WINNIPEG – Some Winnipeg cyclists are preparing to fight a bylaw amendment that would allow bicycle parade permits to be issued, with one man calling it “an attempt to suppress the rights of citizen cyclists to freedom of expression and assembly.”
The amendment could hurt activities such as cycling instruction, some cyclists say, because it would ban groups of 10 or more cyclists from riding on city streets without a permit, a police presence and 48 hours notice.
The traffic bylaw amendment proposed by the Winnipeg Police Service and the city standing committee on protection and community services would change the definition of parade to include bicyclists. The proposal is on the agenda for the city’s executive policy committee meeting on Wednesday morning.
The amendment was designed to meet cyclists’ requests for parade permits, a report by police to the protection and community services committee states.
“Amending the definition of ‘parade’ in the traffic bylaw would allow the chief of police to issue parade permits to bicycle groups wishing to hold a parade,” the report says.
“A number of bicycle groups apply for parade permits each year with the intent of operating in a parade fashion with a police escort.”
Currently, the Highway Traffic Act outlaws riding bikes side-by-side, never mind occupying entire roads and disregarding traffic lights, as a parade does, the report points out. Since the summer of 2012, cycling groups have been told they can’t get parade permits and they must abide by the Highway Traffic Act.
“Police escorts for these groups were no longer beneficial because simply having a police presence does not authorize any contravention of the HTA,” the report concludes.
While they don’t object to allowing bicycle parades, some cyclists say in practice, the change will keep them from riding in groups.
The Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub is asking the city Executive Policy Committee to delay approving the bylaw change.
“The proposed amendment would have anyone riding a bicycle in the company of nine or more people face a $1,000 fine unless they have a permit issued by the chief of police,” a news release from WRENCH says.
“Ten people on bicycles would now be an ‘illegal parade’ unless an ‘organizer’ can pay the cost of a police escort and has applied for a permit 48 hours in advance – detailing route, travel time, nature of trip, stops and dispersal times.”
The news release points out this could affect cycling programs for children.
“This amendment would inhibit bicycle safety instruction and make it illegal for families to ride bikes to the park or for a group of students to ride home from school together.”
Winnipeg lawyer David Sanders, in a submission to the standing committee on protection and community services, stated he feels the proposed amendment is in fact an attempt to limit cyclists’ rights.
“I feel that the ulterior motive behind this apparently benign proposed amendment is an attempt to suppress the rights of citizen cyclists to freedom of expression and assembly,” Sanders wrote in a submission to the protection and community service committee.
While Sanders agrees with allowing bicyclists access to parade permits, he objects to the requirement that any group of cyclists numbering 10 or more be deemed to be a parade.
“If the amendment as proposed is approved, it will outlaw any such group of cyclists on the street without a police-approved permit, and render the individuals subject to … a find not exceeding $1,000 for each cyclist,” his letter states.