Mike Touchie figures it’s hard enough for an able-bodied person to get out of the way of a cyclist on the sidewalks of downtown Merritt.
“As a person with a disability, there’s no way I can get out of the way.
“Especially not the speed some of them travel.”
Because of his need to use a wheelchair, Touchie says, if he’s in a collision with a cyclist or skateboarder, he knows who’s going to win.
“It takes me four months to heal a broken leg, and then I’ll probably be a year in rehab.
“And a lot of times, they get off scot-free.”
Bylaw services officer Bob Davis says the biggest problem he has is getting people to make complaints.
“(Monday) I received one complaint, about some teens riding their skateboards in Spirit Square. I came right down, but when I got there, there was one young fellow with his bike sitting with a couple of friends on one of the benches.
“They said there had been a couple of others with skateboards, but they had just left.”
Davis says he acts on complaints about cyclists and skateboarders on the downtown sidewalks as quickly as possible for a simple reason.
“It’s not just a bylaw issue, it’s an important safety issue.”
Touchie acknowledges it’s tough for the cyclists and boarders to be caught, and says it might be up to the parents to put a word in the ear.
“It seems like it’s an annual thing,” he says. “The last couple of weeks before schools start again are when I see more of them on the sidewalks.”
He says he has yet to be hit, but has had a couple of close calls, and knows a couple of people who have been clipped by a cyclist on the sidewalk.
“Some of the elderly in the community have been clipped, but they’re too scared to talk about it. They don’t see what can be done, so some of them get a bit afraid to come out of their homes and go downtown to shop.
“They shouldn’t have to live with that fear.”
Davis says the rules regarding bicycles, roller skates, inline skates, skateboards and foot-propelled scooters are quite straightforward.
“There are to be none of those on the sidewalks downtown, which is defined as from Chapman Street to Charters Street in an east-west direction, and from Nicola Avenue to Coutlee Avenue in a north-south direction.”
The city’s bylaws are also quite clear on the consequences if someone is caught. To quote Bylaw No. 1930, “Where any person uses roller skates, inline skates, skateboard, foot-propelled scooter, or small apparatus in contravention of subsection 326, the roller skates, inline skates, skateboard, foot-propelled scooter or small apparatus may be seized by a Bylaw Services Officer or Police Officer.
“The Bylaw Services Officer or Police Officer may remove, detain and impound, or cause the removal, detention or impoundment of the roller skates, inline skates, skateboard, foot-propelled scooter or small apparatus occupying a street in contravention of subsection 326.”
Touchie, who drives his own car, says he has no problem with cyclists observing the law and riding on the road.
“I share the road with cyclists. If they’re obeying the law, riding on the right side, wearing a helmet, I have no problem with them on the road.
“Unfortunately, the actions of the ones who ride on the sidewalks mean a lot of people lose respect for all cyclists.”
Davis says while they get complaints about skateboarders, bikes are the biggest problem.
“A lot of the riders don’t seem to believe they’re governed by the same rules as cars. They don’t seem to understand. They can’t be riding on the sidewalks.”
Touchie says he has come up with a way to at least slow some of the cyclists down.
“When I see them coming down the sidewalk, I don’t move. I make them go around me.”