Saturday, July 4, 2009

Replacing road rage with respect

Toronto Sun Saturday July 4- Brian Gray - Sun Media

Heating up the summer doesn't have to mean heating up the battle between cars and bicycles on our roads, a cycling advocate maintains.

"Respect for those around us goes a long way," said Yvonne Bambrick, the executive director of the Toronto Cyclists Union, a membership-based organization pushing for greater acceptance of the bike as a viable means of transportation in the city.

We've had the car so well ingrained into our psyche and into the norms of society, in particular in North America, that anything that looks to re-purpose the spaces that we've known traditionally to be car spaces seems to be a threat -- and it's not meant to be a threat."

But car and truck drivers -- especially in downtown Toronto -- have long complained about the behaviour of cyclists on city streets.

Some have wondered whether bike riders are even covered under the same set as laws as motor vehicles.

"They certainly are," said Sgt. Tim Burrows of the Toronto Police traffic services unit. "By definition under the HTA (Highway Traffic Act) they are a vehicle so any requirement for a vehicle, they have to fall in line with that."

That means everybody using a public roadway must come to a complete stop at stop signs and stop lights, signal their intentions whether by hand or using lights and do shoulder checks when turning or changing lanes, he said.

"The other issue is opening car doors," Burrows said. "It isn't enough to just look in the mirror. People have to turn and look out the window."

That's a major complaint for any cyclist in this city, Bambrick said.

"Consider a cyclist your sister or your brother and have some respect," she said. "And just know that cyclists are almost always looking out for their own best interest because they are the most vulnerable on the road."

Bambrick said she would like to see the HTA changed to allow rolling stops at some intersections -- something that irks some drivers.

"If they're deking around or if they're going ahead at a stop light it's because they're trying to get out of the way," she said.

Burrows said he understands the desire to just employ a rolling stop where it's safe but the law is the law.

However, that also means drivers have to treat cyclists with the same respect they give other drivers, he said. Giving bicycles as much room as possible, not parking in bike lanes and not cutting cyclists off are key.

Cyclists must keep as far to the right as is practical and at intersections they should come up on the left side of a car turning right, not edge up between the car and the curb, Burrows said, citing the HTA.

"Communication is one of the keys," Burrows said. "If everyone on the road knows what the other person is going to do, there would be a lot less confusion."
Toronto Police recently concluded their one-week Safe Cycling-Share the Responsibility Campaign.
- Tickets issued to motorists and cyclists: 5,907
- Tickets issued to motorists: 3,502
- Tickets issued to cyclists for moving violations: 1,373
- Tickets issues to cyclists for equipment violations: 747
- Cyclists under 18 charged with not wearing a helmet: 84
- Tickets issued for parking in bike lanes: 198
- Motorists and cyclists cautioned: 852
--Source: Toronto Police Service

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