Rolling on Maple Ridge sidewalks

Driver raises safety concerns about cyclists that can pedal legally

Maple Ridge allows cycling and skate boarding on sidewalks.

Maple Ridge allows cycling and skate boarding on sidewalks.

Bruce Mohn doesn’t mind Maple Ridge’s bylaw allowing bicycles on city sidewalks.

“I don’t disagree. It may be that it’s much safer for cyclists to use sidewalks in Maple Ridge and I’m fine with that,” he said.

“But if you’re going to do it, let’s make very sure what laws apply.”

The topic came to mind recently after he made a right turn in his car from Dewdney Trunk Road on to 222nd Street.

He shoulder-checked to the right, but just before he turned, a cyclist riding on the sidewalk zoomed by, passing his vehicle on the right side.

“He just came out of nowhere.”

Mohn considers himself a safe driver, but wonders what law would apply had there been a collision between car and cyclist riding on the sidewalk.

Would the cyclist be considered a pedestrian, even though the Motor Vehicle Act considers cyclists motorists?

“What would ICBC say? I have no idea.”

Would he, as a driver, face tougher penalties getting into an accident involving a pedestrian or motor vehicle?

Maple Ridge is one of the few cities that allow cycling and skateboards on sidewalks, a change that was passed in 2010 in response to there being few safe bicycle routes in the city.

Maple Ridge bylaws director Robin McNair says the bylaw seems to be working well, although there may come a time when congestion on sidewalks may cause a change.

“I haven’t had any major complaints about it.”

Bicycles, electric bicycles, skateboards, and mobility scooters are all allowed on Maple Ridge sidewalks.

“Electric bikes are still considered bicycles.”

But the two-wheeled, moped-style electric scooters that zoom silently along city streets are not allowed on sidewalks because they’re considered motor vehicles and require licence plates.

“The difference between a bicycle and a scooter – is a bicycle does not require a motor vehicle licence plate. An electric scooter that doesn’t have pedals is considered a motor vehicle and must be licenced as such.”

Any vehicle that requires a licence plate can’t go on the sidewalk, she explained. If no plate is required for a vehicle, it can go on the sidewalk.

Under Maple Ridge’s Highway and Traffic Bylaw, rollerblades and skateboards and “other conveyances” are also allowed on sidewalks, provided people do so carefully.

But there are some grey areas.

McNair said a cyclist riding on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk would be considered a cyclist, who under the Motor Vehicle Act, has to obey the same rules as motor vehicles.

But she doesn’t know what ICBC would decide in the case of a collision involving a motor vehicle and a cyclist on the sidewalk or in a crosswalk.

As for bicycles that have been fitted with noisy, 50-cc two stroke motors, she doesn’t know where they fit in.

“I’ll leave that up to the RCMP to decide.”

The bylaw could change in future years as Maple Ridge’s sidewalks become more crowded, but for now, it’s working well, although she expects that mobility scooters will always stay on sidewalks.

“It’s a bit of a conundrum. Because there are very few municipalities that allow cycles or rollerblades or skateboards on sidewalks at all.”

She said that most residents in Maple Ridge know they can ride bicycles on sidewalks.

“Because you see it. You look at any other municipality, and you don’t see it.”

Mohn thinks clarification or consistency is needed.

“To me, if they’re on the sidewalk, they’re a pedestrian,” Mohn said.

That means cyclists should be governed by the same rules, meaning they should have wait for walk lights.

“Unless we get some kind of handle on it, somebody is going to get killed.”