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  1. #1
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    Cyclist Legal Defense Fund

    Groups start fund to pay legal costs of cyclists charged with careless driving


    WATERLOO REGION The local cycling club and its provincial umbrella organization have started a fund to pay the legal costs of riders charged with careless driving after they were hit and injured by a passing vehicle on a regional road.

    The Waterloo Cycling Club and the Ontario Cycling Association put $2,000 into what is called "The Action Fund" as a result of the collision on Hessen Strasse south of Heidelberg on June 19. Cycling clubs in Collingwood, Toronto and London, among others, are expected to contribute to the fund in the near future.

    "The Highway Traffic Act charges laid against the riders who were struck are shocking," said Alain Francq, the president of the regional riding club.

    The collision occurred as about a dozen riders moved along in single file. The lead rider pulls to the right and drops to the back of the line every 10 seconds or so. Riding in a group like this enables the line to average 30 to 40 kilometres an hour for an entire 100-kilometre race.

    It is called a pace line and all competitive riding clubs do this. Pace lines are not outlawed in the traffic act, but the township has a bylaw that bans riding side-by-side. The cycling club says riding in a pace line is not the same as riding side-by-side.

    The Waterloo club and the provincial association are worried the charges will set a precedent that will impact every club in Ontario.

    "It is the cornerstone of group riding in Ontario," Francq said of pace lines.

    On the day of the collision a 59-year-old Waterloo man was driving an SUV and towing a horse trailer. While passing the group of novice racers training in a pace line the trailer hit two of the cyclists. Several fell of their bicycles and suffered injuries that were treated in hospital.

    The driver faces charges of careless driving and failing to avoid a collision with a cyclist. A 44-year-old Waterloo cyclist and a 36-year-old Kitchener cyclist face three charges each, including careless driving.

    "It is really shocking," Francq said. "This is a case where cyclists were riding in a legal formation and were struck by a vehicle."

    Two of the injured riders face careless driving charges, the same charge laid against the driver of a car that struck and killed a rider on a clear day on a rural road in the region.

    "It doesn't make sense," Francq said.

    The fund will be used to defend the cyclists and hopefully bring clarity to how the Highway Traffic Act should be interpreted by police and municipalities.

    "The reality is the Highway Traffic Act has quite a bit of leeway and is quite vague," Francq said. "It doesn't have provision or guidance, very specific, for these types of situations."

    The collision occurred on what the cycling club calls The Bamberg Loop. It is a 17-kilometre-long route over rural road in Wellesley Township. The same route was used for the provincial championships in 2011.

    It has rolling hills and good pavement that make it ideal for both training and racing. A lot of riders can be found on that route.

    Francq said the riding clubs want to educate the public about pace lines.

    "Pace lines are a legal formation, pace lines are not a crime, pace lines are not riding two abreast," Francq said.


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  2. #2
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    Seems absurd.

    Here's some free legal advice:

    Defining Careless Driving

    The Highway Traffic Act of Ontario defines careless driving as driving a vehicle or street car on a highway without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway.

    There is a great deal of interpretation on the part of the officer giving the violation. That officer must determine that the driver was not exercising the level of care and awareness of his or her surroundings that is required for safe driving. This can apply in many situations, whether or not an accident occurs. Careless driving charges are common in the case of accidents where one driver caused the crash due to careless actions. Police can also hand out a careless driving violation when they witness a driver performing an action on the road that shows carelessness and could potentially cause an accident, even if it did not.
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  3. #3
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    GM it's about more than the fact they were charged with careless driving. The biggest thing at the moment is dealing with the riding two-abreast situation.

    If the individuals that were charged with riding two-abreast are found guilty, that will set a precedent of interpretation province-wide. While the two-abreast charge comes from the Wellesley Township bylaws, it is also in the HTA. From what I have heard, police within Waterloo Region are now telling cyclists to ride single file when they come across them on country roads. This is a very important case for cyclists. If the charges stick, you may not be able to ride anything other than single-file on open roads without concern of being charged.

  4. #4
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    Careless is a catch all charge, they lay the charge and let the first attendance negotiation meeting to sort out the mess.

    The lawyers could use an opportunity like this to define the modern rights/wrongs of cycling. Could be good?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by afalts View Post
    GM it's about more than the fact they were charged with careless driving. The biggest thing at the moment is dealing with the riding two-abreast situation.

    If the individuals that were charged with riding two-abreast are found guilty, that will set a precedent of interpretation province-wide. While the two-abreast charge comes from the Wellesley Township bylaws, it is also in the HTA. From what I have heard, police within Waterloo Region are now telling cyclists to ride single file when they come across them on country roads. This is a very important case for cyclists. If the charges stick, you may not be able to ride anything other than single-file on open roads without concern of being charged.
    Maybe I misunderstood. I thought the thrust of the argument was that they were trying to demonstrate that a rotating pace line isn't the same as riding two-abreast and that it is the equivalent of riding single-file. It seems that even if they win that argument, riding two-abreast would remain an "illegal" formation per the bylaw.
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  6. #6
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    I am not sure what the solution is, but I have seen club rides with the rotating pace line when out on country rides, and they are worse than riding two abreast in many cases. I have seen this poorly executed, multiple riders switching at once, and general disarray at other times. I mostly ride country rides around the Milton area where the roads are narrow and have no shoulders. Group rides almost always force motorists completely onto the opposite lane. I am not excusing running down cyclists and I don't have a clear solution to group club riding. However, some kind of responsibility has to be taken by group riders. I have seen some pretty rude behavior. Maybe some training as to how to execute the passes, more vigilance toward traffic/amount of cars, etc. I have seen group rides that force several cars to have to wait for quite some time as they keep bunching up when riders speed up or slow down. By the same token, there has to be a places where this style of riding can be done safely. Not all roads are created equal, and maybe that should be taken into consideration as well. Rules and laws only work if their spirit is followed. How long does a rider have to be beside another before it is considered two abreast. What is the difference between two abreast and a continuous changing line of two riders abreast? I believe that rules like this begin to be enforced when not only this behavior, but many bad ones begin to manifest to the point where they are noticed. Then the authorities will use some law to come down on all cyclists which seem discriminatory to a cyclist, but just lumped into bad cycling behavior by the general public. This goes for commuters and anyone else on the road.
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  7. #7
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    1. Since riding two abreast is explicitly legal under the HTA, and careless driving is a HTA charge, I'm not sure what they are even being charged with.

    2. Interesting that these darn bicycles seem to be causing so many problems... I mean, un-motorized vehicles slowing down traffic IN NORTHERN WATERLOO REGION.... ya never see that, do ya?


  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    1. Since riding two abreast is explicitly legal under the HTA, and careless driving is a HTA charge, I'm not sure what they are even being charged with.
    Unfortunately, municipalities can enact bylaws that make it illegal (like in Hamilton) despite the HTA.

    EDIT: Cafeful what you wish for; riders in Waterloo may be allowed to ride two-abreast so long as they have those big "slow moving vehicle" triangles mounted to their bikes!
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by -Todd- View Post
    Careless is a catch all charge, they lay the charge and let the first attendance negotiation meeting to sort out the mess.

    The lawyers could use an opportunity like this to define the modern rights/wrongs of cycling. Could be good?

    I always laugh when people get all excited when you hear " the driver has been carged". Reality is that is simply the cops recommendation based on what he has seen and heard. It is when the judge finds the person guilty and convicted that we should be all excited about.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    1. Since riding two abreast is explicitly legal under the HTA, and careless driving is a HTA charge, I'm not sure what they are even being charged with.
    Actually no, it does not say it is explicitly legal. It does not however say it is explicitly illegal.

    Have a read here: Two Abreast Cycling Prohibition Rescinded

    And as garage monster has said, many townships forbid it within their bylaws.

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