While Coun. Clare Cameron was unable to convince fellow councillors to give the Pedal Pub their blessing Monday night, the local business has been handed an opportunity to continue operating on Niagara-on-the-Lake roads.
Council had before them a motion that would have banned the 10-passenger bikes from local roads after their licence expires, a decision made at a planning meeting two weeks ago, along with a bylaw to enforce that regulation.
The Pedal Pub’s regional licence to operate expires at the end of this month, and they would have a month’s grace period after that.
The councillors who had wanted them gone were concerned about safety and noise issues, while others felt those problems have been addressed and the business should be given a clear road ahead.
Councillors actually thought they had put an end to the operation last fall, and were surprised to see it back on local streets this summer. They learned from the region that to ban the operation, the town should have passed a bylaw outlawing it from NOTL streets. That’s what brought them to the new bylaw under consideration Monday.
But a presentation last week from general manager Marlo Saganski had enough information in it to convince some councillors that it should be allowed to continue.
Saganski told councillors the Pedal Pub operation has had no road safety issues or incidents since it has been in operation. Pedal Pub pilots operate in strict adherence to the Highway Traffic Act, she said, and all applicable rules of the road, as well as completing in-house and on-road training.
The company has adjusted its tour routes according to council’s request last year, and to respect regional regulations, and no longer tours on residential streets, she said.
They have been collaborating with many small businesses in the area, including Butler’s Bar & Grill, Fournos, The Exchange Brewery, The Budapest Bakeshop, and have been beneficial to the local economy, and contributed more than $33,000 of revenue to its partners from its two-and-a-half hour tours last year, even during the pandemic. That does not include what guests spend before and after their ride, while visiting NOTL, Saganski said.
“Pedal Pub NOTL closing will have a ripple effect that will impact the NOTL economy,” she said.
The company has addressed all the concerns mentioned to them by the town, she said, offering to continue working on any other issues that might come up.
When the discussion resurfaced Monday, Coun. Allan Bisback said he was not aware of any recent complaints or issues, and would not support banning the operation.
“I think it’s a punitive bylaw, directed at one operation, and I don’t think it’s fair,” he explained.
Coun. Norm Arsenault was also not in favour of prohibiting the operation, saying it has been in business since 2019, and although there were initially safety and noise concerns, “they’ve dealt with those successfully. I don’t see it as being any less safe than other businesses, including the caleche.”
The Pedal Pub is also a way to attract younger visitors, one of the town’s goals, he added.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero said she supports the operation, but referred to its original goal of offering winery tours, which, with recent changes in routes, has changed. It now focuses on Queen Street businesses instead, she said, suggesting town staff work out an agreement with Pedal Pub that will get them off the busy streets and back to their original goal, visiting wineries.
When travelling on Mississagua Street, Disero said, the pedal pubs create a iine-up of cars trying to go around them. “That’s an issue,” she added, as are the U-turns it does on Queen Street.
Instead of passing the bylaw, she offered a motion to refer the whole matter to staff to look at a winery route, away from congested areas.
“That’s what they really wanted to do when they came here two years ago,” she said. “Let’s help them to do what they wanted to do originally.”
Coun. Clare Cameron was hoping to do something even more positive for the Pedal Pub tours at Monday’s meeting, giving them a more certain future in town.
“It does not seem fair to craft legislation with regards to one business that has shown flexibility,” she said, noting the contrast between a “near-silent” vehicle powered by humans and the hundreds of motorized vehicles “buzzing around town.”
She said she couldn’t agree with a referral back to staff, which only delays a final solution, and that she felt uncomfortable with being punitive towards this particular company.
“It’s not illegal to have fun, and heaven forbid someone enjoys themselves listening to music in this community,” she added. “We pride ourselves on arts and culture, but only when it supports some tastes.”
Cameron suggested councillors “put our big boy and big girl pants on, and give this business a final answer tonight.”
Coun. Gary Burroughs continued his support of the ban, “regardless of the blasts from social media” he’s received.
“I don’t think once we’re back to thousands of people coming to town that it’s going to be an appropriate operation,” he said.
The motion by Disero to allow staff to work out an agreement with the operation over new routes met with approval by the majority of councillors, allowing Pedal Pub to continue to operate in the meantime.