By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Children under age 14 will now be able to ride their bicycles on city sidewalks, but people over age 65 could soon have the same rights too.
During council’s meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 18), a recommendation from the Civic Works Committee was overwhelmingly accepted to allow children to ride their bikes on the sidewalk.
However, the topic of bicycle rights will be going back to the committee after councillors also supported a motion by Ward 10 Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen to further expand the exemption.
While calling the under 14 recommendation “a very balanced approach” and “a great recommendation from the committee,” Van Meerbergen said children aren’t the only ones who may be more comfortable riding on the sidewalk.
“As we get older, we are more frail in life, and they are looking for that security as well in getting off the road,” Van Meerbergen said. “I have had various constituents contact me, seniors from my ward, who think it may be a very good idea to have seniors also included in this. I think that makes a lot of sense.”
While the over 65 recommendation goes back to committee, the discussion Tuesday night continued around other possible exemptions and whether or not anyone should be allowed to ride on the sidewalk.
Ward 13 Councillor Judy Bryant said she was being actively encouraged to vote against the exemption, particularly by the elderly and disabled. “I don’t think it is a good idea for the people who are walking and also for the people in wheelchairs and have other disabilities.”
Bryant suggested the committee look to the City of Chicago, which she said has a bylaw that prohibits bicycles on the sidewalk within Business Improvement Area.
Ward 11 Councillor Denise Brown suggested the committee could look at exempting all adults riding on the city’s main roadways. “I saw an adult on the sidewalk on Horton, between Ridout and Wharncliffe, and I thought the sidewalk was the safest place because the cars are just whipping by.”
Ward 8 Councillor Paul Hubert said he could understand the calls Bryant was receiving as he has seen first-hand how people continue to ride on city sidewalks, despite it being illegal to do so.
“It is absolutely maddening downtown. And it isn’t children 13 and under. It is older teens and young 20s. So there is an issue around enforcement,” Hubert said. “They are weaving in and out. I have almost been knocked over; I have seen other people knocked over. It is a concern.”
Staff pointed out enforcement falls under the London Police Service. Hubert asked if Fontana and Bryant could take the enforcement issue back to the Police Services Board.
Fontana said a $135 ticket for riding on the sidewalk should get people’s attention.
While the other exemption suggestions failed to garner much support, Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser was very clear why he was supporting the under 14 exemption.
“I have never seen a kid kill a pedestrian on a sidewalk, but I have unfortunately witnessed a kid killed on the street by a car,” Orser said. “So I am very comfortable with this. This is the right decision for this council. It is about safety for our children.”
Find us on Facebook: London Community News