Belonging

Road Rage and Inclusive Streets

As a driver I would find traffic calming measures inconvenient. As a parent I say bring on the speed bumps, the bump-outs, the pedestrian-activated signals.

By Michelle Martin
Published January 26, 2015

My undergrad daughter was the victim of road rage on Saturday, right here in our neighbourhood.

No, she doesn't drive. None of our older kids do, it's too expensive to insure themselves and, frankly, not worth it to them. They just wouldn't have unfettered access to either family automobile as both their father and I need them every working day.

So they all rely on the HSR (or the TTC) and their own two feet to get places.

No, at the time of the road rage incident she was not driving. She was walking home from the closest #5 Delaware bus stop and crossing the street at a stop sign, having looked all ways and ascertained that the fellow stopped across the intersection had seen her.

She proceeded across at her usual pace - in my experience it is a pretty energetic one - which turns out not to have been fast enough to satisfy this motorist.

I'm not sure why - perhaps he was challenged by her looming 5 foot 4 inch frame and felt he had no choice but to defend himself. You never know what a young person with a knapsack and a Timmie's in her hand is capable of.

In any case, the driver leaned on his horn, drove his car up inches from her, and as soon as she was just past the edge of the front of his car, he sped around her. Point made. An inch or two off, and she would have been dead or seriously injured. But hey, point made.

As a driver, sure, I would find traffic calming measures inconvenient. As a parent, as a pedestrian, as a resident on a street where children walk to school and where many people walk to bus stops, I say bring on the speed bumps, the bump-outs, the pedestrian-activated signals.

Today I'm thinking it wouldn't be too extreme to equip those signals with red light cameras - every last one of them.

The life these measures save may be your own.

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton where she and her husband are watching their 10 children fly the nest, one by one. She has been published in both the Hamilton Spectator and Raise the Hammer, as well as in the online edition of the National Post and, more recently, in the Canadian Urban Transit Association's Urban Mobility Forum. Michelle is coordinator of the Community Access to Transportation program. She was formerly on the writing/copy editing team of the original Crown Point hub paper, The Point. However, the opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own. She sometimes tweets @deltawestmom

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 10:21:02

Traffic calming is good overall. But with drivers like that it actually makes them worse ... at least in my experience in the North End. Boorish behaviour behind the wheel is about entitlement in these cases. Bumpouts, chokers, etc., are just "stoopid" obstacles in their view.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 11:44:34

This is one of the reasons why it is important to follow the Dutch traffic safety practice of preventing cut-through car driving through residential neighbourhoods. So that the only through traffic allowed is that of pedestrians, cyclists and public transit vehicles.

I would be willing to wager that if the car driver that your daughter had the misfortune to encounter was a neighbour that was known to you and to her then he would not have dared to behave in this way.

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By mikebmuller (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 12:53:10

I walk around central downtown quite a lot and I am always surprised by the amount of anger and aggression that people show towards pedestrians. It's interesting that some drivers are unable to stop and wait 5 seconds to let someone pass. Especially when that person is walking in sub zero temperatures, rain, or other inclement weather. The best way for this to change is to create opportunities for more people to want to walk in their own neighbourhoods. Drivers who are pedestrians as well would be less likely to act like that. I know my driving habits have changed dramatically since I started walking more often.

Comment edited by mikebmuller on 2015-01-26 12:53:28

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By MTAnyone (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 13:08:26 in reply to Comment 108413

I find most drivers are too busy texting or playing on their mobile devices to be angry at pedestrians.

I recently stood waiting for a green at John and Main, out of the 7 cars turning onto John, 4 of the drivers had their mobile device in their hand, 3 of whom were actively texting.
The other drivers were ok, though one was playing with his radio.

I would like to see the Hamilton Bike Police standing at corners, ticketing whoever they see pull out a cell or mobile device (or sandwich or lipstick or easybake oven or whatever).

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By Anon (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 12:55:12

The root of the problem is the design of our roadways.

Drivers, especially in the lower city, expect to be able to drive unimpeded across most of town. Red lights and pedestrians are not their normal. They are an inconvenience.

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By MTAnyone (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 13:02:21

It has a lot more to do with the MTO giving licenses to pretty much anyone, then not following up with testing for decades.

It's a fundamental issue that no one wants to bring up or discuss due to the large-scale overhaul the MTO would need to fix this practice.

I agree traffic calming measures are good, but it doesn't solve the issue of irate drivers, some who just like honking at pedestrians for fun (I personally know of a person who does that).

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 14:09:27 in reply to Comment 108415

I agree traffic calming measures are good, but it doesn't solve the issue of irate drivers, some who just like honking at pedestrians for fun

I'm unclear on how regular testing would stop someone from being an irate driver.

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By Mood Wheel? (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 19:58:18 in reply to Comment 108421

There used to be CMHA wallet cards you could hold your thumb against to see if you were stressed. If the patch turned black or red, you were; green or blue, you weren't. Maybe we could make steering wheels with this material and include a switch to cut the ignition when needed. Some folks shouldn't be driving in the moods they're in.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 14:32:51

Hamilton drivers have a special level of juvenile impatience reinforced by the city's over-built roads.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 19:57:50 in reply to Comment 108424

Hamilton drivers have a special level of juvenile impatience reinforced by the city's over-built roads.

I guess the cyclists do, too. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/n...

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By HolyCrap (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 20:19:16

Holy crap. Could imagine what would happen if a motorist got out of his car and took a baseball bat to a cyclist.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 10:31:54 in reply to Comment 108441

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 12:21:46 in reply to Comment 108464

Apples to oranges. He didn't "take a bat to the cyclist" he had it for his protection as there were many more cyclists than himself - not to mention he's an older man whereas the bikers appear to be in their prime.

From your link:

Investigators spoke to everyone at the scene besides Mr Clark, he told MailOnline. He was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon and felony criminal mischief. Mr Clark said that the assault charge was dropped at his Friday morning arraignment, but MailOnline was not able to confirm that with local police. This was not the first incident Mr Clark has had with the group, he said he has exchanged profanities with them in the past as he grew frustrated with their ignorance of traffic laws and indifference to motorists. 'This club comes out here and rides around and around and around our circle,' he lamented,'they make a nuisance of themselves.'

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2015-01-27 12:23:38

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 13:11:53 in reply to Comment 108471

I guess when you deliberately brake check a group of cyclists and run over their bike you might feel a need for protection when you confront them! It's good he didn't actually use it, but he had already used his vehicle as a weapon.

There are certainly plenty of cases of road rage against cyclists that do end with attacks and injury, including right here in Hamilton:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/n...

Of course, anyone (cyclist or motorist) can get into a road rage and injure someone, but there is something about cyclists that drive a small minority of motorists into a rage. Any regular cyclist eventually encounters one of these crazies ... and they can be very dangerous.

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/2597/watc...

Or this, where a motorist destroys a bicycle with a baseball bat:

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/aff...

or this collection from London:

http://www.londoncyclist.co.uk/18-scarie...

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-01-27 13:16:07

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 16:30:54 in reply to Comment 108472

But it's a 2-way street. You're eager to show that the driver is in the wrong, and he certainly is for the reaction, however, if this is a long-standing dispute with cyclists blocking the lane, with their lack of following the rules of the road and so forth, that both sides play a role. This wasn't a random attack - it sounds like this has been a back-and-forth for some time.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 17:41:27 in reply to Comment 108479

The Ontario HTA allows (and the Ontario Cyclists Handbook encourages) cyclists to "take a lane" if the lane is too narrow for a motorist to overtake safely while staying within the lane (true on almost all streets with more than one lane in the same direction) or in any case where blocking a lane is necessary for the cyclist's safety (e.g. debris or snow on the curb side of the lane). Many drivers don't seem to know or respect this particular law.

This is what the ministry website actually says: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cy...

"Accordingly, cyclists should ride one meter from the curb or close to the right hand edge of the road when there is no curb, unless they are turning left, going faster than other vehicles or if the lane is too narrow to share."

and, http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cy...

"Taking a lane In urban areas where a curb lane is too narrow to share safely with a motorist, it is legal to take the whole lane by riding in the centre of it. On high-speed roads, it is not safe to take the whole lane. To move left in a lane, shoulder check, signal left and shoulder check again then move to the centre of the lane when it is safe to do so."

Note that this means cyclists can safely and legally overtake slower vehicles on the left if space permits (e.g. a line of slowly moving cars in a traffic jam), and can block a lane when it is too narrow to safely share with a vehicle. The changes to the HTA currently before the legislature will make it illegal for drivers to drive closer than 1m from a bicycle.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-01-27 17:47:38

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 19:12:29 in reply to Comment 108484

Your article was about some place in Texas. Back on topic, please.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 17:34:27 in reply to Comment 108479

Nope you're wrong. The onus is on the driver in nearly every situation to keep their cool. If they don't they should have their license suspended. It's not the driver's job to play traffic cop or vigilante. This has way more to do with frustration (and probably stop and go traffic) then it does about a cyclist not following the rules of the road. Car driving makes people conditioned into thinking they are entitled to bad behaviour and right of way no matter what.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 19:14:13 in reply to Comment 108482

Thanks for your judgement, but both sides play a role. Onus may be on the driver, but cyclists don't get to decide what rules they want to follow. They must follow the rules of the road, if they want to be on the road.

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted January 28, 2015 at 09:31:14 in reply to Comment 108490

You're missing the point. Cyclists following the rules of the road has nothing to do with this. This is about driver entitlement and frustration at having to share even a bit of the road space. Drivers (especially frustrated, pent-up, suburban ones) will find any excuse to condemn cyclists, pedestrians or transit users in order to ensure unfettered access to the roadway.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted January 26, 2015 at 21:34:36 in reply to Comment 108441

Why bother? Just run him over and kill him with the car. Then pay the $500 fine and it is all good.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 17:38:28

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By PearlStreet (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 19:01:21

My wife was hit by a truck at Wilson and Victoria Ave North while walking our dog. She had the right of way. The area is a nightmare for speeders and people still cruising along too quickly coming off the Clairmont Access. This happened in May 2014 and she is still recovering from internal and physiological injuries. Fractured skull, hematoma to her right rear brain lobe, broken bones and road rash. DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED HOW BADLY I WANT THIS DOWNTOWN CALMED DOWN!

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By fmurray (registered) | Posted January 27, 2015 at 20:26:42

It's truly unbelievable to me that an impatient driver finds it acceptable to use his/her car as a threatening weapon to a pedestrian (or a cyclist).

Michelle, so glad that your daughter is OK. The driver should lose his license. Full stop.

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By Chris Angel (registered) | Posted January 30, 2015 at 18:17:29

No plate number? Every child should be advised to note the plate number of any motorist behaving in an illegal manner. Every adult pedestrian or cyclist should already be well aware of how important it is to get people like this off the road. The only way that is possible is for police complaints. Even if the idiot driver talks his / her way out of a first complaint; subsequent complaints will at the very least put the driver under some scrutiny.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted January 30, 2015 at 19:36:23 in reply to Comment 108606

No, unfortunately not, Hands full, winter gloves, probably more shocked than anything else. I have in the past temporarily memorized the 6-7 figures then scrawled on my hand in lipstick that was in my pocket to report the drunk who sideswiped my car with his truck at Lakeshore and Islington then drove off.

But frankly it's a little outrageous to place any onus at all on pedestrians to police driver behaviour, with pens or recording devices at the ready when all you want to do is walk from A to B.

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