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-   -   A response to Ban Winter Cycling advocates (https://www.bikeforums.net/advocacy-safety/502562-response-ban-winter-cycling-advocates.html)

EnigManiac 01-15-09 05:40 PM

A response to Ban Winter Cycling advocates
 
Submitted to my local paper in the editorial and opinion section, 'Ideas.'

A Vicious Cycle

It's winter time and as sure as there is snow and cold there are various columnists and editorialists across North America all calling for the banning of bicycles on roads during the winter. One of the many things these allegedly unbiased writers have in common is that they view the world through a rose-coloured windshield, in spite of the fact that some claim to be 'recreational cyclists,' which, of course, is another way of saying 'I have a bicycle hanging in my garage that I take out and ride every so often, maybe to the store, maybe just through the park because the roads are too dangerous or maybe just with the little kids when they're riding their tricycles or two-wheelers with training wheels.' They're not bicycling commuters and really have very little, if any, credibility when it comes to calling for a ban on winter cycling. This much is obvious simply because any cyclist who commutes in the winter would never write what these newspersons have written.

Many of these columnists and editorialists try to reinforce their argument with facts and figures, but they fail, because there are none. So, they resort to playing on sentiments, claiming that they are concerned for the safety of cyclists whom they claim will, without a doubt, invariably fall and perhaps be struck or run over by a motor vehicle. Clearly, these writers have never ridden a bicycle in the winter. The fact is, very few cyclists fall during the winter. Most are using winter bicycle tires and ride at appropriate speeds for road and weather conditions and, if one were to fall and be struck by a motor vehicle, it would be the fault of the motorist, not the cyclist: the motorist would have to have failed to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front and failed to operate their vehicle at a safe speed for the road, traffic and weather conditions. Rather than punish those who do not know how to or choose not to drive safely or conservatively, they call for the banning of the victim. That's like saying when a bully strikes kids at school, they suspend all the kids who were hit and leave the bully in class. These newspersons are not concerned with the safety of cyclists nor anyone else, for that matter: when they call for the banning of cyclists what they are really saying is 'I am unable to control my vehicle as well as I can in the summer, but don't want to slow down, respect others space or the road conditions as I selfishly try to get where I'm going and these damn bicycles make me have to ease off my gas pedal or change lanes.' They prove by their very arrogance, by their assumption that they have the natural right to drive on the road anytime they want, whatever the conditions, that they are the danger on the road, not cyclists.

One curious argument these newspersons frequently use is that motorists pay for the roads and cyclists are freeloaders. Unfortunately, they're dead wrong. Gas taxes do not pay for municipal roads, though the city would love it if they contributed, but they do go towards the highway systems that cyclists rarely use or are prohibited from. Municipal taxes pay for local roads and every adult cyclist directly or indirectly pays for their use of the roads. And yet, they don't even have a reasonable expectation of access to many roads that they pay for.

The road is public space: it is not the sole property of motor vehicle users. In fact, if anything, motorists are guests upon public space as pedestrians and cyclists have natural right to the road, but motorists and their vehicles require training and licensing to be allowed the privelege to operate on the public space. The police and our courts should adopt a similar attitude toward motorists and regularly revoke the privelege for violating the agreement between host and guest. After all, if a guest in my home begins to behave carelessly or recklessly and damages my property or threatens not only my peace and tranquility but my safety and very life too, I have that guest removed immediately and will likely bar that person from ever entering my home again. We need to look at the roads the same way. The city is our home and those that would endanger us in our home should no longer be allowed the opportunity or means to do so.

If we want to discuss safety, let's consider safety. Watch the news when we have a storm and just marvel at the number of collisions that occur on our roads, the video-coverage and newspaper photos of jack-knifed tractor-trailors, spun-out SUV's, pickups and sedans, the multi-vehicle fender-benders and serious crashes. Hundreds upon hunderds every time. Even today, when there was no snow, just extreme cold, there were hundreds of accidents involving those who failed to recognize the dangerous conditions that exist during -20 temperatures. And while most collisions---for they are never accidents, merely miscalculations, misjudgements and driver error---are minor in nature, the amount of property damage and inconvenience caused costs the city and industry millions in lost productivity and unearned salaries. There are usually a few serious injuries as well and always a few deaths. On the other hand, while the number of cyclists are dramatically reduced during the winter, they have never caused minor or major injuries to others, in spite of the assertions of some of these alleged respected newspersons, nor inflicted millions in property damage and damaged infrastructure like downed utility poles and crumpled guard-rails nor have they tied up traffic for hours on end. While I, personally, subscribe to the notion that if it is too nasty to ride, it is too nasty to drive, it seems to me that the logical and rational response to winter safety is to ban cars from our roads during bad weather, at least in downtown urban centres where there is usually adequate public transit and let those who do not injur and kill get to work without the risk of being struck...even after the unlikely event of falling from their bike. It's indisputable that it is much more dangerous to be in a car during the winter than on a bike.

And, in case anyone's interested: I am 46 and have been driving a car for 30 years as well as riding a bicycle for 40 years. During the past 10 years, I have decreased my driving voluntarily from an average of 2.5 hours per day to about 10 hours per year. I do not drive during the winter unless absolutely necessary, although I did so for more than 20 years, and rely solely upon bicycle, public transportation and taxi's when necessary. I believe a car is only one choice, not the only choice for my transportation needs. Now, that is a balanced view, my friends.

degnaw 01-15-09 06:03 PM

It was good up to the last two paragraphs...then you basically lost all the credibility you got from the first part. Ban cars during bad weather? There goes 70% of your support base. Do you really expect all the drivers who use remote starters and stuff to willingly give up their cars to take a stroll in the middle of a blizzard?

More dangerous to be in a car than on a bike? There goes your credibility. Bicycling in its own sense may be safer, but in traffic, you'd be way more likely to survive a crash with 3000lbs of metal protecting you. The fact that cars cause the injury and harm does not change the fact that injury and harm occurs.

I agree with your statements (except the 'safer to bike' thing), but trying to convince the general, driving public that its better not to drive in a storm is basically talking to a wall.

jefferee 01-15-09 06:06 PM

Dead on. Of course, since the convenience of motorists is more important than the safety of vulnerable road users, you're not likely to get anywhere.


Nonetheless, update us if you get published.

EnigManiac 01-15-09 06:50 PM


Originally Posted by degnaw (Post 8189302)
It was good up to the last two paragraphs...then you basically lost all the credibility you got from the first part. Ban cars during bad weather? There goes 70% of your support base. Do you really expect all the drivers who use remote starters and stuff to willingly give up their cars to take a stroll in the middle of a blizzard?

More dangerous to be in a car than on a bike? There goes your credibility. Bicycling in its own sense may be safer, but in traffic, you'd be way more likely to survive a crash with 3000lbs of metal protecting you. The fact that cars cause the injury and harm does not change the fact that injury and harm occurs.

I agree with your statements (except the 'safer to bike' thing), but trying to convince the general, driving public that its better not to drive in a storm is basically talking to a wall.

I'm not sure how my credibility is compromised by suggesting the same thing these alleged journalists suggest. It certainly makes more sense to ban cars---for they are the problem---and recommend public transit use than to operate a motor vehicle that has a much higher probability of being in a collision than a bus, subway or bicycle. I've asserted why I believe that to be true. I also doubt any car driver represents 70% of my support-base. Certainly, 95% would be vehemently opposed to such a ban. The crux of the story is to not just refute the ridiculous and unsubstantiated positions of these 'journalists,' but also to propose the exact opposite of what they champion.

While a car does afford a measure of protection, statistically, it is much more dangerous to be in a car that almost certainly will exceed the safe tolerances of speed in icy, black-ice and snowy conditions at some point or at all points throughout the trip. Therefore, it remains indisputable that it is more dangerous to be in a car in bad weather than on a bike. Granted, if we had significant numbers of winter cyclists to compare against, this might not be the case, but we would only be surmising how many would be involved in collisions or spills at this stage. Of the number of cyclists who do ride year-round, regardless of the weather, Toronto records almost no collisions and no injuries. 100% of 300 (I'm guessing) cyclists not involved in accidents or injury is still better than 2% of 1 million motorists, after all.

Roody 01-15-09 07:57 PM

The letter is quite well written.

I wonder who made the anti-cycling statements that you're responding to. Was there an article in this paper, or are you referring generally to people who believe that winter cycling should be banned?

Ajenkins 01-15-09 08:27 PM

:thumb:

Nicely done. Well-reasoned, well-researched, impassioned without being offputting.

crhilton 01-15-09 09:38 PM

I couldn't read more than two sentences. This article has an incredibly biased and offensive (as in, "on the offense") tone. Maybe you have a problem with local writers asking to ban winter cycling but I don't see it as a problem around here. And I wouldn't start off by attacking their credibility based on their mode of transit.

jakub.ner 01-15-09 09:57 PM

Thanks for doing this Enig.

From some discussions I had it seems most people only relate to their summer bicycles and don't fathom that winter riders use different kit.

crackerdog 01-15-09 10:28 PM

Here in our NW town, the city streets were platted and reserved for public right of way before cars were even invented so obviously, cars are late comers to the right of way and should take back seat.

jefferee 01-16-09 10:35 AM


Originally Posted by Roody (Post 8189927)
The letter is quite well written.

I wonder who made the anti-cycling statements that you're responding to. Was there an article in this paper, or are you referring generally to people who believe that winter cycling should be banned?

Here in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, the local paper has averaged about one 'ban winter cycling' letter to the editor per week so far this winter. This is in addition to an anti-winter cycling opinion piece from the local transportation columnist.

It all started when a local police officer was quoted in a December article as saying that cycling "in conditions like these, it's just silly". The article was a report on a cyclist who was fatally struck from behind on a clear, straight, dry stretch of highway (there was freezing rain later in the day), and the officer was apparently on the scene. The victim was hit shortly before sunrise, and had lights and a reflective vest. As far as I'm aware, the driver was never charged.:mad:

(Regional police did subsequently issue an apology for the officer's statement, at least).

genec 01-16-09 12:30 PM


Originally Posted by jefferee (Post 8192871)
Here in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, the local paper has averaged about one 'ban winter cycling' letter to the editor per week so far this winter. This is in addition to an anti-winter cycling opinion piece from the local transportation columnist.

It all started when a local police officer was quoted in a December article as saying that cycling "in conditions like these, it's just silly". The article was a report on a cyclist who was fatally struck from behind on a clear, straight, dry stretch of highway (there was freezing rain later in the day), and the officer was apparently on the scene. The victim was hit shortly before sunrise, and had lights and a reflective vest. As far as I'm aware, the driver was never charged.:mad:

(Regional police did subsequently issue an apology for the officer's statement, at least).

But did they ever even ticket the motorist... who likely would have been ticketed if he had rear ended a car.

jefferee 01-16-09 12:37 PM


Originally Posted by genec (Post 8193669)
But did they ever even ticket the motorist... who likely would have been ticketed if he had rear ended a car.

If tickets were issued, they were never reported by police. The driver's name was never reported either.

And since the only available witness to the crash was the driver...

EnigManiac 01-16-09 09:22 PM


Originally Posted by Roody (Post 8189927)
The letter is quite well written.

I wonder who made the anti-cycling statements that you're responding to. Was there an article in this paper, or are you referring generally to people who believe that winter cycling should be banned?

There were a few columns I read---one was a thread in these forums a month or so ago (from Kitchener On., I believe, as noted above)---over the past year. My editorial was simply a general reply to both the columnists and their adherents, rather than a specific article---they all really just repeat the same subjective arguments anyway.

Thank you all for the words of praise and criticism. Both are well received. :)

Sixty Fiver 01-16-09 09:27 PM

It's pretty simple.

They can have my bike when they pry it from my frozen dead hands.

jakub.ner 01-17-09 09:17 AM

Kitchener/Waterloo? Oh snap that's too close to home. Keep pushing back!

I find drivers just do not understand we have better grip than they do. Sure in deep snow on small streets I will fishtail etc, but so do they! On ice it's no contest, I win on my bicycle with studded tires.

I would venture to say, however, that in Ontario studded bicycle tires should be required by law. Just like winter tires are required in Quebec for automobiles (soon in Ontario?). I realize it is a higher cost of entry into winter cycling, but anyone who argues should go to their local park with an ice rink and try bike setups with and without :).

I don't know about you guys and gals but I find winter to be the grand equalizer on a morning commute after a snow storm. Cars are just littering the streets in their slow chug while I blow around them.

randya 01-17-09 12:25 PM

:thumb:

:beer:

rajman 01-17-09 04:51 PM

+10^6

I look forward to seeing your letter in print :)

Bob T 01-17-09 05:16 PM


Originally Posted by rajman (Post 8200051)
+10^6

I look forward to seeing your letter in print :)

The comment section (if any) should be an interesting read.....

Please post the link when available.

Pat 01-18-09 09:36 AM

Isn't this whole thing a "slippery slope"?

The notion of banning cycling in winter is "for the safety of the cyclists". Shoot, all too many drivers I have seen could care about the safety of cyclists. They pass far too close. Often they pass far too close when they are on a completely open road with no traffic. It is obviously a matter of intimidation. Many motorists seem to see cyclists as an impediment to their unrestrained use of the road. They want cyclists off of the roads. I would think that if a ban on cyclists during the winter goes through other bans would follow. There would be a ban on cyclists at night. It is "too dangerous". There would be a ban on cyclists on "busy roads" as "too dangerous". There would be a ban on cyclists during the rain as "too dangerous". There would be a ban on cyclists during peak driving hours as "too dangerous". I think it would end up to a complete ban on cyclists on the road.

AndrewP 01-18-09 07:49 PM

The laws regulating vehicles on roads are the Provincial responsibility, check with a lawyer if municipal byelaws can over-ride these regulatiions. My town tried to ban large truck from one if its streets, but were told that this was not possible because it was a numbered provincial highway.

randya 01-18-09 11:24 PM

too long for a letter to the editor, though it might get published as an op-ed piece if you have any 'relevant credentials'

EnigManiac 01-19-09 10:32 AM


Originally Posted by randya (Post 8206640)
too long for a letter to the editor, though it might get published as an op-ed piece if you have any 'relevant credentials'

It was submitted as an op-ed piece. I ahve been published once before in the same paper.


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