Bike Me, Ottawa!

So it’s Bike to Work Week   in Ottaburbia – a pretty low key event since there’s really no way to persuade 800,000 suburbanites to strap on a helmet and pedal 25, 35 or 45  kilometers down the highway to work every day.

Oh ya, we boast 170 kilometers of bike paths, but they’re mostly along the river and canal; which is great if you happen to live and work along the river and/or canal. Otherwise, you can ride your bike in traffic, or once in a while, you might be lucky enough to find a painted white line along the side of the road in between which you can ride …..  if there isn’t a vehicle parked there and if there isn’t a vehicle wanting to use the lane as a turning lane and if there isn’t a bus pulling in to a stop in that lane.

Some cities have bike lanes that focus on a safe, connected route system with an emphasis on segregated lanes instead of a few white lines.  (Ottawa meanwhile is still pondering , debating and trying to wrap their collective heads around this wacky-cuckoo science fiction idea of segregated bike lanes)

 Some cities have a bike share  initiatives that integrate with the city’s overall transit system so suburbanites can take a bus or subway close to the city, then hop on a bike to take them the rest of the way to work. (Ottawa did dip their feet into this idea a couple of years ago and think that they might probably go ahead with a regular bike share service sometime in the near future because they reckon it will save them money on road infrastructure)

Take Your Bike to Work festivities in other parts of the country include parades,   banquets, receptions, half-day “streetwise” biking courses, games and prizes and all sorts of other incentives and good stuff.

In Ottawa, we’ve sent the police out in full force this week to increase their efforts in ticketing and fining cyclists for not obeying cycling rules. This is their way of “reinforcing bicycle safety” during this special week.[1]

Of course, as a pedestrian, I definitely appreciate that the someone is finally trying to poke some common sense into those cyclists who seem believe their helmets give them special powers that not only allow them to run into people without any harmful side-effects, but also allow cars to run into them without any harmful side-effects. Cyclists like Caroline Gosselin, who was whining on the front page of Metro yesterday because she got fined $35 for riding her bike on the sidewalk and not having a bell – both of which are illegal under the city’s cycling bylaw.

Hello Caroline! You had a very kind police officer there because you should have been fined a hell of a lot more.  You’re breaking my heart, you really are, when you say you “don’t feel comfortable” riding on the busy street. Well, honey, I don’t feel comfortable walking on a sidewalk dodging bicycle traffic — which I have to do every bloody morning on my way to work.

The sidewalk cyclists I encounter don’t slow even down for pedestrians. They don’t move over. They don’t ring their bells when they zip by me from behind. They even have the nerve to curse me out for not getting out of their way!

 It’s bad enough that there aren’t enough sidewalks to begin with. It’s bad enough that sidewalks just suddenly end,  forcing pedestrians to cross busy roads without an intersection to go walk on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. We shouldn’t have to share these limited, narrow walkways with bone-headed cyclists.

But bicycles don’t belong on the streets, competing with vehicular traffic, either.

Maybe The City could stop planning so much of their infrastructure (ahem…Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association who wants to expand another 2200 hectares outside of the urbs) around the automobile and focus more on finding creative ways to move people around this city that are safer and more environmentally friendly. And finding and implementing them a lot more quickly than they have been. Why are we always so far behind everybody else with this stuff, anyway?

Meanwhile pedestrians, cyclists and drivers of all other vehicles need to follow the damn rules so that we stop maiming and killing each other and ourselves.

[1] Yes, I do know there are a few other Bike Week events going on in Ottawa aside from the ticketing and fining initiative.