Coalition gets bridge ban lifted

      At the beginning of April 1998, the National Capital Commission (NCC), a Canadian federal agency responsible for the capital region's federal property including parkways and interprovincial bridges, arbitrarily imposed a ban on cycling on a 0.6km bridge at the start of a nine month reconstruction period. The bridge connects the City of Ottawa in the province of Ontario to the City of Hull in the province of Quebec.

      The NCC claimed that the narrow 3.25m (11 feet) lanes made it "dangerous for cyclists", despite the introduction of a temporary speed limit of 40km/h (25mph).

      An instantly-formed coalition comprised of the Ottawa Bicycle Club, Citizens for Safe Cycling, and a representative of courier companies disputed the ban based on cyclists well established right to travel on public highways, citing an Alberta court case which overturned a cycling ban on Springbank Road, a highway just outside of Calgary.

      In addition to the legal argument, the coalition ridiculed NCC's "danger to cyclists" claim, explaining that cyclists, by riding vehicular-style in the centre of the lanes, were in no danger unless motorists were prepared to deliberately run over cyclists from behind.

      It was soon apparent that federal officials were mainly concerned, not so much with danger to cyclists, but rather delay to motorists - although in peak hours even that would not occur since traffic backs up the full length of the bridge anyway.

      It was made clear to officials that the banning of cycling on public highways (excluding specific vehicle roadways such as freeways) is illegal. Within four days, during which two meetings with federal officials took place, the ban was lifted.

May 1998
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