Draft bike rules presented to council

Whitehorse cyclists might be surprised to know that they are in violation of a city bylaw requiring them to register their bicycles. Of course, the cyclists are not to blame.

Whitehorse cyclists might be surprised to know that they are in violation of a city bylaw requiring them to register their bicycles.

Of course, the cyclists are not to blame. The city has not registered bicycles in at least 20 years, said Dave Pruden, manager of bylaw services.

He presented a draft of a new bicycle bylaw to council Monday evening.

More than 600 people filled out a survey asking what people would like to see in the new bylaw, said Pruden.

The new rules, if passed, would eliminate the requirement for registration.

They would also allow children 12 and under to ride on sidewalks, except in the central business district of downtown Whitehorse.

And it would be illegal for cyclists to ride with headphones in both ears.

There are also some provisions that relate to vehicles, not cyclists.

Under the bylaw, motorists have to yield to cyclists in bike lanes, and give them at least a metre of space when passing.

It would be an offence to drive or park in a bike lane.

New fines for offences would range from $50 to $300, up from $25.

The $300 fines are related to evading bylaw officers or refusing to provide information to them.

That’s too much, said Julie DesBrisay, a year-round cycle commuter with the Whitehorse Urban Cycling Coalition.

She called the fine “unduly harsh” and mentioned that a similar offence under the Motor Vehicles Act would only run $125.

She also took issue with the power of bylaw officers to seize bicycles when someone has been charged with an offence but no conviction has been made, she told council.

For many people, cycling is their only way to get around, said DesBrisay.

However, she also commended Bylaw Services for their work on the new rules and for consulting with members of the cycling community.

“They clearly heard our concerns,” and where their views were not accommodated, they were given clear reasons why, said DesBrisay.

Pruden told council that bylaw officers would only impound bicycles when they feel that the cyclist would otherwise continue the offence and that there would be a safety risk. Or, if the cyclist was unco-operative and failed to identify themselves.

He also said that while the proposed fines are out of line with those in the Motor Vehicles Act, they are in line with many of the bylaws passed by council in recent in years. In fact, they are lower than the fines associated with the new snowmobile and ATV rules, he said.

Council also discussed the increase in popularity of winter cycling and the effect it has on safety.

Second Ave. is bad enough in the best of conditions, and Fourth Ave. bike lanes are “pretty much nonexistent” in the winter, said Pruden.

Council could commit to keeping some bike lanes clear through the winter, but that would be a significant budgetary and operational challenge, he said.

That would be a separate conversation to have, when council debates next year’s budget.

In the meantime, under the draft bylaw, vehicles would simply have to learn to share the road, slowing to the speed of the bike if there is not sufficient room to pass with at least one metre of space for the cyclist.

The draft bylaw will come before council for consideration Monday.

Contact Jaqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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