Vancouver Police Department may crack down on sidewalk cycling
Spencer Chandra Herbert is urging Vancouver police to launch a public education and enforcement campaign about the risks of cycling on sidewalks.
The NDP MLA for Vancouver–West End said he’s heard complaints from constituents this summer about pedestrian safety on the busy sidewalks in the community. One woman was pushing her child in a stroller when they were hit by a cyclist, and an elderly woman was struck on Denman Street, according to Chandra Herbert.
“She was hit while on the sidewalk by a cyclist—he kept going,” Chandra Herbert said in a phone interview. “She ended up in hospital, and I think she broke her hip, an elderly woman. So that changed her life forever. Meanwhile, whoever broke her hip’s long gone and probably still riding on sidewalks.”
Chandra Herbert, who is himself an avid cyclist, said he’s noticed a “significant increase” in people cycling on sidewalks in the West End this summer. He’s sent a letter to Vancouver police chief Jim Chu, asking the Vancouver Police Department to consider an educational and enforcement blitz.
“I think we do need, [for] one, education, because a number of the folks who do it are tourists, and they may not know the local rules,” Chandra Herbert told the Georgia Straight. “But also enforcement, because it is putting seniors and young kids at risk.”
VPD spokesperson Sgt. Randy Fincham indicated police are considering both public education and enforcement as options to address the issue.
“We’re definitely looking at both avenues, and we’re going to discuss it and try to find out what’s in the best interests of public safety,” he said in a phone interview.
Fincham said B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act requires cyclists to ride on the road, and to wear a helmet and have a light and a bell on their bike.
“The unique part about the West End and specifically Denman Street, with the bicycle rental shops, we do not always have people that rent bikes that are fully aware of the laws,” Fincham noted.
“We do acknowledge that to them, they may not feel extremely safe riding in the road, and we’d like to encourage them to make use of the road and not ride on the sidewalk.”
Joe Kainer, owner of English Bay Bike Rentals, said what he’s observed more frequently on Denman Street are people he guesses are locals travelling at high speeds along the sidewalk.
“What I see more of…is a lot of people riding really fast, up and down the sidewalks,” he said. “And they’re generally not tourists, but locals, or what I would assume to be locals, because they’re riding regular bikes without helmets.”
Erin O’Melinn, executive director of the cycling group HUB, said her group would also like to see more education around why cyclists should not ride on sidewalks, and around safe cycling on city roads.
“Bicyclists and pedestrians move at very different speeds, and so they should not be sharing that same space,” she told the Straight by phone. “However, one of the biggest reasons why people ride on sidewalks is because they don’t feel safe riding on the road, because they don’t have a space there either.”
She said her organization wants to see more infrastructure built to ensure the safety of cyclists on city roads.
“To really address the issue at its core, we need to be providing cyclists with proper facilities,” she said.
“I think one of the reasons why he [Chandra Herbert] has been seeing more cyclists on sidewalks this summer is because there are more people cycling, which is a really positive thing. But we’re not keeping pace.”
O’Melinn noted that HUB offers courses to cyclists, in partnership with the city, on how to ride safely and feel comfortable on city streets.