Print Edition: September 17, 2014
A recent article in the Province informed us of the frequent collisions occurring between pedestrians and cyclists. While the article was quite informative, it reminded me of the responsibility we all share when navigating through city streets.
From my perspective, it is always the cyclists who seem to get the blame. Animosity toward them is nothing new, specifically from motorists. As a greater number of people choose to bike as a means of commuting, the number of collisions involving cyclists will inevitably rise. While we are most often talking about collisions that occur between cyclists and motorists, collisions with other cyclists can happen — and even accidents with pedestrians can result in severe consequences. Whether we choose to drive, bike, or walk, we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and look out for one another.
Cycling, as a means of commuting, is nothing new. However, municipal transportation plans that keep cycling in mind are quite novel — at least in car-centric North America. Vancouver introduced the first of its separated bike lanes in 2010. Other municipalities in the Fraser Valley have also introduced dedicated bike lanes to encourage biking. The benefits of cycling are too numerous to ignore: it is efficient, economical, sustainable, and incredibly beneficial to your health. As the pressure mounts for communities to be more sustainable, municipalities will adopt policies that encourage people to leave their cars at home. There will no doubt be growing pains.
One thing that might often be overlooked is the number of people that choose to walk. According to Statistics Canada in their 2011 National Household Survey, every municipality had more people who chose to walk instead of bike as a means of commuting. In Vancouver, 6.3 per cent of people commute by walking as opposed to biking, which sat at 1.8 per cent as of 2011. But this is precisely why more infrastructure is needed for cyclists.
Like any other activity, there is a learning curve and biking is no exception. Learning how to navigate your bike through traffic takes a little adjusting and some courage. With cars whipping by at over 70 km/hr, it is understandable why we might see some cyclists opt to ride on the sidewalks. Some of the traffic conditions discourage people from cycling at all.
There are often complaints that it’s the cyclists who break the rules of the road, but the same can be said of motorists and pedestrians. I see cars running red lights in Abbotsford almost weekly, and pedestrians routinely jaywalk, but police rarely make effort to enforce those rules. They can’t possibly hand out a ticket for every single infraction that actually happens.
Reducing the number of collisions will ultimately come through education, and that should start as soon as elementary school. Pedestrians need to remember to look both ways before crossing a street.
As new sustainability transportation initiatives play out, it is only a matter of time before we all adjust, but the city and its streets are for everyone — regardless of how we choose to get around. We all have a responsibility to look out for one another; perhaps that is something we need to remind ourselves of.