Transportation

Confused Anti-Bike Rant Ignores Most Dangerous Road Users

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published July 04, 2013

The Toronto Star published a rather confused anti-cyclist and -pedestrian rant today that manages to accept that all road users break the law but then claims that the most dangerous road users are cyclists and pedestrians.

Author Judith Timson writes that she has "come to the end of silently tolerating cyclists who break the law - placing themselves and others in danger." She covers herself by briefly mentioning, "No one - pedestrians, motorists or cyclists - obeys all road laws. Everybody, middle finger at the ready, is mighty entitled."

Yet she then focuses on what she considers the most "dangerous" group of traffic law breakers: cyclists, with jaywalking pedestrians not far behind. It is beyond me how someone can recognize that all road users break the laws all the time, but then single out cyclists and pedestrians for special attack based on a perception of danger.

As a motorist, and even as a cyclist, I find it very irritating when cyclists break certain traffic rules, and it seems unfair that cyclists break some rules more than motorists (although motorists break other rules far more often than cyclists, such as speeding). But there is a difference between "unfair and irritating" and "dangerous" (especially if one means "dangerous to others"). And Timson just doesn't get this distinction.

Surely anyone who sees the injury statistics or knows the laws of physics understands that a speeding, drunk or inattentive motorist poses a far greater danger to other road users than a cyclist rolling through a stop sign or cycling the wrong way down a one-way street, or a pedestrian crossing against a red light when there is no traffic around - three examples that get the writer especially riled up.

I agree that cyclists should obey the law, but where exactly is the evidence that cyclists are "placing themselves and others in danger" by their lawbreaking? In fact, the evidence goes completely the other way: it is motorist law-breaking that places the motorists themselves and others in danger and leads directly to thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of serious injuries in Canada every year.

A study of cyclist-motor vehicle collisions in Toronto found that motorist behaviour was the cause of 90 percent of the collisions. The study author, University of Toronto Professor Chris Cavalcuiti, concluded: "The available evidence suggests that collisions have far more to do with aggressive driving than aggressive cycling."

Let's put things in perspective and focus on rule breaking that really does have the most potential to cause harm, especially to others. Cyclists should obey the laws, but encouraging motorists to harangue cyclists for rolling stops or other infractions, as the author does, is not helpful.

Perhaps Timson would appreciate being told how intrinsically dangerous driving is, since she is on a personal mission to improve road safety by telling off rule breakers - if those rule breakers happen to be "middle-aged women" cyclists she can corner.

Does the author really never exceed 100 km/h on the highway or roll through a stop sign when driving? How would she react if cyclists started telling her off for speeding, talking on a cell phone, rolling through a stop sign or changing lanes without signalling? Would she contritely pledge to obey the rules in the future?

Related:

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.

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By Gord Middleton (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2013 at 14:50:42

Motorists need to "slow-down." How is it that the people operating motor vehicles (the fastest way from point A to point B) are the least patient?
To say cyclists are the most dangerous people on our streets is a complete absurdity. I get the feeling that the author may have been suffering from a bout of road-rage at the time she wrote the article - thus making her opinion 1. uninformed, 2. an absolute abuse of her journalistic authority and 3. a peek into a potential lack of journalistic integrity.
Judith, yer an idiot! But fear not; the even bigger idiot cyclists who dart in and out of cars have a vastly reduced life expectancy. Darwin's theory of "survival of the fittest" works in the animal kingdom, but in the human kingdom it is "death to the dumbest."

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted July 05, 2013 at 14:16:47

Let's imagine two men in Union Station late one evening. One of them is a busker juggling razor-sharp scimitars. The other one is a little drunk and trying to get the train home. The drunk stumbles at an inopportune time and falls into the scimitar juggler, who in turn accidentally kills three people.

Who's fault is it? The man for walking around a bit drunk in a crowded area? Or the man juggling lethal weapons in a crowded area?

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By JOEJOE (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2013 at 09:47:19

"How is it that the people operating motor vehicles (the fastest way from point A to point B) are the least patient?"

I've often worndered that. I'll be crossing at a light and a right turning driver will be inching towards me. Why can't he just wait?!

It seems to me that one of the inherent problems with our road sharing is that we have such drastic differences in speeds. You have a 4mph pedestrian versus a 40mph car. It's like a hare and a turtle. We need to either slow down the faster moving vehicles or provide a safer more physical separation of the different forms of traffic.

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