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Writer-s-Bloc

Enforcing cyclist behaviour

This week’s return guest writer, Landon Bradshaw, is a husband, father, programmer, app developer, and a general jack of all trades. He is also the Vice President of the Kelowna Cycling Coalition, and can be found riding around Kelowna regardless of the season, partially because he loves the thrill and health benefits of the outdoors, and partially because he really enjoys shaving his legs.

Enforcing cyclist behaviour

By Landon Bradshaw

Watching the comments grow on the article Cyclist struck, then fined left me awestruck. Starting with the obvious knee-jerk reactions from drivers, to the defensive cyclists, to the couple of readers who had relatable stories - things were definitely entertaining. 

The person on the bike was described as riding against traffic heading westbound. I’m guessing that means he was riding along the sidewalk coming from the Esso station, crossing Spall in the crosswalk. 

The officer said the rider was not wearing a helmet, and the bike did not have any reflectors or lights on it. Pretty safe to say the cyclist got off easy by only getting a single ticket (for where they were riding) and not one for the lack of helmet or the missing lights/reflectors.

Let’s discuss the ‘about time the cyclist gets the ticket’ comments. We can all agree there are cyclists out there who don’t ride by the rules of the road. You’ll see them - or maybe not - riding in dark clothes after the sun has set. They’ll be riding along the sidewalk, and then they’ll scoot along the crosswalk (as in this case). In general, the bicycle will be somewhere a driver would not expect it to be.

I had a chat recently with an RCMP officer, and she told me she issues a ticket to a cyclist once a day on average. A cyclist without a helmet, a cyclist on the sidewalk, she sees them all the time. She also said she never rides her bike because she doesn’t trust the drivers in this city. While she sees plenty of cyclists who make bad choices, she also sees how many people are driving around distracted. Pretty telling when it comes from a person who is there to enforce our laws, eh?

Back to the story comments. It was very apparent that comments split into two camps, with the bike bashers taking the majority. 

Here’s something to think about: When traffic does what you expect, you won’t notice it. It’s the drivers and riders who are doing something unexpected that get your attention, these are the ‘idiots’ you remember. Unless you are counting both types, though, you’ll never know how biased your gut reaction is.

My wife gives me a hard time, because when we’re driving along I’ll complain about drivers and cyclists alike, but I won’t sing the praises of everyone who plays by the rules of the road. It’s human nature to pay attention to something outside the norm, how else does Donald Trump get so much publicity?

Has enforcing the speed limit worked to keep everyone on the road from speeding in a car? I think we can all say there are plenty of people out there speeding down the road. 

Back in 2009 there was a study showing that only about 6.5% of accidents involving bicycles and cars were caused by the cyclist practising bad behaviour (things like wearing dark clothing at night, not having lights, or disobeying stop signs and traffic lights). Primarily, the accidents were caused by drivers failing to look properly.

I think you can draw the obvious conclusion here. With those numbers in mind, who needs the reminder?

Can cyclists do more to keep themselves safe? Yes. Should they ride by the rules of the road? Yes. 

Try this analogy on for size: If you have a gun in your hand, is it everyone else’s responsibility to stay out of the line of fire so they don’t get shot when you accidentally pull the trigger? Or is it your responsibility to make sure that the gun is only used for its proper purpose? When you’re behind the wheel of your car, you have that same power to hurt someone. Keeping that in mind will help you remember that respecting others out there, people who are vulnerable to you, is your responsibility. 

And, so the drivers don’t think I’m just targeting them, I’ll state for the record that anyone who cycles on the sidewalk needs to treat pedestrians with the same respect of being vulnerable.

Enforcement doesn’t help people make the right decisions. That’s the ‘stick’ in this scenario. Let’s use the ‘carrot’ of education to help people understand that the goal of having both cars and bicycles on the road is something that benefits everyone. Remember, too, that it has to be applied evenly across all road users. Cyclists need to learn the rules of the road, but drivers need to learn how to give room when needed, and to look for something smaller and slower moving than another car. 

The police are here to apply the law after something goes wrong, but we’re the ones who need to remember the rules in the first place so that something doesn’t go wrong that requires their attention.

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