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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Thread: Cyclist Legal Defense Fund