Canada Post promises to follow bike-lane laws, but only in Toronto

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Canada Post drivers will be expected to obey the law and not park their trucks in bike lanes, the corporation announced this week, though the policy will apply only in Toronto.

In other places, apparently, law-breaking drivers can be confident Canada Post has their backs. It’s a really weird thing, like declaring that stopping at red lights will be mandatory in Edmonton or that drivers won’t plow through crosswalks in the southern half of New Brunswick.

Canada Post seems not have realized that when it publicly declared on Tuesday afternoon that it would respect the law in Toronto, people elsewhere might ask, “Hey, what about here?” I asked what the company’s policy is on bike lanes in other cities and a full day later, despite promising some kind of answer, Canada Post couldn’t say.

You wouldn’t think it would be hard.

In Toronto there’s been a real ruckus about what scofflaws Canada Post drivers are. It’s been led by Kyle Ashley, a traffic and parking officer who tweets his tickets. There’s lots of bad behaviour out there, he observed last week, but in his experience in just a couple of months on the job, Canada Post drivers are the worst for leaving their trucks lying around wherever.

Mayor John Tory has made a priority of enforcing no-stopping rules in all kinds of lanes to keep traffic moving, so he took up Ashley’s crusade.

“Canada Post understands the concerns raised regarding safety and bike lanes in Toronto,” the corporation said after the city and media threw its behaviour in its face. “As a result, we are instructing our employees to not park in bike lanes in the City of Toronto. For pickups or deliveries, they are expected to find a safe location to park their vehicle. If a safe parking location is not available, our employees are expected to avoid the stop, continue on their route and return any undelivered items to the depot.”

This looks like a concession but it’s an escalation on a different front. If a bike lane makes delivering a package at all inconvenient, Canada Post gives its employees permission not to bother, potentially making whole urban blocks delivery-free zones. They’ll get residents and merchants to oppose bike lanes by holding their packages hostage. After all, there’s always a safe parking location, if only you’re willing to walk a block or two. People get to places even when there are bike lanes.

Ottawa’s and Toronto’s bike-lane bylaws are similar and obvious. Motorists can stop in them in just a few special cases: If they’re police or firefighters or paramedics answering calls, if they’re public employees working in the street, if they’re drivers loading or dropping off a disabled passenger. Taxis, I was surprised to learn, can stop in Ottawa bike lanes for pickups and drop-offs, though for no more than 45 seconds.

Otherwise, the no-stopping signs that invariably accompany a bike lane on a busy street mean what they say. No stopping. There’s no exception in the laws for cops getting coffee, for brewery trucks off-loading kegs, for people just pulling over to text for a sec. Nor for parcel services that push their workers to get more packages into recipients’ hands faster than the other guys. Parking a delivery truck in a bike lane is as illegal here as it is in Toronto.

Maybe this is unfair to delivery people. Canada Post could make that case. But in the meantime, the law is the law and public servants ought to obey it.

Ottawa officers have given 182 tickets so far this year for stopping illegally in bike lanes, our city bylaw chief Roger Chapman says, though he doesn’t have a breakdown of who’s received them so he can’t readily say how many have gone to Canada Post.

The problem is that even with enforcement, it takes naming-and-shaming for the rules to work. Ashley’s tickets didn’t get Canada Post to care about Toronto’s laws. Public exposure did.

Painted lanes don’t keep bike lanes protected or cyclists safe. Paint is a gesture. Paint is the illusion of safety, an illusion that too often puts cyclists in more danger when it turns out not to be a real barrier against anything. Words in a bylaw are worth even less.

You know what works? Concrete. Metal. Curbs and bike tracks don’t completely stop determined lawbreakers like these, but they go a long way. If motorists, even professionals being paid for their time, can’t respect laws and painted markings, bring on the Jersey barriers and bollards.

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