Original Published on Aug 11, 2022 at 12:50

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

“No person shall within any municipal parkland… use a bicycle, personal mobility device or pedelec at a speed of over 20 kilometres-per-hour,” reads the parks and trails bylaw approved by Midland during a special meeting of council.

Council discussed the proposed speed limit for trails last year which resulted in a prohibition of motorized vehicles and the use of e-bikes on municipal trails and parkland and had generated concerns by residents and visitors in the months leading up to the bylaw amendment.

Coun. Bill Gordon shared his concerns around enforcing the bylaw, noting that the OPP were as likely “to be going on our trails with a radar gun and doing beam for… the spandex crowd” as they would be in responding to a call about a barking dog.

“We’re going to put this speed limit up and enshrine it in a bylaw, but is it actually enforceable? And if it isn’t, then why are we doing it?” asked Gordon.

Adam Farr, executive director of planning, building and bylaw, replied that it was a conversation which staff had discussed among themselves.

“The 20-kilometre-per-hour limit does provide a reference point that has some meaning with respect to the types of vehicles that might be permitted,” stated Farr.

“We asked some common sense questions, like ‘What’s a higher-end speed for a bicycle?’: 20 kilometers. ‘How fast can you go on a ped-assisted bike?’: A maximum of 25 kilometres. ‘How fast can you go on an e-bike?’: Now you start to get into 30-plus kilometres an hour.

“So while the 20 kilometres-per-hour might be difficult to enforce, it does provide a practical reference point for people.”

He continued, “Speaking as someone who’s walked on a winter trail where there’s a 20-kilometre limit posted and snowmobiles are permitted, the snowmobilers are an especially well-behaved group and they tend to honour the limits. I think that the glue that’s going to hold this bylaw together is the sense of civic responsibility among residents; I think that Midland’s bylaw regime is generally an education-based regime.”

For the benefit of residents who raised concerns on the e-bike prohibition last year, Mayor Stewart Strathearn further differentiated the exact vehicle types which the bylaw affected.

“For those who have been suggesting that council banned e-bikes: that is true,” stated Strathearn. “But they did not ban pedelecs – which most seniors feel somewhat aggrieved by what they perceive to be a ban. Most seniors are driving pedelecs and not e-bikes.

“If you are really interested and want to dive deeply, there’s the bylaw on the parks and trails bylaw; you can look at that and it defines the two of them. For those out there who think we’ve banned pedelecs, that’s not the case,” Strathearn concluded.

The speed-limit bylaw amendment for parks and trails is available in full in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland town hall for a link to the meeting.

Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

This item reprinted with permission from MidlandToday.ca, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario