Cyclists not alone in their many roadway sins
Set a good example for your children: don’t blow through stop signs; don’t text
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.”