Cy­clists not alone in their many road­way sins

Set a good ex­am­ple for your chil­dren: don’t blow through stop signs; don’t text

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - BOB WATER­HOUSE Bob Water­house lives in Dun­das

While huff­ing and puff­ing to com­plete my weekly ar­du­ous climb of the Sy­den­ham Hill one re­cent morn­ing on my bike, I re­flected upon Krista Dam-Vande-Kuyt’s scathing and scold­ing com­men­tary on lo­cal cy­clist’s Road Ethics pub­lished in this past Satur­day’s Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor.

With too many miles/km in the sad­dle my­self to re­mem­ber, hav­ing rid­den from Van­cou­ver to Kelowna as well as Brant­ford to Char­lot­te­town in past years, I clearly rec­og­nize the shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ties we all have for road safety, whether it be by mo­torists, pedes­tri­ans or cy­clists. I al­most al­ways ride solo for a num­ber of rea­sons, the pri­mary one be­ing I en­joy stop­ping too of­ten to en­joy the scenery or shops and don’t wish to hold up the pelo­ton, though at age 58 to be hon­est I’m also now too slow to keep up with the groups I might choose to ride with. I was per­son­ally thrilled when, in the 1990s, Canada went met­ric so that I could say I did a cen­tury ride yet only had to pedal for 60 miles in­stead of the usual 100. The an­nual Hal­ton Hilly Hun­dred was also an­other an­nual favourite of mine each fall.

Now, liv­ing in Dun­das, some­what of a lo­cal cy­cling mecca, I too, am of­ten ap­palled at the mo­ronic choices made by my fel­low cy­clists. Some ex­am­ples which come to mind most read­ily and are re­peated daily are as fol­lows; those cy­clists proudly out­fit­ted for safety with fas­tened hel­mets who, while sig­nalling their turn cor­rectly with one hand, brazenly fly through stop signs and red lights to com­plete their turn. Se­condly, parents proudly tow­ing their chil­dren in a $400 alu­minum frame Bur­ley or other bike trail­ers in which the tots have hel­mets but the par­ent does not. My guess is that the kids will sur­vive the ac­ci­dent and join the work­force at age four to sup­port them­selves while the par­ent ei­ther re­cov­ers at the Gen­eral or is next seen in a cas­ket.

Then, there are the ge­niuses who, while cy­cling one handed through traf­fic, talk and text on their cell­phones, obliv­i­ous to the ve­hi­cles around them. Clearly post­ing on In­sta­gram about cof­fee at Star­bucks is more im­por­tant to them than road safety.

Fi­nally, and to me most ir­ri­tat­ingly, there are the adult cy­clists who, in di­rect vi­o­la­tion of the High­way Traf­fic Act, cy­cle on the side­walks, obliv­i­ous to pedes­tri­ans young and old alike.

How­ever, the men­tion of pedes­tri­ans is an ideal segue into our shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as road users. Jay­walk­ing is a hal­lowed com­mu­nity pas­time in Dun­das, though one which is read­ily ac­cepted if not en­cour­aged due to our small town charm and sense of com­mu­nity. I have no trou­ble ad­mit­ting my own guilt on this front as I walk across King Street from the Collins to Ad­ven­ture At­tic or Pi­cone’s, wav­ing my thanks for the ex­tended cour­tesy. That cross­walk by the Carnegie Gallery, though only 20 me­tres east is sim­ply too far, and then I’d have to push a but­ton and, God for­bid, wait for the light to turn.

Fi­nally, there are the mo­torists, the vast ma­jor­ity of whom I find are cau­tious, cour­te­ous and care­ful to share the road with ev­ery­one. How­ever, as a cy­clist I am uniquely po­si­tioned at eye level with mo­torists when stopped or rid­ing care­fully next to them to ob­serve the fol­low­ing per­ilous be­hav­iours; eat­ing sand­wiches with one hand while driv­ing with the other, driv­ing with­out a seat­belt, and, my all­time favourite, talk­ing/tex­ting on a cell­phone.

When queried po­litely through their open pas­sen­ger side win­dow, their most com­mon guilty re­sponse be­gins in­vari­ably with ‘I was just……..” *(mak­ing a hair ap­point­ment, tee time, check­ing in with the kids).

So what does this crazi­ness all mean? Clearly we have a shared re­spon­si­bil­ity as road users to act re­spon­si­bly in a spirit of co-op­er­a­tion and care to en­sure our mu­tual safety, if not sur­vival. I per­son­ally don’t be­lieve that stronger en­force­ment and a heavy-handed ap­proach ever solves these types of is­sues, even though all three afore­men­tioned groups are gov­erned by var­i­ous facets of the HTA. Education is the key and it be­gins at home with proper in­struc­tion on road safety, shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and role-mod­el­ling by parents/ guardians.

So the next time you go for a bike ride, don’t for­get your hel­met and try to stop at red lights and stop signs. The next time you see me jay­walk­ing across King Street in Dun­das please honk loudly and scare me into com­pli­ance. And, fi­nally, as mo­torists, with the death of teacher Jay Keddy sadly etched in our com­mu­nity con­science, let’s all please slow down, put the phones down, not eat while driv­ing and wear our seat­belts.

That way we can all be as­sured we’ll be around af­ter work or on the week­end to en­joy that ride with the kids, stroll through town or drive to the coun­try­side.


On the sub­ject of shar­ing our roads, Bob Water­house writes: “Education is the key and it be­gins at home with proper in­struc­tion on road safety, shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and role-mod­el­ling by parents/guardians.”

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