Viewpoint : August 2014

Bicycles in parks: a long tradition that serves a purpose

Cyclists have always frequented parks, havens of tranquility where they can circulate in complete safety outside the road network. In fact, bike networks have often been designed to link different city parks, so that users can cross through them, if necessary, or teach children how to ride a bike. And cyclists and pedestrians have long cohabited there harmoniously.

We were therefore taken aback by new rules restricting access to cyclists on the pretext of preventing accidents involving pedestrians. This is the argument used by the City of Montréal for prohibiting us from circulating in Lafontaine and Jeanne-Mance Parks and asking the police to crack down on “offenders”.

In fact, these rules are completely outdated and should be revised. In Europe, cyclists and pedestrian have co-existed peacefully for ages. Why should it be any different here?

This does not mean that cyclists are all considerate and never at fault. We are often chastised for biking too fast and not respecting traffic signs in parks – in short, acting as if we are exempt from any rules.

There is no question that we have very real responsibility toward pedestrians. We should definitely apply the principle of acting with caution toward lighter or slower road users. Pedestrians are just as vulnerable vis-à-vis cyclists as we are vis-à-vis motorists, hence the importance of reducing our speed in their presence and maintaining a safe distance when meeting or passing them – in other words, being courteous. And in return, we expect them not to walk on bike paths.

Better pedestrian-cyclist relations will definitely be a win-win solution for everyone, especially since city parks are such beautiful, popular urban green spaces. Tolerance and civic-mindedness are inseparable.

Suzanne Lareau
President and CEO