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.

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33 responses to “Bike Me, Ottawa!

  1. I can’t help but wonder if cyclists, pedestrians and automobiles will ever managed to find a way to coexist. I’ve bitched as a pedestrian against cars and bikes; I’ve bitched as a driver at cyclists and pedestrians; and I’ve bitched as a cyclist, the few times I’ve dared venture out.

    The problem is, idiots abound in all three areas.

  2. I love cyclists. I am currently sporting the scab on my left arm of a cyclist who for some reason felt it was a lot safer to ride the sidewalk then the nearly deserted roadway. And he had the temerity to call me an asshole afterwards. I did the logical and even tempered thing of course. I threw his bicycle into the old Welland canal.
    The recent foofraw in Toronto over the death of that demented cycle messenger should have been a warning that although you have a “right” to the road you have to exercise at least some common sense. Don’t try to tangle with 2 tons of steel and plastic.
    Our society doesn’t encourage bicycling as a viable transport method because we aren’t Europe. Our distances are greater then europe as well as the design of our cities just can’t conform. A place like Ottawa may but think about Toronto and the geography. Everything HAS to move down towards the lake. The great cities and boulevards of Europe are very central hubs while on a grander scale in North America we have ribbons of population with relatively huge distances in between.
    Our cities are a reflection of the country as a whole.

  3. Jazz is right – there are idiots in all areas of transportation. What gets me more “mileage” is respect. If I show everybody I have respect for them, I am far more likely to get it in return. Of course, there are exceptions but let’s not dwell on those. I show respect while I am cycling by being visible, using lights at night, signaling, stopping properly, smiling at people, whether drivers or pedestrians, ringing my bell when I come up behind people on shared use paths. Similarly, I show respect when I am driving or walking. It’s only a catch-22 if you wait for the other person to show respect first. Just do it, and you’ll be rewarded most of the time.

    As for bone headed cyclists on sidewalks, when I see one approaching, I stop walking and stand there, making sure they see me by making eye contact and then I refuse to move (unless they are obviously going to run into me). I have a nice day dream where I stiff-arm them off the sidewalk as they ride by but I have yet to do that. And yes, I know that would be assault, which is why I only day dream about it.

    Peter was stopped by a “bike to work” volunteer near the Gallery, as he arrived at work on his bike and he said, “sorry but I bike to work every day so this isn’t anything special for me”. He is lucky and can bike on a shared path all the way from Centrepointe, down to the Ottawa river and along it, to the Gallery. It takes about 17 kms each way. It would be a bit shorter if he took streets but not as pleasant.

  4. You scooped me 🙂
    I am actually participating in and writing about Bike to Work Week. I will try to add a few other points from the cyclist’s perspective, though as usual you have done a very thorough post.

  5. Jazz – The problem is that our cities were built around the automobile, unlike European cities that were build around pedestrians. I think that’s the crux of the problem and I don’t think we’re going to be able to solve that given how our suburban infrastructure.

    Lebanowski – Very true. I love how it all works in Europe. You have to keep your wits about you at all times, but there’s a very well-structured harmony about the roads, sidewalks, bike paths, etc. that makes it all work. In North America, it was car companies, literally, that built the suburban infrastructure, so it will be very difficult to reverse that. I believe it’s James Howard Kunstler who says that eventually the suburbs will have to become small towns in their own right where people will work, go to school, recreate, shop, etc. because we can’t sustain these suburbs forever given their car dependency. At the same time our cities will have to incorporate a lot more residential space. I was astonished at how many condos and apartments have been developed in downtown Toronto in the last few years. It’s good to see. It keeps people in the downtown core 24 hours – 7 days a week. They don’t all disappear after 5 pm like they used to.

    Julia – I had my big umbrella out this morning and walked down the middle of the sidewalk (moving for other pedestrians, of course). Cyclists were forced to stop and push their bikes into the grass off the sidewalk until I went by because I pretended not to see them – what with my umbrella covering my head and all. Is that what you mean by “respect”?

    Finola – I’m sure whatever you write is going to be a bit kinder to Bike Week!! Since you were very enthusiastic about the idea last week. But if not, that’s okay too. I look forward to seeing what you have to say from a cyclist’s perspective.

  6. I’ve actually thought about riding my bike to work. It would be about 9-10 km, so not terribly far.

    Problem is, I’m coming from Barrhaven and eventually cycling along Merivale Rd – and that road is a disaster on a good day.

    Not to mention that by the time I get here I’d be a mess. Being all sweaty and gross kinda turns the customers off when they come in for financial stuff…

  7. I suppose you think that a big umbrella gives you special powers over cyclists.
    Julia however got it right. Show some respect to whoever you meet and 99% of the time the respect will be returned. Europeans treat cyclists with respect because they know and have known for decades that adults use the bikes for transportation. Canadians still enlarge feel that cycling is sport or play and that therefore they, in their car doing serious stuff should have the right of way. Did you also notice in Toronto the thousands of bikes and cyclists out and about the streets. As the cost of automobiling continue to rise the number of cyclists will too and that is what is going to inevitably change the sense of respect required.

  8. Dave, Europeans also treat cyclists with respect because the laws there puts the fault automatically on the motorist in a motorist-cyclist collision. They also have decent rules-of-the-road cycling education in schools.

    In Canada (Ottawa, Ontario, at least), it’s hard enough to get car drivers to take a course, even for their license. Then whatever they didn’t forget, they didn’t learn, or it didn’t exist when they started driving (e.g. how many people have been driving for a few decades, and learned to drive before there were bike lanes like we see them today?)

    – RG>

  9. @Real Grouchy, I keep saying, and one day someone will listen, that it should be a lot more difficult to get a driver’s licence. People don’t even know how to steer properly and that, along with knowing when to brake, is about the only thing drivers these days have to know how to do in a car. In the olden days when I learned to drive (goshdarnit and get off my lawn!), we had standard steering (also called “Armstrong”), no power brakes and manual transmissions. Well, okay, that 1975 Vega I learned to drive on was like that. All jocularity aside, Ontario should make it harder to get and keep a driver’s licence. Driving is not a right.

  10. Well, I have to confess to occasionally making use of the sidewalks while biking. Only when there are very few pedestrians on it though. And only when the alternative is worse than breaking the law….like getting maimed or killed in chaotic traffic, for instance. As a pedestrian, I don’t like bikes on the road, but as a biker I can certainly understand why it happens.

  11. My Mom’s been an avid cyclist for 20 years. She puts 10,000 km a year on her bike.

    Though during that time, she’s had numerous close calls. And not just with other vehicles.

    But also accidents on her own.

    I’ve lost count of the time she’s had road rash, serious brusies, or how many helmets she’s cracked.

    Not to mention last year, where she touched wheels with another cyclist and went over the handlebars. And spent the next three months in the hospital recovering.

    Cycling is environmentally friendly…sure.

    But in terms of being safe…I dunno.

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

    Excuse me? Under Ontario law, bikes are vehicles and yes they do belong with other vehicular traffic. Any able-bodied person can learn to bike in traffic. I bike 10km to work, and 10km back, every workday, 12 months/year. I’m not superman, nor I am a hero – I just educated myself on traffic law, best cycling practices, and looked at real accidents stats (hint: sidewalk cycling is more dangerous than road cycling).

    There are Can-Bike courses offered for beginners in most larger cities. I encourage anyone to take a few classes and lose the, well, loser mindset that being part of traffic is something only “those other guys” can do.

  13. Fining cyclists who blatantly break traffic rules makes senses. But I had ana ccident when a car deliberately ran into me after I tapped on his car when he almost hit me. A broken leg, mangled hand..The attending constable threatened me with a misdemeanour charge…The diagram was wrong, including the car being in the inside not passing lane, a second one had him “avoiding” a car, the cross street was wrong, and the witness was not contacted for 3 weeks on thelame excuse that they could not reach him. I got his number and contatced him each time i called.

    efforts to meet with the Police and go over this were met with verbal abuse and threatts of a misdemeanour charge.
    So fines, not too impressive as i see it based on my experience. Bikes are considered like toys and cyclists are not taken seriously.

  14. Ken – Well, some work places have showers (yes, I know, outlandish) where you could clean up after your ride in. Of course that wouldn’t help you if you were road kill.

    Dave1949 – I treat things on the road with great respect. I don’t respect people trying to mow me down on the sidewalk though. Also, I think you’re being overly optimistic if you think people are going to give up their cars in favour of bikes just because prices are rising.

    Grouchy – Very true. I read a blog today where the woman asks how she was supposed to know she couldn’t ride her bike on the sidewalk. See what happens when you ban Elmer? But seriously, why do people think it’s okay to just hop on a bike and start riding without knowing what their rights and obligations are? Would you drive a car without knowing the rules?

    Julia – Yay! Vote for Julia!! It should be much harder to get a license and much, much harder to keep it.

    Zoom – I can understand it too, but even if there are “only a few” pedestrians on the sidewalk you’re asking for trouble. Pedestrians don’t walk calmly in a straight line all the time –sometimes they stop suddenly or veer off sharply to avoid stepping in something or flail out with their arms for unknown reasons. If you’re riding behind them you could find yourself in an accident before you know it. So, although you probably won’t get as hurt running into a pedestrian as you would if a car ran into you, it’s still not safe. We need segregated bike lanes.

    Friar – It’s way too scary for me. A gentle ride around the neighbourhood maybe, but even the river paths are fraught with dangers – crazy pedestrians, speed cyclists, rodents and other critters. I’ll just walk, thanks. And that’s only safer if you keep your wits about you at all times and don’t get plowed into by cyclists and cars and the proverbial bus. Your mom’s a tough old bird to keep getting back on that bike though.

    Pat – I know they legally belong on the road and absolutely people should educate themselves on safe biking practices, but there are still those motorists to contend with who don’t give a crap about bikes and/or don’t see them and cut them off or sideswipe them. It happens all the time, even to the best, most experienced cyclists. With that statement, I was advocating for segregated bike lanes – to keep motorists away from cyclists and cyclists away from pedestrians. It works really well in cities that have them.

    Mike – Very true. Someone else mentioned this earlier – we don’t regard them as a valid method of transportation – just as a menace on the roads. Just look at how up in arms everyone is because there’s a suggestion of trying out a segregated bike lane in one small section of the city. What a waste of good car-driving space!! Cyclists will interfere with shoppers! All sorts of crap like that.

  15. I have to comment on all this drivel about how extremely dangerous cycling is. The fact is that there are thousands of cyclists who every single day take their lives in their hands and do battle against the evil hordes of motorists. The huge majority of them do this every day without ear misses, injury or death just like most people go about their normal lives without being mugged, shot or stabbed each time they leave their house.
    There are some people who are fearful of going out after dark and there are some people who are afraid of the interactions that occur ever single day between the vast majority of cyclists and the drivers who navigate right beside them.
    To those who are fearful of cycling but want to do it because it is fun, economical, and much more efficient than walking I suggest as others have here that you get some experience and training so you can do it safely like most of us do every day. To those who are fearful to the extent that you don’t want to cycle except on a segregated path, by all means limit yourself to that but understand that it is your phobia holding you back not the reality of cycling dangers.

    XUP lauds the bike paths in Europe and certainly where they are well laid out they work just fine, when poorly planned they are worse than useless. Don’t forget that people have been cycling safely all over the world for over 100 years and the advent of bike paths is a fairly recent phenomenon. Don’t forget also that in practically every place bike paths have been introduced it is to make it easier for cars not to make it safer for bikes.

  16. Dave1949 – I don’t know where you’re getting your statistics from, but Statistics Canada says that in 2007, 263 cyclists were killed in road accidents in Canada. Anther 7,500 suffered serious injuries and another 70,000 were taken to emergency rooms for injuries sustained in cycling accidents.

    In the US, 698 cyclists died and some 500,000 were involved in accidents involving injuries.

    Death and injury rates in Europe are substantially lower. Cyclists in North America are twice as likely to be killed and eight times more likely to be seriously injured than cyclists in Germany and three times as likely to be killed and 30 times as likely to suffer serious injuries than cyclists in the Netherlands. It’s safer in Europe because there are fewer cars; because there are many, many more bicycles; because there are designated areas for bicycles to travel; because motorists are better trained to be aware of cyclists; and cyclists know the how to ride safely.

    Sure people have been cycling for over a hundred years, but for most of that time there were very few motor vehicles. When you’re feeling up to it you should come and cycle around Ottawa for a few days. Odds are you will survive unscathed, but I bet it won’t be a lot of fun.

  17. Well having cycled in Toronto, Vancouver, Hamilton, Buffalo, Baltimore, Across most of Canada and most places in the golden Horseshoe I doubt that Ottawa would terrify me much. Yes there are lots of people hurt and certainly more here than in Europe by % all I’m trying to point out is that the number of people hurt here is a tiny percentage of the number of people cycling. As I said some people think they’ll be mugged if they venture outside and some people think they’ll be hurt cycling. Both groups greatly exaggerate the actual danger.

  18. Lol… Jaz –> “The problem is, idiots abound in all three areas.” Yep.

    As a pedestrian, I have enough of a beef with OTHER pedestrians. Those who walk rows of 2 and 3 towards you and practically run you off the edge. I’ve smacked shoulders with many, simply because I hold my ground.

    As for cycling, here in Vancouver we have tonnes of bike lanes and paths and still I’m not comfortable riding in traffic. I had a *really* close call with an 18-wheeler; my handle bars came within inches of it’s wheel. To this day I have no recollection of how I managed to stay in control and not swerve away… hitting the curb and probably bouncing back under the truck — yikes!

    I had to ride to work during a transit strike once. After that? I moved and was able to walk to work. 🙂 I don’t trust anybody on the street.

  19. I was going to say something about it being a generally no win situation for anyone and then I saw that Jazz started that and the thought continued down the list of commenters. I wonder about that sometimes: how there seem to be so many no win situations.

  20. @XUP,

    Look at your statistics – almost 10 times as many people in the USA as in Canada, yet not 10 times as many fatalities or injuries for cyclists.

    Maybe Canadian cyclists should carry handguns or something… you know, to scare off the bad drivers 🙂

    (Or, maybe we just have a lot of cyclists who either suck, or feel they own the road and then have a close encounter with physics.)

    Another Europe vs. Canada (US) thing to keep in mind, which would also apply to a lot of other countries – many (as in, *many*) of the European cars are a lot smaller than the cars we have here.

    Not many behemoth SUV’s (I’m not talking your CR-V, Friar – I’m talking “Canyonero” sized machines).

    If you’re driving a 1.4L car with two seats, you tend to pay more attention to what’s around you I’d say, including bikes.

    If you’re driving the automobile equivalent of a Main Battle Tank, maybe you don’t care – you know, ask someone who does, they’re likely to say that in an accident, “at least they’ll survive because they’re in the bigger vehicle – who cares about the other guy”.

    (I’m talking to you, my sister-in-law.)

    Nice attitude, eh?

    “Yep, my Canyonero is equipped with explosive reactive armour, if it detects an impending collision, it detonates a shaped charge which *destroys* the offending object or pedestrian, and saves my expensive paint job!”

  21. I’ve lived in a couple of different cities where there have been a lot of cyclists – both riding to go to work and for sporting activity. Most of the cyclist are fairly conscientious and seem to know and follow the rules of the road. However, there are some that are just annoying and unsafe. For instance, they want to be treated like a vehicle at some times so that they can drive slowly in the middle of the lane and cause a problem for drivers in cars and then at other times they want to be treated like pedestrians so that they can ride on sidewalks and ride through stop lights. Those are the jerks that give all cyclists a bad name.

    I’m all in favor of separate bike lanes, I think it just makes it safer for everyone involved. Because there *are* idiots in cars, on bikes, and on foot, like Jazz said earlier. Best to just keep them apart.

  22. @XUP

    Yeah…these serious cyclists are NUTS.

    They go in packs, at 30 km/h to draft each other to minimize air resistance. That’s pretty damned fast, when you don’t have a protective metal cage around you, and your wheels are literally inches away from next guy’s.

    (And if you accidentally touch wheels…well, you could go over the handle bars and wake up in the trauma ward).

    And the speeds you can get. I’ve gotten up to 70 km/h, years ago, going down a really big hill. That’s bad enough, I know a cyclist who claimed to have hit 89 km/h.

    And what about all the long long Treks? The OBC has an “Animalathon” that takes place in June. It’s a 15 hour bike ride, from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM. 330 km, from Ottawa to Barry’s Bay, and back again.

    Fun, fun, fun.

    My limit is about 60 km on a bike, for the entire day. After that, it stops being fun, and I use the car.

  23. Dave 1949 – Some people WILL be mugged when they go outside. There were 951 violent crimes in Canada in 2007. So there are a heck of a lot less people injured in muggings than in bicycle accidents. But that’s a bogus comparison anyway because there are only a small percentage of the total population who cycle, so those cycling death and injury figures are not based on the entire population. So I think it’s not a “tiny” percentage of the population who are hurt cycling at all. I think it’s quite significant. This doesn’t even include all the people who were injured, but not seriously enough to go to hospital and make it to the statistics. If you have never been injured riding a bike, then you’re very lucky. I think you may be the only person I know who has never had an accident of some sort on his/her bicycle. Are you going to tell me bikes are just as safe as walking, driving a car, riding a motorcycle. Stats say that cyclists are 70 times more likely to be injured per trip per kilometer traveled than car occupants. And car accidents are the leading cause of death in the country. I think by making cycling sound like just a fun, safe-s-houses thing to do you are undermining all the hard work cycling organizations and advocates are doing to impress upon people the need for bike safety courses and practices and to lobby for more and better segregated cycling paths and to make motorists more aware of the fact that they need to share the roads.

    Davina – Good for you. The streets are a madhouse of incompetence and inconsideration – they really are. I hate that too when pedestrians walk 2 or 3 or even 4 abreast and won’t give way to an approaching pedestrian. That’s just so damn rude.

    Geewits – I don’t think it’s hopeless. I think with a little work on infrastructure, some safety and awareness education for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists things could turn around. The more cyclists get out there the greater visibility they’ll have and motorists will be forced to be more aware of them.

    Brett – I noticed that too about the discrepancy between US and Canadian stats. I’m wondering if it might be that we have more cyclists per capita than the US?? Which further enhances the European statistics since they have way, way more cyclists than we do and yet their death and injury stats are way lower. And yes, they also have fewer cars, smaller cars and don’t drive as much as we do. They’re used to sharing the roads with bikes, scooters and pedestrians. It’s ingrained. The bikes and pedestrians were there long before them. Whereas in North American the car sort of came first – in that streets were built for cars whereas in Europe they were built for foot traffic first

    Kimberly – I think it’s a no-brainer. Sidewalks for pedestrians. Roads for cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles and segregated paths for bicycles and scooters. People still have to be aware of each other and respect each other no matter what mode of transportation though. In cities where they have 3 separate paths there are still intersections that need to be navigated and it would be total chaos if people weren’t following the rules applicable to their particular mode of transportation.

    Friar – Well, every sport and hobby has its extremists. I don’t care what Dave1949 says, cycling is dangerous. Maybe if you’re off-road and toddling around slowing you’re in no danger, but once you start getting into 30kmph speeds and riding in traffic it’s getting pretty risky. And when you start travelling as fast as a car and your protective gear consists of a spandex body suit and a thin fibreglass helmet, well then you’re just crazy. There’s a good reason why motorcyclists wear leathers and those giant helmets — and they still get killed a lot.

  24. “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.”

    Amen sister! Me too! I hate idiot cyclists just as much as I hate idiot drivers. Both put the public unnecessarily at risk!

    Yes, instead of displacing more wild species through urban sprawl lets focus on making our city more efficient travel-wise.:)

  25. I give.I think you’re right but as usual you haven’t gone far enough. Instead of lanes for Cars, Bikes, and pedestrians I think there should be separate lanes for each type of transport. Tractor trailers, Trucks, buses,Suv’s, Cars, Motorcycles over 50cc, Motorcycles under 50cc, Bikes, pedestrians, peds with dogs, peds with strollers, toddlers, crawlers. Then I bet we’d all be safe.

    Of course I’ve had accidents on my bike. I have even bee hit by a car while on my bike. I have also, as have most avid cyclists traveled thousands of incident free miles.

    There are always two fears for us in life. One is the actual danger we face and the other is the perceived danger. All I’m trying to point out is that many people have a perceived danger level regarding cycling that far outstrips the actual danger.

    Oh and just as an aside the paved roads and streets you love so much were in fact not originally built for cars they were paved so as to make cycling safer. After all riding on rutted gravely roads is very very unsafe.

  26. Dave1949 – Hmmm, somehow that capitulation doesn’t ring sincere. I don’t believe that you actually “give” at all.

  27. How many people die from falling down stairs or off of ladders?

    Dave’s right. And a significant amount (of course, not all) of the fatalities/injuries to cyclists are from people who are doing really stupid stuff, like riding at night without lights, going the wrong way, running red lights, etc. So if you ride properly and defensively, your risks of getting into a collision are even lower.

    – RG>

  28. Grouchy – I’m not saying that cycling in and of itself is dangerous, just like walking down the stairs is dangerous. However, walking down the stairs in roller skates or drunk or while a hundred over-active kids are running up the stairs or in the dark or on broken stairs or whatever IS dangerous. Just like riding a bike in a lot of traffic with drivers who pay no attention to you on roads that are rough is dangerous — especially when you’re not an experienced cyclist. Presumably cyclists want as many cyclists out there as possible – strength in numbers and all that. You’re not going to get them out there under the current conditions. What’s wrong with trying to make cycling safer to encourage more people to do it and encourage more people to learn how to cycle safely? What does it serve to just say, “Bah! Only pros like me belong on a bike and if you can’t navigate city traffic and pot holes then you should just stay home.”??????????

  29. That’s not what I’m saying. Here’s the dialogue:

    “I’m afraid to cycle because it looks scary. I tried it once many years ago and it was scary.”

    “Lots has been done to improve cycling safety. It’s a lot safer on the roads than it used to be. Collisions involving cyclists–including non-fatal ones–are getting a lot more press than they ever did before.”

    “But I’m still afraid because when I tried it a few years ago, it made me scared. Look at all the incidents there are!”

    “Yes, but most of those incidents are from people who don’t know what they’re doing. You can learn to ride more safely, and this will not only make you less likely to get in a collision, but it will also make you more confident riding in traffic.”

    People who point to freak cycling collisions and say “look how scary it is to ride a bike” are terrorists, in my mind. Especially ones where the fact they were cycling had little to do with the collision, e.g. the girl riding on the sidewalk on Gatineau who was hit by a drunk motorist (she could have been walking on the sidewalk), or the grandmother who got killed at a bus stop at Lincoln Fields a couple years back (she could have been on a bike).

    Statistics also show that the more cyclists you get out there, the fewer collisions there are per kilometre travelled. Strength in numbers. Playing up the perception of cycling as a dangerous behaviour, and holding parades of death after cyclists get hit, only scares people away from what is generally a safe, healthy, and fun activity.

    – RG>

  30. I have been evading riding my bike to work all spring. (I normally bus.) I am going to take the dive soon.

    Minneapolis just started a bike sharing program this week. The bikes are nice and flashy. I hope it works out well.

  31. I’d also like to say I’m not against bike lanes, painted or curbed, but I have seen places where as soon as they put in a bike lane they start restricting the bikes to those streets that have the lanes and banning them from the others. The end result is less efficient cycling rather than more efficiency.

    I have also seen bike/skate/jogging paths like the one along the Niagara River that force you to dodge poles set up to keep cars off, cross the roadway several times supposedly forcing you to dismount and walk across the road, and disappear exactly at the busiest section of the entire route.
    If well done they can be helpful. If put in as an afterthought they can actually stifle biking instead of helping.

  32. Grouchy – Ya, I tried cycling in Ottawa and it WAS scary. But I agree that the more bikes out there the safer it will be. But I also think motorists need to be slapped around a bit about paying attention to cyclists.

    Missy – I wish you well. Go for it.

    Dave1949 – Okay, that’s just dumb. Same issue with painted bike lanes that just suddenly end in the middle of a 4 lane highway or something. Go big or go home, I say.