Thursday, June 10, 2010


While I'm all for re-education about the rules of the road, for cyclists as well as for drivers, I think there's something kind of dodgy about the Ottawa Police deciding to have their "cycling crackdown" this week, coinciding with Bike to Work Week. During a week intended to encourage non-cyclists to give it a try, is it really that productive to then pull them over and fine them for, say, cycling on the sidewalk or not having a bell?

If it were going to be a crackdown on bikes and cars - for example, if the cops were also looking out for bike-related infractions on the part of drivers, such as when a car right-turns without checking for cyclists or buzzes too close to a bike on the road - I'd be happier. But to take a week when there are hopefully more inxperienced riders out there, and then make cycling appear more dangerous, less acceptable, and more inaccessible? Lots of first time riders are scared in traffic. I was when I started riding regularly a couple of years ago. Don't scare that particular group of cyclists off the roads, just when they're being encouraged on the other hand to switch to the bike from their cars.

Not that I think bikes should be allowed on the sidewalk, but honestly, how many people actually know that? Warnings, yeah, sure. Friendly ones. Issued, I hope, by bike cops rather than cops in cars. But not fines. Not when you have no idea if the person you're stopping is completely green or a veteran cyclist.

Just to give you an idea, I think I usually follow the rules of the road pretty well. Some of them I deem just too dangerous to follow (there are intersections, for example, where I don't merge into the left turn lane because it's too sketchy - I use the pedestrian crosswalks instead. How legal is that? I honestly don't know.) And I'm actually sort of relieved that this week I have a car because I'm on the road for work: it means I won't get pulled over for my lack of a bell or for using the pedestrian crosswalks. If I'm avoiding the bike this week because of this crackdown, imagine how someone who doesn't normally ride would react. Way to promote cycling, Ottawa. 


  1. I understand the fines they're dishing out are the absolute minimum as an "educational" thing. It IS kind of weird to coincide it with Bike Week though. I do think most cyclists know they're not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. I've known that since I was 7. Plus it's common sense. We don't take cycling seriously enough here. They need their own segregated paths. They don't belong on the sidewalk and they shouldn't have to compete with cars on the roads.

  2. Until Ottawa provides us with proper bike lanes throughout the downtown core, I think cyclists should be allowed to ride on the sidewalk and use pedestrian crossings. Not recklessly, of course. Not without care for pedestrians. But they should not be fined for trying to get from one point to another as safely as possible.

    FYI, Kate, you are not supposed to use a pedestrian crossing while on your bicycle. That is the exact reason why I was stopped by the cops last week. They didn't give me a ticket because they said they were being "nice". The next day I saw a bike cop pull the exact same move and use a pedestrian crossing. Infuriating.