ECOSPECTIVE: Bike lanes a must for the safety of all


04/28/2008

Daniel O’Neail
April rains bring May flowers, and spring roads bring bicycle traffic.

Well in this case only the second is true. Our April rains were rather sparse according to the condition of my garden, but I did manage to get my bike out on the road; no more buses or carpools, freedom to ride the streets of London with all its perils.

Last week my wife was hit by a car riding her bike to work and suddenly those ‘close calls’ came home to me. While she came home with a broken wrist, some uncomfortable bruises, and a ticket for $110 for riding on the sidewalk, it could have been much worse.

Luckily the car that struck her was turning, so speed was not a factor, but even so the bike was destroyed. Luckily there was no head trauma as she was not wearing a helmet. Luckily she went over the car not under it. Thankfully the driver stopped, and even drove her to the hospital for treatment (if you’re reading this, thank you).

You can see how often I use the word ‘luckily’, because that was all that kept a cast, from being a casket. The lack of helmet is simply the product of excuses – “it will ruin my hair,” or “it’s to hot,” or “I don’t want to have to carry it around,” – that suddenly seem so stupid when the ground is rushing up at you.

But the riding on the sidewalk is a different matter.

The Highway Traffic act states that bikes are vehicles and as such must be ridden on the road. Not a law I agree with. It was brought into effect because of the all-too-real fear of pedestrian/bike collisions, and to protect the pedestrian from injury.

Fine, but I have never been able to find a case of a fatality resulting from a bike striking a pedestrian, while on the other hand we have had several fatal car/bike accidents right here in the city over the last few years.

How does the province justify a law that to protect against injury, endangers lives?

I personally have been struck by cars three times while following the rules of the road. Twice I was hospitalized and only once did the driver stop.

While I don’t like it, bikes are to be on the road, regardless of the road conditions, regardless of the age of the rider, and regardless of the inconsideration of some drivers. With sand and debris piled at the curb and London’s innumerable potholes that seem to bloom and grow faster then the afore-mentioned flowers, a cyclist takes their own safety in hand riding these streets. Throw in a few hundred racing tonnes of metal and it’s your life that’s suddenly at risk.

Almost every person I have spoken to this week seemed shocked that bikes are not allowed on the sidewalks. Not surprising since I believe there is only one page in the driver’s hand book that talks about cyclists, and it is not considered to be as much of a concern as parallel parking.

Times are changing, and we need to adjust our thinking to accommodate bicycle traffic.

If bikes have to be on the road, then bike lanes should be part of the construction of every new road, not an after thought to be added here and there, and drivers should be trained to consider bicycles as vehicular traffic.

Personally, I would prefer that the law change to take the young, elderly and road conditions into account.

In a few weeks we will have to get my wife a new bike, but this time it will come with a helmet, and as the cost of gas continues to rise, I expect you will see more bikes on the road this year then ever before. So please, if you’re riding, wear a helmet and take care. If you’re driving, keep an eye out for the cyclists and respect their rights.

If we all do our part, then the helmet doesn’t have to do its part.

— — — —

Daniel O’Neail is a London political figure, environmentalist, and public speaker. Opinions are those of the author. Contact Daniel by e-mail (see link).

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