BY CALEIGH MCLELLAND
In rush-hour traffic, and without the protection of airbags and seatbelts, cyclists have the dangerous task of making their way to and from work as a “vehicle.”
That is because, under the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario, a bicycle is defined as a “vehicle, with the same rights and responsibilities as a motorist.” Yet with motor vehicle drivers checking their morning emails, especially at a time of day when road rage is at its peak, even the most experienced cyclist is unable to ensure his own safety.
Cyclists, therefore, should be given the option to ride on the sidewalk without penalty if there are no bike lanes available.
Longtime Kitchener triathlete, Steve Whigham, has been hit by two vehicles that turned in front of him.
“Drivers too often are too distracted to be focused on everything around them,” Whigham said. “Their smartphones, cigarettes and coffees keep them very busy.”
While Whigham still prefers to train and ride on the roads due to the speeds he goes, the roads are far too unsafe for cyclists who are less confident riding so close to cars.
According to Paige Desmond’s article in the Waterloo Region Record on Sept. 12, “the number of collisions involving cyclists in Waterloo Region is at a five-year low, down to 104.”
But 104 is still too high a number, especially when many of these collisions could have been prevented.
According to Constable Kulraj Sehra of the Waterloo Regional Police Service, the most common type of accident involving cyclists is space limitation.
“Cyclists have to be doubly aware,” said Sehra, adding that they also need to take the obvious safety precautions such as wearing bright clothing and helmets.
But bright clothing and helmets are not enough, because while there is a law to prevent drivers from talking on the phone, there are no laws to stop road rage and eliminate blind spots.
“I would like wider paved shoulders,” said Whigham. “It would make it safer for us.”
The easy answer to this debate, then, should be just that: create more bike lanes. But, unfortunately, space limitations and cost prevent this from happening.
Therefore, allow cyclists to use sidewalks that have limited foot traffic, and ban them from heavily populated ones. Cyclists would appreciate this, and so would drivers.
The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.