Maple Ridge staff and police have told council that laying down the law against bicycle bandits and ticketing them for not wearing helmets or not using lights at night is expensive and could even backfire.
“We can’t ticket our way out of this problem folks. It’s just not the reality,” Ridge Meadows RCMP Supt. Dave Fleugel told council Monday.
“We cannot profile people. We’re not allowed to do that.”
If Maple Ridge council told police to enforce the bicycle helmet law, police would have to give tickets to everyone, he added.
And most cyclists don’t wear helmets.
Last November, Maple Ridge council asked its social planning advisory committee and the police to investigate cracking down on cyclists, particularly those who pedal around at night.
But after a six-week period involving checks of 20 street people, RCMP found none of them had a driver’s licences – making it pointless to issue tickets under the Motor Vehicle Act for not having helmets or lights. Under the act, driver’s licences or insurance renewals could be denied if helmet tickets haven’t been paid.
Instead, the social planning advisory committee and RCMP recommended that lighting be improved, that members of the Business Watch Program get more involved, that there be more public education, and that council ask for more mental health services and that RCMP even comment on the safety of the design of new buildings that are currently in the application stage.
Police also want to work with TransLink to improve the layout of the Haney bus exchange and are paying special attention to late-night and early-morning drug dealing and thefts.
More agencies and levels of government need to focus on the issue.
“I do believe that public safety is the No. 1 issue here,” said Coun. Al Hogarth.
But he wasn’t satisfied with the recommendations.
“We have to find a different solution. To me, that’s not solving the problem of these people on the bikes,” Hogarth said.
“I’d like us to become much more assertive about our needs in the mental health areas,” added Coun. Cheryl Ashlie.
A Maple Ridge staff report echoed the RCMP’s advice about ticketing cyclists, saying it doesn’t recommend “widespread enforcement of the Motor Vehicle Act with respect to bicycle helmets and proper illumination.
“Zero tolerance for riding without helmets or proper illumination could have negative community consequences.”
Nevertheless, pedestrian and cyclist safety have to be addressed, it added.
“This issue is broader than simply enforcing the MVA to ensure helmets and proper illumination are adhered to.”
Instead, it says the root cause of the problem is connected to mental health, poverty, lack of affordable housing and social isolation.
In November, Hogarth asked for a clampdown in order help motorists better see cyclists, especially at night.
He suggested handing out free lights and reflective strips, “and if they’re not using them, somehow get them off their bikes.
“We have a lot of seniors who are not the most agile and are not able to jump out of the way of a bike coming 20 km/h down the sidewalk. I see it all the time. I think there are people out there using their bikes to do their crimes.”
In 2011, Hogarth called for police to seize cycles from those not wearing helmets.
Maple Ridge’s Highway and Traffic Bylaw, which allows cycling on sidewalks, will also be reviewed, an idea supported by Coun. Mike Morden.
“There are good cyclists and bad cyclists. I believe we’re the only municipality that allows deviation from the Motor Vehicle Act.”
The intent of the bylaw passed in 2010 was to encourage families and kids to use two-wheeled transportation safely and to avoid dangerous roads such as Dewdney Trunk Road, providing they always yield to pedestrians.
Staff reported a year after the bylaw was passed that there were three incidents involving cyclists on sidewalks.