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Oakville must build path to improved safety, cyclists say

BY BRADLEY NORTHCOTE

Local cyclists are calling on Oakville to take its own actions as part of a nationwide campaign to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety on Canadian roads. Oakville’s initiatives can expect a boost with federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s recent announcement of a national task force on cyclist and pedestrian safety.

The announcement comes just over a year after Bill C-31, the Making Ontario’s Roads Safer Act, came into effect. Among the changes brought by the bill are the one-metre rule, which requires drivers to keep a one-metre distance when passing cyclists. This rule in particular received heated reaction online. Numbers from the Attorney General show the law has led to only 19 charges.

Courtesy Brandon Snow
Sheridan student Brandon Snow says cyclists must start obeying rules of the road. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Snow)

Brandon Snow, a cyclist and Sheridan College student completing an Honours Bachelor of Applied Information Sciences (Information Systems Security), says cyclists must change their behaviour to ensure their own safety. “Things I see often are running stop signs, riding on sidewalks, just generally not listening to the rules that they should be. If we want to have the road shared with us, we have to act like we actually belong on the road.”

Ontario’s Chief Coroner released a detailed review in 2012 of 129 accidental cycling deaths between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2010. The review, which recommended changes including the one-metre rule, found 34 per cent of cycling deaths were due to “contributing factors on the part of the cyclist alone.”

Data from Cycling Death Review, Chief Coroner of Ontario
Above: Data from Ontario Chief Coroner’s review of 129 cyclist deaths between Jan. 2006 and Dec. 2010. Percentages indicate where accidents were due to “contributing factors” on the part of cyclists (purple), drivers (blue), or both (green), or where fault was unclear (yellow).

While many cyclists he’s seen must change their habits, road safety is a shared responsibility, says Snow. “More awareness of the laws around cycling would really help to remove some of the stress that cyclists have. If both drivers and cyclists were to listen to more of the rules, it would be a lot safer for both groups.”

Snow’s statement is supported by the research. The coroner’s review found both cyclist and driver behaviour were a factor in 38 per cent of cycling deaths.

“I think that’d be a great idea,” Snow says about dedicated bike lanes. “As an experienced cyclist I don’t worry about riding on the road, but I know a lot of [less experienced cyclists who] maybe don’t trust the drivers as much as I do. Bike lanes would help a lot for those riders to give them a comfortable space to ride that’s not on the sidewalk.”

Bicycle stations, such as this one at Erin Mills Transitway, can be found at Go Bus stations throughout the GTA. (Bradley Northcote/Sheridan Sun)
Bicycle stations, like this one at Erin Mills Transitway, can be found at Go Bus stations throughout the GTA. (Bradley Northcote/Sheridan Sun)

Fraser Damoff, executive director of Cycle Oakville, has also said he supports dedicated bike lanes. For him, a fatal accident in August, in which a man was killed while riding his bike through the intersection of Third Line and Lakeshore, is an example of the type of tragedy which could be prevented by a change of attitude toward cycling.

Courtesy Fraser Damoff
(Courtesy Fraser Damoff)

In a note tweeted following the fatality, Damoff wrote, “[T]he same level of safety afforded to motorists needs to be provided for cyclists as well…Instead of only thinking of cycling as a leisure activity/hobby, I would challenge the Town of Oakville to also consider cycling as a means of transportation, like a car.”

UPDATE: The Oakville Beaver has reported Halton police are investigating after a vehicle collided Tuesday night with a 17-year-old boy cycling north on Trafalgar Rd., near Marlborough Ct.

Courtesy: Oakville Beaver
Courtesy: Oakville Beaver
Written by
Bradley Northcote

Bradley Northcote is a graduate of the University of Toronto at Mississauga, where he majored in Political Science and Sociology. He is passionate about all levels of Canadian politics and he takes a special interest in social issues such as mental health and poverty.

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