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Police crack down on cyclists disobeying traffic laws

The Ottawa Citizen: Police crack down on cyclists disobeying traffic laws

Woman give $35 fine for sidewalk riding

BY KATE JAIMET, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN JUNE 9, 2010


Marje Aksli was biking from her home in the Glebe to her job in Gatineau on Tuesday when police stopped her just outside the Château Laurier and handed her a $35 ticket.

Her infraction?

Biking on the sidewalk instead of in three lanes of heavy bus and truck traffic on Wellington Street.

"I usually take the bike path along the canal, and then it ends. There's no bike path," she said. "I have no place to go. It's crazy traffic."

Aksli's fine was given as part of a month-long blitz by Ottawa police against cycling infractions, explained Const. Daryl Coburn, one of the two motorcycle officers stationed outside the Château Laurier on Tuesday.

The police choose a different facet of traffic law to focus on each month, and in June it's infractions by cyclists (down to riding without a bell) and infractions by drivers that put cyclists at risk.

Coburn said they were handing out tickets for acts such as riding on the sidewalk and riding in crosswalks.

Bicycles, he said, belonged "out on the road with any other motor vehicle."

Asked if he thought it was safe to cycle in the traffic on Wellington Street, the constable replied: "I'm not going to give you my opinion for safe. It's the law."

His partner, Const. Matthew Clarke, suggested that Aksli could walk her bike on the sidewalk instead of biking in heavy traffic. He said people cycling on the sidewalks put pedestrians at risk.

"Last year a pedestrian was struck by a cyclist. He had to get reconstructive surgery to his arm and wrist," Clarke said. He added that pedestrians and law-abiding cyclists were appreciative of the police bicycle violation enforcement blitz.

Bay Councillor Alex Cullen agreed that cyclists didn't belong on the sidewalks, but said there was a better solution than forcing them to mingle with downtown traffic.

"Obviously Wellington needs bike lanes. Absolutely," he said. "During rush hour that is a very busy street. It calls out for a bike lane and certainly Wellington is wide enough to take one."

Last September, 34-year-old Melanie Harris was struck and killed by a Gatineau bus on nearby Sussex Drive, near the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. She had been cycling on a bike path that ended abruptly at Sussex Drive, at which point she cycled over the sidewalk and into the path of the bus. Another cyclist was hit and injured near the same spot two months ago.

Cyclist Cathy Anderson, one of five people who were seriously injured when they were struck by a minivan on March Road last year, recently made a plea for better bike lanes to keep cyclists safe.

"Bike lanes end and begin randomly, with no warnings to drivers or cyclists," she said.

As for Aksli, she took her $35 ticket, hopped back on her bike, and continued down the sidewalk to her destination.

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