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
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government in Ottawa-Carleton rescinded its own ban at the request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.