A recent altercation on the road highlights the uphill struggle to support and promote cycling in Hamilton.
By Grant Ranalli
Published June 07, 2007
On the morning of Monday, May 28, at 8:20 AM, I was cycling northbound on Locke St. just before Main St., on my way to school.
A guy in a white van did a 'rolling' stop at Jackson, turning onto Locke. He was yammering away on the cellphone, oblivious and looking to his right, and did not see me coming from his left.
I hit the brakes and swerved to avoid him. After I recovered, I rode up and rapped on the side of his van and told him to put the cell phone down and pay attention to his driving. He then told me that if I touched his truck again he'd kill me.
I got off the bike and walked to the front right corner of his van to get his licence number. At that point he drove forward right over my right foot and knocked me to the ground. Fortunately, there is no permanent damage, but I would call that assault.
As I lay on the pavement, no one in the cars lined up to proceed straight through the light got out to assist me or, better yet, act as a witness.
One person drove around the corner to the fire station to tell them a guy was hit by a car. In five minutes a fire truck came, but I had already flagged a passing police cruiser.
The driver of the van gave his statement, denying everything. I gave my statement and the police said that they could do nothing because there were no witnesses ... a sad but unfortunately true fact.
I'm not sure what to be more upset about: a guy almost killing me by reckless driving and then physically assaulting me with his vehicle; or the fact that no other driver could spare a few minutes to come to the aid of a cyclist lying in the middle of Locke St. on a busy Monday morning.
I don't exactly know what can be done about this now but incidents like this beg for some action on advancing the timetable for more bike lanes and much stiffer penalties for drivers cutting off and endangering cyclists, and for a ban on the use of cell phones while driving.
I know that cyclists sometimes don't always obey all the rules of the road - they sometimes run stops signs. However, there is a fundamental difference. If a cyclist runs a stop sign or red light, they endanger no one but themselves. If a motorist does the same, they can very much endanger the life of a pedestrian or cyclist, with little consequence to themselves.
In a car-bike battle, the car always wins. There is a fundamental imbalance of power here and the law must recognize it by putting much more onus on the motorist to beware of pedestrians and cyclists.
So, it seems that once again, cyclists are treated like third class citizens. In fact, we pay taxes for the building and upkeep of roads, yet our vehicles do little damage to them like cars and trucks do.
We don't burn precious non-renewable fossil fuels, we don't pollute the environment with noise and noxious fumes, we take up less space on the roads and ease traffic congestion, we don't require acres of parking lots - so the City should do everything in their power to encourage the use of such environmentally sustainable transportation.
Yet I read that the budget for the cycling committee has been cut because it was not used - why was the money not used for more bike lanes, post and rings for locking bikes, more education on cycling, and so on?
Car drivers are still disrespecting cyclists every day. I suppose I would have had to be badly maimed or killed before police pursued the motorist who assaulted me - but because my injuries were not serious (luckily for him) he gets away with no penalty.
Thank goodness that you weren't seriously hurt. The behaviour of the motorists in question and the motorist onlookers is appalling to say the least. I've shared your email with my contacts at Hamilton Police Services (HPS) and our Traffic dept.
There is a new pedestrian safety committee at HPS and I think they should take this on as a classic case study. You may also want to share your experience with CATCH [Citizens at City Hall].
On the City cycling budget: I have been working on having the report to bring on a cycling coordinator position back to Public Works committee and that will happen in late June. I believe that we will be successful this time.
There has been a backlog of projects undone and the key is to have the dedicated staff person to deliver the projects (vs taking small amounts of time away from our Traffic staff) - once we get the backlog out of the way I think we can come back in the 08 budget with a larger request (i.e. more than $300K, to get back some of the money we didn't get this year).
I can only thank you for strong commitment to cycling and lowering your ecological footprint and I'll certainly commit to pushing for more change at City Hall.
Thanks for everything that you do!
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