Why Beaconsfield is allowing cyclists to ride on some sidewalks

Click to play video: 'New traffic rules for cyclists in Beaconsfield'
New traffic rules for cyclists in Beaconsfield
WATCH: The City of Beaconsfield has introduced new signage to help keep cyclists safe. Recent Highway Safety Code changes now allow municipalities to let cyclists use sidewalks when designated bike lanes are not available. As Global's Shakti Langlois-Ortega reports, cycling advocates welcome the change – Jul 8, 2019

Cyclists are now legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk on a portion of Beaconsfield’s St-Charles Boulevard in Montreal’s West Island.

Recent changes to the Highway Safety Code prompted the City of Beaconsfield to make a shared sidewalk between the Highway 20 underpass and the edge of Kirkland.

“There is a lot of traffic, a lot of speeding, a lot of large vehicles, so for that matter, we decided to help the cyclists a little bit,” said Denis Chabotte, Beaconsfield’s urban planning director.

According to the Highway Safety Code, cyclists cannot ride on a sidewalk unless it is necessary or when directed to do so by a sign.

For that reason, the city installed several signs along the shared sidewalk that indicate exactly where it starts and ends.

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The code also says that cyclists must ride at a safe and reasonable speed, and give pedestrians the priority.

“It’s common sense that you should slow down to a pace that is adequate with pedestrians,” said Vélo-Québec’s spokesperson Magali Bebronne.

“Always keep in mind that pedestrians are not supposed to signal their intentions so they can be doing sudden moves. You should always be prepared to react in those situations.”

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She also reminds cyclists to always make themselves heard — either with their voice or a bell — to avoid taking pedestrians by surprise.

“I think it’s definitely safer than [cyclists] going on the road,” said Jacob Levy, who walks on that sidewalk occasionally. “They’re less likely to bump into cars and it’s easier for pedestrians to move on the grass if a bike is coming.

The city hopes the new rules will make daily commuters feel safer and motivate more people to use their bikes on a regular basis.

“It’s one thing to go on a bike ride on a Saturday afternoon, but it’s another things when you want to use the bikes to go to work,” said Chabotte.

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While Bebronne believes that it is a step in the right direction, she thinks cities will have to better adapt as cycling becomes more popular.

“It’s a temporary solution until proper bike infrastructure can be installed,” she said.

In the meantime, the city hopes the new rule will prevent collisions between bikes and cars and make its roads safer for all users.

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