Newmarket resident David Hoath is concerned about cyclists who carelessly speed along the local trail system after his grandson narrowly escaped injury.
His family was cycling on Tom Taylor Trail near the All Our Kids Playpark in downtown Newmarket June 30. As his grandson entered the play area, three cyclists sped through. He said he called out to his grandson to stop, avoiding a collision — and got a “middle-finger salute” when he shouted at the bikers to slow down.
“I was most concerned because they seemed to have no consideration for the kids that were in that park,” Hoath said. “When children are playing, they’re unpredictable. They can be standing still one minute and darting to the left or right without any warning. I’m just amazed there hasn’t been anybody hit.”
The Town of Newmarket has attempted to address conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists since the pandemic began and use of the trails peaked significantly. It recently launched an awareness campaign called #ShareNewmarketTrails to highlight trail etiquette, such as using safe speeds, staying alert, and taking less-travelled trails.
Mayor John Taylor said a fair amount of residents have complained about some cyclists using “the trails as an expressway” — behaviour that the municipality wants to discourage. He added conflicts go the other way, too, with some cyclists concerned about trail space occupied by dogs on long leashes.
“We know that Tom Taylor (trail) is going to be very, very popular,” Taylor said. “So we want to take some short-term steps.”
The municipality has added more signs to address the high traffic on Tom Taylor Trail — up to 52 per cent of which are cyclists, according to a February report. The municipality is also considering adding centre lines on parts of the trail to help with the flow of cyclists and pedestrians.
But the municipality is also working on longer-term approaches, with a council workshop planned for the fall. Taylor said one solution is to get more people out onto other trails and bike lanes other than Tom Taylor Trail.
“We have other trails in town,” Taylor said. “We get very few concerns on those.”
Hoath said he would like to see more enforcement and bylaw control for cyclists lacking bells or speeding in certain areas.
“At the very least, there should be some kind of penalty — some kind of dissuasion — for riding bikes quickly through a child’s play area,” he said.
Taylor said the municipality always takes an education-first approach to bylaw enforcement, and many people violate bylaws unknowingly. But he said more enforcement is not off the table, particularly for high-speed cycling on Tom Taylor Trail.
“Those who engage in that need to understand that just isn’t an option. They need to go to bike lanes or other facilities,” Taylor said. “That’s not what it’s designed for. It’s a multi-use trail.”
Taylor asked residents to be safe and courteous.
“If everybody takes that to heart, we’ll quickly advance our own program and trail safety.”