Council considers the stats, leaves sidewalk cycling ban in place

Hal Regnier says some city streets simply aren’t safe enough to cycle on. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz and George Mathewson

Hal Regnier says he’s been breaking the law the past 35 years by sometimes riding a bicycle on city sidewalks.

And he intends to continue doing so after city council rejected a pilot project last week that would have allowed cyclists to use sidewalks to bypass dangerous streets.

“I’d rather ride on the road. I don’t want to ride on the sidewalk,” said the 68-year-old former process supervisor and industrial fire chief.

“But if the traffic is such that it’s craziness and I’m going to get hit, then I’d rather ride on the sidewalk … because I don’t want to get killed.”

Council voted to maintain the current sidewalk bylaw, which permits only child-sized bicycles with a wheel diameter of less than 51 centimetres (21 inches).

Councillors were swayed by a staff report that indicates car-bike collisions occur most frequently on walkways.

City police recorded 67 collisions on roads between 2010 and 2016. Over the same period 102 cyclists collided with vehicles, including 70 in crosswalks and 32 in driveways.

Twenty-one cyclists were injured and two killed: Denis Ross in 2011 and Gerald Plain in 2012.

Coun. Mike Kelch said his eyes were opened earlier this month when he was driving and narrowly missed a cyclist on the sidewalk.

“If the person would have been on the road I would have had enough line of sight to avoid that,” he said.

Instead of a pilot project, council approved spending up to $5,000 for signage and an education campaign aimed at both cyclists and motorists.

Riders have long said they are forced onto Sarnia’s sidewalks because despite a few notable exceptions the city lags in providing dedicated bike lanes, trails and other cycle-friendly infrastructure.

Regnier, who made an impassioned plea to council for the change last summer, noted there is no similar restriction on sidewalk cycling in neighbouring Point Edward and Corunna.

And he scoffed at the $5,000 education campaign.

“Do I think it’s going to do anything? In my opinion, no,” he said.

“I tried riding on Exmouth Street and it’s absolutely dangerous, and I look over and there’s nobody on the sidewalk,” he said. “I just try to use common sense.”

Regnier added he will continue moving onto sidewalks when he feels threatened by road traffic, even it if means being written up by police.

“I’ll settle it after,” he said. “One thing is sure, you can’t settle anything when you’re dead.”