Puslinch council puts brakes on bike ban bid for Watson Road

Councillors here were not overly receptive to a recent request for a bike ban on Watson Road.

Resident Diane Greene wrote to council recently requesting a bicycle ban on some area roads.

Greene lives on Watson Road South and describes it as  a “beautiful” stretch of country road between Wellington 34 and Hume Road.

“It is a great road for driving. Curvy and hilly, 80 kilometres per hour, which is fine; it is truly a beautiful road to live on. I live at a peak of one of these hills,” she said.

However, Greene said she does not believe the road is suitable for bicycles. She requested banning bikes on Watson Road South between Wellington 34 and Hume Road.

“For five years now, since I’ve lived here, I’ve had to ‘deal with’ cyclists,” Greene wrote.

She added there are cyclists who don’t move over for vehicles and cyclists that take up the entire lane (two people side by side), as well as those that cycle in very large groups, and cyclists that bike during terrible road conditions.

“This stretch of road is too dangerous for bicycles, with the curves and the hills you cannot see them until it’s almost too late,” she wrote. “Bicycles are for the city or for roads with a designated bike lane.”

Greene contended that “with the amount of tax I (and my neighbours) pay, it is quite upsetting to have a beautiful country’s day ruined by slamming of brakes and honking horns and people yelling at cyclists.

“I talked to the OPP, they told me that their hands were tied, unless signs are posted.”

Therefore, she specifically requested the township install “no cyclists” signs between Watson Road South and Hume Road. She also suggested it would be a good idea that no cyclists be allowed on Watson Road between Wellington Roads 34 and 36 for the aforementioned reasons.

Councillor Wayne Stokley agreed “there are difficulties with some cyclists in that they really don’t abide by the rules of the road.” Yet he added the same can be said of some people driving vehicles too.

“There is a movement across the province that we should  be sharing the roads,” said Stokley, himself an avid cyclist. He said he could not support putting signs up on road that restrict cyclists, adding both drivers and cyclists need to understand the rules and abide by them.

“When I am out cycling and I see cyclists travelling two-three-four abreast and when I have to go into the oncoming lane to get around them – I get very upset.” But he stressed “all cyclists are not like that.”

Councillor Susan Fielding asked if the public works supervisor had any thoughts on the matter. She said she did not believe current regulations address bicycle traffic.

Director of public works Donald Creed  said, “It would strictly be a council decision.”

Councillor Ken Roth agreed with Stokley’s comments, but he also stated that with new laws coming that state vehicles must leave a metre space when passing a cyclist, it could be very dangerous. He added, “I don’t know if it is even possible for the township to close a road to bicyclists.”

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said that as someone who puts farm equipment on the road, “this issue is not unique to cyclists.” He stated farm equipment is passed on the road shoulder by cars and motorcycles, and passed going up and down hills.

“To me it comes down to the patience of people driving the cars. Rural roads are for a wide diversity of vehicles,” said Bulmer.

At the same time, while his concern is for the safety of the cyclist, “I agree 100 per cent with councillor Stokley. When I am out on my bike it offends me to no end when I see cyclists riding through stop signs or down the centre of the road.”

Fielding said the roads are sometimes used by cyclists from Flamborough, so “How would we actually stop them?”

She noted taking some of the main roads might actually be more dangerous for cyclists.

“I don’t think there is an easy solution, but I don’t think closing it to cyclists is very feasible,” said Fielding.

Mayor Dennis Lever too had an experience driving up the hill on Watson Road, where there is a little dip at the top just going around the corner.

“I was heading up the hill on my motorcycle to find four motorcyclists were just stopped there – talking.” The motorcyclists were occupying the whole lane, Lever said.

While it was easy enough to go around on the motorcycle, Lever said “if I was driving a car, I’m not sure I could have avoided them.

“To me it seems at times, the cyclists have this idea that they are just not vulnerable, and everyone is going to get out of their way.”

At the same time, Lever said many are very conscientious, obeying the rules and it is simply not an issue.

“But the problem is increasing as we see more and more traffic on our rural roads,” said Lever, adding roads considered rural five years ago, now see far more traffic.

“I don’t see us being able to remove them – somehow everyone is going to get their heads around this before there is a really unfortunate incident.”

Stokley noted that not only is vehicle traffic increasing, but cycling traffic as well.

“Puslinch is becoming a destination site for cyclists outside the municipality – from Guelph, from Halton, from Flamborough, from Cambridge,” he said, adding,  “they are coming because of the superior nature of our roads and the terrain.”

Lever quipped council should consider a non-resident user fee. “I also bounced the idea off my future son-in-law who is an avid cyclist … and he wasn’t very receptive either.”

Greene’s letter was received as information.