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Piling slick leaves on Greater Victoria streets risks cyclists

Leaving leaves in Oak Bay roadways can lead to fines of $25 to $10,000
Safely piled leaves await Oak Bay public works staff for removal. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)

Colourful, swirling leaves highlight autumn and flag a dangerous seasonal shift for cyclists.

In Oak Bay, the municipal fall leaf collection program is underway and continues into December. After talking to neighbours who were unaware of rules banning the practice, resident Pam Guilbault is concerned about leaf piling on the road, and the dangers it poses.

“The leaves on the side of the road are a hazard by the nature of the piles and also they are slippery,” she said.

As people pile leaves onto roads it pushes cyclists into traffic.

Fall leaves signal the start of general seasonal maintenance issues facing cyclists, said Corey Burger, policy and infrastructure chair for Capital Bike. The advocacy society is a merger of The Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition and Greater Victoria Bike to Work Society and aims to provide the Capital Region with cycling education, celebration, and advocacy.

He points to the intersection of Blanshard Street and Pandora Avenue, where the sidewalk and gardens are beautifully cleared of leaves, and the adjacent bike lane is full of them.

READ ALSO: Oak Bay to phase out municipal gas leaf blowers but not residential

Even when not in bike lane, a cyclist is often closer to the side of the road – right in the space where leaves are swept off the street by moving cars on one side, and toward the street by people doing yard maintenance on the other, Burger said.

Intentional or not, leaves in the path of cyclists are dangerous. A much smaller patch of rubber is touching the ground compared to a heavy vehicle.

“Once that loses traction you’re pretty much done,” Burger said.

Bikes aren’t heavy enough or fast enough to move leaves as vehicles do. Heavy-traffic corridors such as the E&N Rail Trail and Galloping Goose can even wind up with wadded, broken-down masses of dangerous mush.

“It’s a challenge this time of year to keep places clear,” Burger said, noting municipalities could do better.

Piles on the pavement also block storm drains and can cause flooding issues or other damage.

Guilbault worries more Oak Bay residents are not aware that moving leaves to the roadway leaves the them subject to fines. The streets and traffic bylaw prescribes a minimum fine of $25 to a maximum of $10,000.

After Dec. 2, Oak Bay’s leaf pickup continues in specific areas according to a schedule and map online at

Residents are asked to have leaves on the boulevard prior to the last Monday within the area’s final pick up date. The leaf collection program is for leaves only.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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