening out there by virtue of the practice of many young people in London who are already using the sidewalks. I think this makes a lot of sense.”
At a public meeting on May 24, 2011, 14 people signed the sign-in sheet while comments were received from 17 people. The report prepared for Civic Works summarizes the opinions expressed that night, including that all cyclists should be allowed on the sidewalk, while others worried about the safety issues this could cause for pedestrians. Others argued only small children should be allowed to ride on the sidewalks.
Representatives of the visually impaired community were particularly concerned about the safety impacts of too many cyclists on the sidewalk, but were open to having children ride on the sidewalk. It was agreed motorized bicycles (e-bikes) “must be kept off the sidewalk.”
While those positions were expressed in 2011, the public was also welcomed to express themselves during the public participation portion of Monday’s meeting.
The small group of speakers in the public gallery expressed a variety of concerns, including the hesitation of London Police Service officers from issuing fines for common cycling infractions such as riding on the sidewalk. The committee was told these fines can be in the area of $130.
John Lucas, division manager transportation planning and design, told the committee that issue has been address from “time-to-time,” most recently in the Transportation Master Plan.
Several members of the gallery, including speakers Oliver Hobson and Dave Mitchell, raised the possibility of licensing cyclists in some manner to help clear up the issue of enforcement. Lucas said this issue hadn’t been considered and Mayor Joe Fontana agreed it wasn’t a direction the city was looking at heading down.
Greg Fowler, a member of the community safety and crime prevention committee, among others, said while he is not a lawyer, he “strongly suspects” any action that a government takes that increases the risk to pedestrians “is probably actionable.”
Fowler said he was concerned with what he perceives as “insufficient or no enforcement of the current legislation,” calling the attempt to make changes to the existing policy, “just politicking.”
Calling walking “a natural right,” Fowler said the solution to this situation is not “endangering” pedestrians, but rather improving the existing cycling infrastructure. This feeling was shared by the final speaker in the gallery, Gary Brown, who said he was actually “embarrassed” by the state of the city’s cycling infrastructure.
Lucas said the Transportation Master Plan does address the importance of having complete cycling routes through the city and said that although it takes time, the city is moving in that direction.
The mayor, who said the recommendation came forward through one of the city’s advisory committees, reflected Lucas’ position that London is moving forward in promoting cycling.
“Maybe we will get as far as incredible places like Holland where they have their own lanes and traffic lights and so on. It may very well be that as the demand increases, that is what we will want,” Fontana said. “I am not embarrassed to say the City of London is moving ahead. In fact we are moving ahead a lot quicker than we used to.”
Ward 5 Councillor Joni Baechler admitted she has often broken the rules and cycled on sidewalks because she was concerned about the issue of safety. That concern is based on both roads that are often too narrow and surfaces that are often chipped and broken along the edge of the roadway.
Baechler added that if the goal of the new bylaw was to get children more involved in cycling, she wouldn’t support the “unnecessary” complication of restricting the size of the bicycle they are using.
Committee chair and Ward 12 Councillor Harold Usher asked for the age restriction and removal of the size limit to be voted on separately as he couldn’t support allowing unlimited bike sizes. While he voted in favour of the under 14 age limit, he voted against removing the wheel size restriction.
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