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Council delaying decision on Pedal Pubs ‘disappointing,’ says co-founder

Councillors voted to delay approval until after report from the city’s transportation manager.
May 13, 2022
Olivia Bowden

A surprise 60th birthday party and a family with relatives visiting from abroad were just some of the groups who had booked a Pedal Pub -- a combination of bicycle built for 17 and a bar -- to tour Toronto’s streets this summer.

Those events and more will now have to be rescheduled or cancelled altogether after city council voted this week to delay approving the new activity at least until June’s council meeting.

“That will be hundreds of people who signed up for tours on the days between now and the June 15 meeting,” said Lyle Jones, the co-founder of Pedal Pub Toronto, whose website is already up and running. “If it’s delayed any longer than that we’re into the thousands.”

On a Pedal Pub, 16 people pedal the bike facing each other so they can socialize, while a driver, who is not allowed to drink, controls the speed, steering and braking.

Though no booze would be served on the bikes in Toronto, they would allow patrons to do a pub or food crawl while seeing the sights of the city.

They are popular in other cities, like Calgary and Niagara-on-the-Lake, as well as several U.S. and European cities.

On Wednesday, council voted to delay approving the multi-user bikes on Toronto streets until after they receive a report from the city’s head of transportation services about which routes they should be allowed to take.

“We think there’s going to be an outcome that’s good for us and good for the city, hopefully at the June meeting,” said Jones. “It’s just a little disappointing that we’re delayed again.”

Jones said Pedal Pub Toronto is eager to meet the city’s requirements and to work with the city on the best way to introduce the bikes to the community.

“I can understand the city’s position, and our whole reason for being is to bring a little bit of fun to the city in a way that integrates nicely and safely with everything that’s already going on in the city,” he said.

The report from city staff already before council proposes to use 2022 as a pilot and then council can re-evaluate the bikes in 2023, said Jones.

The bikes are a way to showcase what Toronto has to offer, socialize with friends outside and support local eateries and establishments that were hit hard by COVID-19 lockdowns, he added.

“So this delay doesn’t just mean that people can’t celebrate how they wanted to, it also means the businesses we were going to bring people to don’t get that extra revenue that they were looking forward to,” he said.

At council Wednesday, Coun. Stephen Holyday said that although bikes may be a “popular initiative,” he has concerns about traffic congestion in the city.

He also said he had worries about “the mixing of the consumption of alcohol and use of these type of devices on our city streets,” and has decided not to support the item.

Coun. Josh Matlow said that though the bikes seem like an enjoyable option, “We need to do this in a sensitive way to figure out how to mitigate very reasonable concerns about any behaviour on them that people object to.”