Cyclists deserve a safe space
Re: End the war between cyclists and motorists, July 28.It is surprising, given recent coverage by David Reevely of the unsafe design for cyclists on Holland Avenue, that the Citizen would run a column proposing road safety education instead of safe cycling infrastructure.As one of the organizers of the campaign for cycling infrastructure on Holland Avenue, I am confident that the hundreds of people who signed a petition asking for bike lanes, as well as the 100 people who came out to ride on the inadequate sharrows painted on Holland, did not feel comfortable with a paradigm where cars and buses mix with cyclists, and where everyone has an absurdly equal responsibility for road safety, regardless of vehicle size and speed.It is fair to say that this decades-old view of road safety, where education and enforcement are seen as paramount, has not made roads safer and has failed to encourage greater numbers of people to walk and bike.I was glad to see that the author was interested in how cycling is instilled as a mode of transportation in children at school in the Netherlands.While this is obviously a positive behaviour, here in North America we struggle against declining activity levels and obesity in children.The article missed some essential points.In the Netherlands, and other countries with a significant cycling modal share, roads are normally designed with an emphasis on safety. Safe intersections on narrower, livable streets, engineered for lowered speeds, ensure that collisions don’t automatically end in tragedy, and support a less auto-centric view of public space.This is markedly different from Ottawa, where cyclists are ex- pected to fight for space on busy, high-speed streets, engineered for traffic flow rather than safety.Fortunately, we know from the lessons of the Laurier Avenue segregated bike lanes that when cyclists are given a safe space, ridership will increase significantly, and the number of collisions with cars will decrease dramatically.Given the choice, I would gladly opt to educate my children to ride on streets where safety is engineered into street design, rather than try to convince them that streets like Holland Avenue are perfectly safe as long as you obey the rules and hope that everyone else does too.It’s time to dedicate more resources to safe infrastructure for vulnerable road users and to drop the pretence that education will fundamentally change behaviours on poorly designed roads.Érinn Cunningham, Ottawa
A cyclist rides along Holland Avenue near the Queensway overpass. The city put cycling sharrows in the middle of each side of the road but many said this was too dangerous, so the city changed its mind.
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