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      An End to Local Anti-cycling Laws?


      The Harris government of Ontario has started a process of "disentanglement" regarding which level of government - provincial, regional, municipal, etc. - does what. In May 1996, the OCBC asked Al Palladini, Ontario Minister of Transportation to consider amending the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario to limit the powers of municipalities to write by-laws by restricting the scope of such by-laws to local issues such as turning restrictions, parking, and stopping.

      The OCBC firmly believes that municipalities should not have the power to redefine the rules of the road, particularly since they are often used to limit the rights of minority road users such as cyclists. We told the Minister that apart from being undemocratic, such duplication is confusing and bureaucratically wasteful.

      We offered the example of local prohibitions against two abreast cycling, which is not prohibited under the Province's Highway Traffic Act. Many municipalities including the Ottawa-Carleton Region have had explicit prohibitions against this well-established safe group riding practice. In 1994, the regional level of government in Ottawa-Carleton rescinded its own ban at the request of a number of cycling organizations. However, a region has limited jurisdiction and cannot rescind by-laws of cities or townships within its boundaries. So one set of by-laws may apply to regional roads (usually arterials) and another set on city (residential) and township (rural) roads.

      There is an absurd situation in Ottawa-Carleton where the region, the city of Ottawa, 10 other cities and townships, the province, and the federal government (for federal parkways) write moving traffic laws. Added to this chaotic situation is the fact that the Ottawa is highly integrated with Hull, in the province of Quebec which means another region, another city, and another province writing laws which affect us. Imagine the difficulty in Ottawa in getting laws changed and made compatible!

      In a July 1996 reply to the OCBC, Minister Palladini thanked us for our suggestions and indicated that some of our ideas would be incorporated into the Ministry's position (he did not specify which ones). If indeed the government does act on our advice we believe this will be an enormous step forward in getting the cyclist haters at the municipal level off our backs, and leave as with just the province to deal with (the federal government automatically applies provincial laws on the prakways).

      A good first step by the government.

October 1996
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