Cyclists are fragile and vulnerable road users

Editor, The Record:

Having been too late to successfully submit a letter on the subject, two weeks ago I found myself agreeing heartily with Mr. Muir’s letter asking questions about the painting of bicycles on our roadways and the erection of (no doubt expensive) accompanying roadside signs.

Last week, I read Clint Coffey’s comments with interest. Mr. Coffey makes a series of observations to support his contention that Mr. Muir’s concerns about cyclists’ safety are nonsensical and patronizing.

Just to be clear for Mr. Coffey, I consider myself apolitical but consistently in opposition to any politically motivated actions which make little sense. Mr. Coffey levels the accusation of political motivation at Mr. Muir, however I must say that to me his own letter smacks far more loudly of politics and has much more of a “campaign” feel to it.

Mr. Coffey compares Highway 1 to our suburban and rural roads when addressing the idea of cycle lanes. Frankly, the comparison is a little ridiculous and disingenuous at best. There really is no realistic comparison between a multi-lane highway and our city’s streets, and we might just as well compare cycling accident statistics between the two road types to the same pointless end.

Mr. Coffey states that cyclists “stay safe” by using sensible defensive strategies and I agree with him — unless, of course, those cyclists are young or inexperienced, otherwise vulnerable due to physical limitations (for example, less fit and therefore often less aware), or the victims of poor driving, all of which are regular factors in bicycle accidents.

As someone who has policed much busier (and also quieter) roads than ours in the past, and dealt with thousands of road accidents, I can assure Mr. Coffey that cyclists are indeed comparatively fragile and hugely vulnerable road users, despite his own apparent feeling of security during his daily commute.

Defensive riding is a very useful strategy, but anything that improves the protection afforded to cyclists (such as clearly marked bike lanes) is surely a positive step.

I wonder if this issue is being deliberately diverted. The bicycle signs and road markings are in my opinion ineffective and inappropriate, and the debate about the use of public resources (local, provincial or federal) to create them is absolutely logical.

How could, as Mr. Coffey asserts, such discussion be a “disservice to logic?” These signs and paintings do little or nothing to create a climate of safety, whereas a properly researched, designed and implemented system of bike-only lanes would genuinely provide road space specifically for our most vulnerable flow-of-traffic road users.

As an example of the wastage this project represents, in a several hundred metre section of Dewdney Trunk Road between Ferndale Avenue and Tunbridge Avenue, there are four sets of these signs within view of each other!

This nonsense is in comparison to the fine piece of work that is the three-way stop that has now finally been created at the intersection of Ferndale Avenue and Dewdney Trunk Road, immeasurably improving the safety of that section of the public road — money well spent.

As for the accusation of patronizing the cycling public, given a choice between feeling patronized and getting to my destination in one piece or feeling ignored and broken at the side of the road, I know which I’d prefer.

Leo Simmons