Advocates and anti-poverty workers in Edmonton, Metro News reports, are arguing that it’s unfair to saddle the homeless with fines for cycling infractions—such as riding on the sidewalk, for example.
The reason, they say, is a bike’s immense importance to the Alberta city’s most vulnerable.
Recently, Edmonton police embarked on a large-scale operation focused on 118th Avenue in the city’s northeast, targeting—among others—people pedalling down the sidewalk. The homeless, reportedly, counted significantly among those implicated in the operation. They do so because the alternative of riding on the street itself is unsafe, suggests Rylan Kafara, who works with the those experiencing poverty .
“People bike wherever it’s safest to bike,” Kafara told Metro News, saying that the homeless are choosing the sidewalk while they pick bottles or get from Point A to Point B independently. “Often that means biking on a sidewalk.” And when they’re targeted, he added, it contributes to their predicament, with fines piling up to the point that a prison sentence becomes likely.
Worse, Kafara said, is the context of a leaked email reported by Metro, in which police described the sidewalk-riding poor as “undesirables.”
The choice of such words suggests that the police should reconsider their own methods, Kafara told reporters—or even their attitudes toward the city’s vulnerable.
“It seems like ‘undesirable’ means someone living in poverty on a bicycle,” he said. “What is desirable is like, ‘Oh, if they’re homeless, maybe we should help with those challenges, not target them as potential criminals because of their socio-economic position.'”
Ultimately, the anti-poverty worker argued, it is unjust and unfair to target the cycling homeless, many of whom are just trying to get by. “They have wound up in jail and it’s a really challenging cycle that they go through.”
Edmonton police, Metro News says, have yet to comment on the matter.