Mess Media




Bikers Beware

The Ottawa media chooses to describe cyclists as "outlaw cyclists." Sometimes they may use the word reckless but when it's time for a crack down on motorists it's often referred to as a "cash grab" where motorists are perceived as victims.

Cops handing out tickets, warnings to cyclists not following rules of the road

Ottawa Sun, June 25, 2008

By Beth Johnston

Ottawa police are stopping outlaw cyclists after an elderly man was knocked down by one who was riding illegally on a Pretoria Bridge sidewalk last week.

Constables Steven Lewis and David Zackrias were downtown yesterday handing out warnings, fines and information pamphlets to cyclists breaking a myriad of rules.

Bicycle courier Jon Watt was riding on a Queen St. sidewalk chatting on his cellphone just after noon, when Zackrias waved him over.

"I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, cruising very slowly here, I am not posing a danger to anybody," he said, explaining he thought it was legal to ride on the extra-wide sidewalk.

As for the cellphone, he didn't realize, by law, you have to have two hands on your handlebars at all times.

"I almost get killed every day by a driver talking on the phone. If I'm on the phone I am not going to kill anybody I am not at the wheel of a deadly weapon. I am a vehicle under the traffic act, but it's kind of very different."

"Rules are rules," Zackrias reminded him as Lewis handed him a few written warnings, including one for riding a bike without a horn.

"Thanks for being a sport about it, it's for your own safety," Lewis told him before he rode off to deliver his now-late package. Now that they know who he is, they won't be so likely to let him go next time, Lewis said.

About half of the city's cyclists are breaking the rules, some because they're ignorant of them, others, such as courier Gary Watson, openly flout them.

"Yes I do, absolutely. I break the law knowing full well what the law is," he said. "I circumvent (it) as much as I can."

It seems everyone has a strong opinion on cyclists and their place on the roads.

Police are bombarded with complaints from pedestrians who've been sideswiped by cyclists on sidewalks, but then told to "leave them alone" as they ticket them.

A lot of cyclists tell the officers they're riding on the sidewalk because they're scared to ride on the road. But if you follow the rules of the road, you should be fine, Zackrias said.

"They jeopardize the safety of people walking on the sidewalk," he said.

If you're pulled over, watch your attitude -- police have a choice to ticket you either under a city bylaw or under the Motor Vehicle Act where you can lose points from your driver's licence.

The officers also plan to target the Sparks St. pedestrian mall where cyclists aren't permitted to ride at all but shop owners have been complaining about them. Cyclists not bothering to get off and walk over Pretoria Bridge during the morning and evening commute can expect to be ticketed too.