Evidence-based policy making means focusing resources where they will have the greatest harm reduction, not taking sides in the cars vs. bicycles culture war.
By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published March 07, 2013
A letter by West Town Crime Manager Scott Moreton of Hamilton Police Services states that the police are targeting cyclists in West Hamilton under a four-week "bicyclist enforcement program" called "Project Trauma Prevention". The letter reads in part:
Through information received from the area residents, local politicians, as well as the observations made by the police, it is evident that disobedience concerning the rules of the road for cyclists is a common occurrence that imposes a heightened risk on the safety of motorists, vehicle occupants, cyclists, and pedestrians. [emphasis added]
Ugh! Why is traffic law enforcement targeting only low-risk road users, i.e. cyclists, rather than high risk road users, i.e. motorists?
Have there actually been serious accidents in Westdale caused by cyclists not obeying the rules, or is it once again motorists and residents upset as a matter of principle by (student) cyclists 'flouting the rules'?
It seems this is another instance of some Westdale residents trying to get back at students for being 'disrespectful' and disrupting 'their' neighbourhood.
I can certainly believe that cyclists regularly disobey certain rules - as do motorists, although not necessarily the same ones cyclists disobey - but I have real difficulty imagining that this disobedience "imposes a [significant] heightened risk on the safety of motorists, vehicle occupants, cyclists, and pedestrians".
It is the actions of motorists that impose a significant risk on all road users. Most cyclist disobedience is annoying, but relatively low-risk to other road users.
The statistics bear this out: about 2,000 Canadians are killed and 20,000 are seriously injured by motorists each year; whereas injuries and deaths due to cyclists are statistically negligible. According to a study at the University of Toronto:
While there is a public perception that cyclists are usually the cause of accidents between cars and bikes, an analysis of Toronto police collision reports shows otherwise: The most common type of crash in this study involved a motorist entering an intersection and either failing to stop properly or proceeding before it was safe to do so. The second most common crash type involved a motorist overtaking unsafely. The third involved a motorist opening a door onto an oncoming cyclist. The study concluded that cyclists are the cause of less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents in this study.
The available evidence suggests that collisions have far more to do with aggressive driving than aggressive cycling.
As has been pointed out over and over, motorists break traffic rules all the time as well: almost no motorists come to a full stop at stop signs on Sterling either, and I've seen motorists speeding on Sterling and King Street in Westdale many times, as well as motorists running the red at Sterling and King.
I hope that the Hamilton Cycling Committee will object strongly to the selectivity of this strategy and insist that any education and enforcement strategy is applied to all road users, prioritizing those who pose the greatest real risk, and not those who residents find the most annoying.
Evidence-based policy making means focusing resources where they will have the greatest harm reduction, not taking sides in the cars vs. bicycles (or resident property owners vs. students) culture war.