Bike crackdown is about safety: RCMP

Sit at the Modern or Conversations for long enough, say three minutes, and you're bound to see people whizzing down the sidewalk with or without helmets. I counted 18 in the space of an hour on Wednesday morning. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

There has been a lot of complaining, whining and even a little bitching about the RCMP crackdown on cyclists who don’t obey the Motor Vehicle Act’s very clear regulations and they’re all missing the point, says RCMP Staff Sgt. Jacquie Olsen.

“This is about safety,” she told City Council during its Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday. “My biggest concern… is that an elderly person or a child is going to step onto the sidewalk and be hit by a bicyclist or a skateboarder.”

Olsen said the people complaining on The Stoke List and other online blogs about the crackdown simply don’t get it. The crackdown is not something that the Mounties dreamed up. This has been demanded by the people who live here.

“The silent majority has not been part of the discussion on the blogs or the Stoke List,” she said. “The complaints we’re hearing are exactly the same as what we heard 30 years ago when the seatbelt law was brought in.”

And contrary to the claims of people online, very young children riding their bikes on sidewalks are not being ticketed.

“My officers use discretion,” Olsen said. “We don’t hand out tickets to three- and five-years-olds.”

The parents of kids stunting on sidewalks or those who are not wearing helmets may, however, expect to hear from the RCMP. And if the kids’ actions are dangerous enough their bikes could be seized and held until the parents have been contacted. So far, local RCMP officers have handed out 150 information cards about the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) and how it applies to cyclists, 34 warning tickets and four $29 tickets  for failing to wear a helmet.

Most Councillors indicated that they were definitely onside with the ticketing offensive. Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt, echoing comments she posted on the Stoke List (read The Current’s story about them here), asked Olsen if cyclists should be fined for such things as “not always coming to a complete stop at all stop signs.”

“The Motor Vehicle Act is the Motor Vehicle Act — it applies to everyone,” Olsen replied, suggesting that the rules are very clear and apply to everyone who is using a vehicle — which is exactly what a bicycle is.

To be fair to Halberstadt she also said “people who say they don’t need a helmet are out of their minds.”

The only downside of the campaign that Olsen can see is that the MVA doesn’t apply to skateboarders or in-line skaters, but only because it doesn’t mention them. That doesn’t mean they can use the sidewalks, though. Those are for pedestrian use.