I disagree with the insistence on bike lanes and possible road widening but I'm sure there'll be some creative defence of this.
Poor planning puts cyclists at risk
Friday, 11 April 2008
By Kristina Urquhart
April’s showers haven’t yet brought flowers, but they have brought out the cyclists.
Ottawa’s slow-but-steady thaw has encouraged more bikers to hop on their two-wheelers and take to the widened and drier streets.
In some parts of the city, this annual migration is a car driver’s nightmare. It means sharing the road, double-checking blind spots, and often creeping at a snails’ pace behind the cyclists – who, arguably, are just trying to get from point A to B with a bit of exercise, environmental awareness, or financial savvy (perhaps all of the above).
But the cyclists’ also often disregard the rules of the road, whether they’re running red lights, pedaling down the wrong side of the road, riding recklessly or ignoring one-way street signs.
Spring can be hassle-free for a number of drivers. While some roads have paved shoulders or ample lane space to accommodate cyclists on the move, most areas in Centretown do not. Cyclists are left in a no-man’s land between their banishment from the sidewalk and their possibility of jamming traffic when riding in the same lanes as cars.
Bicycles, whether electric or manpowered, are considered vehicles by Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act. So in theory, cars and bicycles, as “vehicles”, should be able to share the road. In reality, it’s a bit tricky.
The act states that “every person in charge of a vehicle on a highway meeting a person traveling on a bicycle shall allow the cyclist sufficient room on the roadway to pass.” But what about when the cars have nowhere to go?
Two-lane Bank Street is hardly a safe place for bicycles to interact with cars, and erratic weaving only complicates the problem. Cyclists just can’t pedal as quickly as a driver can accelerate, and so vehicles often tail so closely that one quick squeeze of the bicycle brakes is a devastating collision waiting to happen.
And let’s face it – drivers aren’t always paying the closest attention. Critical Mass, a worldwide monthly event where cyclists amass and ride in large groups, was originally started to bring awareness to oft-ignored bikers. The affair usually involves cyclists overtaking the road, leaving car drivers powerless to stop them. This behaviour is not safe. It’s not effective. It’s not the long-term solution to a growing problem.
Instead, road planners must review the current blueprint for Ottawa’s roads and seriously consider adding bike-specific lanes to streets. Clearly demarcated lanes where cyclists should drive is a highly effective way of organizing the traffic so bikes and cars aren’t riding in tandem with one another. Everyone shares the road, but there’s no tailgating and no slowing down traffic.
Cycle Ontario Alliance, a bike advocacy group, echoes this sentiment in their recently released Ontario Bike Plan, which consists of a number of recommendations for the province to improve cycling facilities. The report suggests the planning of road infrastructure should include consideration of bicycles as long as the cost allocated for the “provisions” does not exceed 20 per cent of total costs of the project.
So if the province is going to call these two-wheelers “vehicles,” bicycles need to start being treated as such – with proper planning and ultimately a safe place to ride. In return, cyclists need to respect cars and learn the rules of the road.