Let's go forward with a more bicycle friendly city - and combine that with an insistence that all who use the roadways understand what the basic rules are and how use them
By Robert Fick
Published May 22, 2012
As an author of published research on health policy, and as an advocate of healthy cities initiatives and the benefits of exercise for both individuals and population health, I have watched the recent discourse on Raise The Hammer regarding the benefits of creating a bicycle friendly (and by extension exercise friendly city) with interest.
I am familiar with most of the points brought forward - as a former student/ health policy researcher at McMaster, and current at-large policy researcher/writer, I am aware of the mountains of published material that supports the arguments in favour of municipal-level policy change in this area.
Exercise benefits almost everyone in society from the young to the old to frail - indeed, seniors experience disproportionately positive benefits from exercise relative to the remainder of the population, and important policy consideration given current North American demographic trends.
Further, all in society can gain benefit from exercise, and this includes secondary benefits such as health care cost savings wherein the health outcomes across a population improves over time.
I am in support of policy that promotes exercise and the experience of expanding one's personal environment beyond the local community into others by and for this means. Bicycle friendly policy should be part and parcel of health promotion efforts within the City of Hamilton, and it is my opinion that our current City Council understands that - the issue being less about the goal than how to get there, and whom proposed policy change would affect, both positively and negatively.
I am not a bicyclist - I walk during winter, and otherwise obtain exercise through participation in team sports, baseball in particular and occasionally playing soccer. I drive my car to my game locations, and I see what I perceive as increasing amounts of bicyclists on our city streets.
Fair enough - and why not, I tell myself, until I see the unwillingness of some of them to obey traffic laws and rules designed to protect everyone, including bicyclists. Too many times (and once is too many times), they do not signal their turns, they do not stop at traffic lights, and go through stop signs as though the intent of promoting traffic safety via their existence just does not apply to them.
For drivers in our city, this is scary stuff - I doubt that there are very many drivers who actually want to hit a bicyclist, in spite of the fact that sometimes drivers don't know what a bicyclist is going to do in the course of trying to accommodate them on our roadways.
I am left wondering when the promotion of a bicycle-friendly city in Hamilton by such interested persons city will include promotion of the rules of the road - I wonder how healthy a city is in which increasing amounts of people on bicycles will be hurt in traffic accidents because they will not internalize, or do not fully understand, the basic set of rules by which our traffic system operates.
Individual responsibility for safety must also apply. We should insist that this occurs, or there may well be a toll paid in injuries, deaths, and resources that could be put to better uses.
Again, I support the notion of a more bicycle friendly (and by extension, a more exercise friendly City of Hamilton), but from what I myself see on the roads out there, I would argue that such policy change must be accompanied by a commitment on the part of bicycling (exercise) advocates, policy writers, and planning operatives to undertake a promotional plan of some kind to insist that all of us who use our roadways understand and respect the rules of the road.
Let's go forward with a more bicycle friendly (and exercise friendly) city - and combine that with an insistence that all who use the roadways understand what the basic rules are and how use them while protecting oneself and others from avoidable accidents that exact costs in pain and suffering, lives, and resources.
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