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Changing the Rules

Most cyclists already treat stop signs as yields without incident. Why not make it official?

By Sean Burak
Published June 27, 2007

When people think of transportation reform, the immediate feeling is that it will take too long, cost too much, and be too difficult for the general public to commit to.

However, shifting the transportation paradigm in our city does not have to be expensive. There are several things we can do right now, for very little money, and with immediate benefits to everyone in Hamilton (and the surrounding regions).

Most would agree that there are severe problems with the current transportation system. The recent pedestrian deaths in our city are a clear indication of the meager safety levels of our roads.

Regular air quality warnings leave no question that we are pumping too many smog-forming chemicals into the air on a daily basis, the majority of which come from the tailpipes of our automobiles.

We can't afford to wait any longer: we need to make changes now.

Strength in Numbers

The best way to reduce the number of injuries to pedestrians and cyclists is to increase the number of pedestrians and cyclists on the road.

This is counterintuitive, since we would expect to see more injuries within a given group as the group size is increased. The reasoning behind this unexpected result is that motorists become more aware and more respectful of cyclists and pedestrians if they encounter more of them on a daily basis.

Additionally, an increase in human-powered transportation generally results in a decrease in car use - and automobile involvement is the major factor in almost every case of pedestrian or cyclist injury.

Likelihood of an injury decreases as walking or bicycling increases. (Image Source: injuryprevention.bmj.com)
Likelihood of an injury decreases as walking or bicycling increases. (Image Source: injuryprevention.bmj.com)

A neat side effect of increasing pedestrian and cyclist activity is a reduction in emissions due to the decrease in automobile kilometres travelled.

Reducing the number of car drivers will also directly save lives: in the year 2000 [PDF], 77.7 percent of the people killed on Canada's roads were drivers or passengers, 12.6 percent were pedestrians, and only 1.4 percent were cyclists.

Clearly, one of the most important things we can do to improve the safety of our roads (and reduce the overall impact of daily travel) is to get as many people as possible out of their cars and onto their legs.

While many approaches to acheiving this goal cost vast amounts of money, the cheapest solution (and the one we should start with) is to change local laws such that they encourage these transporation methods and discourage vehicle use.

Specific Laws for Specific Users

We already have many traffic laws which differentiate between different types of vehicles.

Based on their size and manoevreability, trucks have extra restrictions regarding where they can go and what they can do.

Buses are often allowed to pass through intersections and utilize lanes where other vehicles are restricted.

Transit lanes, carpool lanes, truck routes, taxi zones, bike lanes and pedestrian crossings are all examples of laws which cater to specific road users.

Most traffic laws exist for the primary purpose of protecting the safety of travellers. On the other hand, there are some laws which exist purely to provide convenience and to speed the flow of traffic.

Examples of such laws include specialty lanes for taxis and buses, advanced green lights and permitting turns on red lights.

If we want to entice people toward riding and walking, we need to strengthen the safety-oriented laws and beef up their enforcement.

We also need to shift the convenience-oriented laws from being car-centric to being human-centric. We need to recognize that cyclists are not cars and pedestrians are not cars - and we need to change the rules of the road to reflect these facts.

Pedestrian-Friendly Possibilities

It is no wonder that people are afraid to take to the sidewalks in our town. Most of our streets look like highways, feel like highways, and attract driving habits to match.

We need to consider seriously some new laws that would heavily promote their safety:

An advantage shared between all of these law changes is not only an increase in convenience and safety for pedestrians, but a decrease in convenience for motorists, which is exactly what we need to be aiming for.

In addition, we need to ensure that all future development is pedestrian friendly. This should happen through vast changes to the building code and bylaws, including:

Example of mixed use building in New York, NY (Image Credit: Wikipedia)
Example of mixed use building in New York, NY (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Selling it to Cyclists

Getting more people onto bicycles has the potential to create an even larger positive impact on the transportation system as a whole.

Since a cyclist's range (and speed) is much greater than that of a pedestrian, people will be more likely to replace their car with a bike than simply to walk everywhere.

While the measures listed above will benefit bikers as well as pedestrians, we need to work even harder to protect cyclists and encourage cycling as much as possible.

Unfortunately, the traffic code currently treats bicycles as second-class citizens.

Since it is horribly dangerous to ride a bike on sidewalks (both to the rider and to pedestrians), it makes sense to ride bikes on the road. The rules of the road, however, were written with cars in mind - and we have tried to apply these rules to cyclists as if they were cars.

It is a simple fact that bikes are not cars.

A bicycle (with rider) weighs a fraction of even the smallest car (even when empty). A cyclist has no physical protection from surrounding vehicles. A bicycle has no engine with which the operator can zoom away to evade a dangerous situation.

A bike isn't equivalent to a car any more than a car is equivalent to a train. It is time to change the laws governing bikes - for the cyclists' safety and for the good of our community.

Once again, it is possible to make cycling a much more attractive alternative without the huge expenditures required when creating dedicated lanes, installing traffic calming devices, and cutting specialized trails through the city (although these would be great too).

It is possible - and desireable - simply to change some existing traffic laws to favour cyclists over cars:

While these two proposed changes will provoke very strong knee-jerk reactions from most motorists, they have actually been practised successfully for quite some time in other jurisdictions (such as the state of Idaho).

The following arguments should also be considered:

Mock-up of potential signage that could be used to make the new laws clear to all road users.
Mock-up of potential signage that could be used to make the new laws clear to all road users.

Which Laws and When

As part of a long term strategy to increase cycling and walking, simple law changes are the fastest and cheapest solution, and should be implemented as a first step.

We should start with promoting the pedestrian to king of the road, and give them right of way everywhere. We should follow that by changing the laws at intersections for cyclists.

We can then proceed with lowering speed limits, eliminating turns on reds for cars, and bylaw changes, since these will likely take much longer to be accepted and applied.

Once we have the foundation set in terms of laws, we can get serious about changing the face of transportation in this city through physical construction projects such as traffic calming, transit improvements and walkable neighbourhoods.

The geography of this city is perfect for creating a beautiful transportation system that takes everyone's needs into account.

Let's stop talking about it and start making it a reality.

Sean Burak was born in Hamilton but raised elsewhere in Ontario. He returned to his birth town at the turn of the century and has never looked back. Sean is the owner of Downtown Bike Hounds.

51 Comments

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By appalbarry (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2007 at 12:24:50

Sean,

Wow, I love the bike specific yield and stop ideas. Simple, sensible, and inexpensive.

Now, how do you get City Hall on side? Can cyclists outspend the developers and buy some politicians?

Barry

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2007 at 13:56:23

We start by talking to whomever takes on the new role overseeing the bike budget, and work from there. We spread the word and make everyone we know aware of the pitfalls in the current traffic laws and the huge benefits we will reap when we change the laws and encourage diversification of the way we move around this city! We drop a line to our local councillors (even if it's just a few sentences and a link to this article) so that they know where the desires of their constituents lie.

These changes will make the roads better for everyone by encouraging the use of low-impact transportation methods. For any drivers who say "nay", we need to remind them that every bike that is on the road represents a car that's been left at home (instead of sitting in front of you in the left-turn lane).

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By Share the road (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2007 at 13:58:27

Obey the laws or get out of my way! That said, bike lanes are the way to go. Also, tax on gas helps to pay for the roads, and although cyclists have little impact on road damage, they still benefit from having well maintained roads. So pay up for your bike lane! dam hippies

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 27, 2007 at 14:20:27

Don't feed the troll.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2007 at 14:53:50

Cyclists help pay for our roads through income and property taxes. Cyclists help pay for your parking through the price of goods bought at retail stores that offer free parking. Cyclists help pay for your gas through subsidies (direct and indirect) given to the oil companies, and in fact cyclists have helped pay for your car by paying taxes to the same government that gives huge tax breaks to the automotive industry. Cyclists say you're welcome!

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By b2bsc (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2007 at 17:05:20

Your web site is helpful, Thanks much!
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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted June 27, 2007 at 20:20:10

Sean, this is a very complete and convincing argument.

I agree with the yield idea, especially on a road like Sterling with bikes lanes, decent bike volumes and little side street traffic. Or if not written into law, at least have the cops use a little common sense instead of "bike safety" blitzes. If you want a bike safety blitz, take light truck drivers off the road.

But practically, you can only blow these signs safely if speeds are lowish (<15 km/h), noise is low (wind, loud vehicles) and there is no traffic on the side streets. There are no old, bold cyclists...

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By rgelderrgeld (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2007 at 21:34:00

Excellent ideas. May I add to the list either the eradication of one-way streets (or at least a reduction) or, alternatively, the placement of bike lanes on existing one-way streets, wherein cyclists may travel in either direction.

An example would be the bike lanes that grace the span of the King Street West bridge over the 403. These should be extended all the way through the downtown core!

One of the biggest disincentives I find to navigating around downtown Hamilton are those infernal one-way streets! Get rid of them, or put in the bike lanes, please!

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By rusty (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2007 at 21:35:08

Great article Sean.

Your points about more pedestrians equaling greater safety is spot on. I always marvel at how cautious the drivers are around Bloor and Bathurst in Toronto.

My wife commented to me once that the pedestrians along there were 'nuts' - jaywalking everywhere. But it occurred to me that they were especially safe because drivers were forced to slow down and pay attention. On that note I think Jaywalking should be legalized. It won't be chaos. There is something not right about a line up of people at the cross walk, staring up a perfectly clear street waiting for the light to change...

I hope all these ideas get circulated widely.

Cheers

Ben

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 27, 2007 at 22:10:12

I get a kick out of people who join conversations like this with their 'hippie' blasts as if that makes any sense. Perhaps that poster would be rudely awakened to reality if all Hamilton residents with no cars were exempt from paying the road construction/maintenance portion of their tax bills. Heck, they could pool their money together and build bike lanes/lockers themselves without help from city hall. And Mr. Hippie would be enjoying life on his head while city hall extracts every last penny out of his pocket to resurface Main Street for the hundreth time.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 27, 2007 at 23:04:27

gelder, I was just going to come over here to make a quick note about one-way streets but you beat me to it. Eliminating them, or having an opposing bike lane on every one way street (Starting with known bike routes and working from there) would also do wonders to promote cycling around the downtown area. Circling a block to reach a destination is easy in a car. On a bike it's a different story.

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By here (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2007 at 03:44:14

traffic needs to flow. stopping cars only increase pollution. with that in mind, change stop signs and four way stops on side streets to yield signs or even better small roundabouts which forces traffic to slow to a cyclist speed but doesn't compel a complete stop unless necessary.

hamilton's one way system does move traffic and shouldn't be changed but this doesn't mean you need four or five lanes creating a throughfare downtown. Change one lane to a taxi/bus lane and use an other lane as a cyclist lane separate from the street by a meridan with trees.

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By adam (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2007 at 10:36:09

Great article. Very compelling suggestions. I hope decision-makers take them seriously.

PS - Raise the Hammer is awesome.

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By everywhere365 (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2007 at 20:07:18

Hi all,

Every1 knows me or seen me so that's a hint/giveaway?

I read every posting and most is pretty well what I'd say.

I'll try add some. The automobile is probably 'now' the worst invention ever. More of a status back then but if we use our brains & common sense & some phylosophy(THINK)....

Human power is the overall best invention/innovation over automobile in far more ways than most may think.

It's the creation of the metal machines that dominated and changed the road rules & our life styles(created jobs)and now job loss and stress but cycling is coming back.

I always cycled but trapped in the "old" get a license then DRIVE. perhaps a road to hell?
Parking, moving violations, road stress/rage,
car problems and few accidents. Winter probs.

Cycling 365 I have few probs and I don't mind walking.

We all pay taxes and the comment that drivers pay cyclists way for a free ride is BULL!

I pay more taxes as sole cyclist than many drivers if I own a business or pay mortgage.

I know MANY on ODSP/SOCIAL ASSISTANCE who own a car. drive but perhaps low rent(SUBSIDIZED).
And most seem very ok to work full time.

Autos run over animals, poeple, or drivers kill themselves. The only legal weapon that also polutes, damage roads(danger to cyclists)most or second killer to tobbaco(?)

Drivers ride on sidewalks to pass cyclists or speed on left to turn right at intersections.

Drivers most often get fined and pulled over.

DRIVING IS A PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT!

DID I MISS ANYTHING?


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By JMS (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2007 at 08:17:50

Let us not forget. The roads were built to support CAR traffic.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 04, 2007 at 08:38:13

according to the highway traffic act roads were built to accommodate ALL vehicles, not just cars.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 04, 2007 at 10:39:45

The original roads were built exclusively to support bicycle traffic (http://info.detnews.com/history/story/index.cfm?id=21&category=business). By law, current roads are built to support all traffic. In the not-too-distant future, roads will again be built exclusively to support bicycle traffic.

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By Hamilton-Welding.com (anonymous) | Posted July 05, 2007 at 16:58:23

I just wanted to say that I have witnessed with my own eyes bus drivers who don't care about pedestrians. On more than one occasion I have seen more than one bus driver turning a corner with an old person that has made eye contact with him and the driver looks deliberately away from them and turns a right hand turn while looking left. MANY TIMES!!! this is SICK!!! he was willing to Murder with his vehicle an defenseless old Woman. If i get a chance I will post these guys pics on the net.

J

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By rick (anonymous) | Posted July 06, 2007 at 10:06:54

I believe if cyclists treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights as stop signs, this will only cause more accidents. For instance, in downtown Hamilton where there is a larger majority of cyclists, I've seen once too many when a driver of a vehicle attempts to avoid the cyclists at the other intersection, which could cause a great potential hazard. overall, many great ideas, but very difficult to implement in the lazy real world.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 06, 2007 at 11:23:56

Thing is, rick, cyclists already do this most of the time. I'm totally guilty of it, especially at a stop sign on an uphill. If there's a car coming I stop for it--otherwise i 'look both ways' like I was taught as a kid and cruise through if there's no one else around. Its completely safe since bikes don't have fronts that stick out and you can see clearly in every direction.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 06, 2007 at 14:39:13

Rick, I don't fully understand what type of incident you are referring to. However, there is definitely a problem right now with cyclist behaviour being inconsistent. Some obey every law while others obey only some, and a small minority seem to be completely ignorant to the fact that laws even exist.

If the laws are changed so that the cyclist's legal action becomes clear -- and if the laws are written in a way that encourages cyclists to obey them (i.e. if they are written with cyclists' needs taken into account to the same degree that motorists' needs are under the current system) -- then most cyclists will follow the new laws.

The end result of this is that motorists will be able to better predict how the majority of cyclists will act in a given situation, and the element of surprise will be reduced.

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By Cal DiFalco (registered) - website | Posted July 13, 2007 at 13:32:27

I like the thrust of what you are recommending, and so please don't interpret my comments as a challenge yo your thinking. However, I believe that the changes you are proposing must contemplate certain other factors.

One such factor is that not all people are healthy enough to ride a byclcle or to walk great distances. Some can't walk short distances. Thus, I beleive that an environmentally friendly transportation system must be developed to augment your ideas. I realize you are going for low cost quick wins, and I support that, but I worry about measures that end up serving only a slice of the population. If it's incremental change we are looking for, than the solution makes sense, provided it is a piece of the larger planning around moving people around.

High density planning makes practical sense at face value. I think we need to be cautious and explore the net benefits and net downfalls of such planning. It will likely create different types of problems and it is best that we go into such a model "eyes open", having studied and considered other jurisdictions experiences with such an approach.

Overall however, I support your thinking. I think having a byclcle friendly and pedestrian friendly environment will not only be a wise move from a health and safety perspective, but it may also promote a greater sense of community and help businesses. It's hard to meet anyone or visit a shop you've never been to, when your driving by at 50 clicks.

Great discussion and good ideas here.

Cal caldifalco@cogeco.ca

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2007 at 14:54:29

I completely agree with you regarding high density planning. In fact, I feel that it is a necessity that we start to take it seriously. Our future depends on it. You bring up a good point regarding peoples' varying degrees of health -- but a vast majority of those who cannot currently walk or ride any great distance would actually benefit from an infrastructure that protects their right to try it out. If they start small they would quickly improve their abilities. For those that cannot walk or ride due to additional limitations (physical or otherwise), I also agree that we need to push for greener transportation options (such as light rail) -- and in fact these will benefit all of us as well.

In short, by promoting self-propelled transportation and improving public transportation overall, we will all win -- even those who prefer to travel alone via Hummer.

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By Cal DiFalco (registered) - website | Posted July 17, 2007 at 22:10:48

Sean:

Thank-you for responding to my observations. It seems like we are of the same mind in many regards on this topic. Keep moving forward with these ideas. I think the City of Hamilton is in dire need of a transformation on many fronts, and in concert, it would be ideal to include a greener transporation strategy that, to the extent posible, is less reliant on individual motorized vehicles.

Take care!

Cal

caldifalco@cogeco.ca

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By gf (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2007 at 07:35:24

on busy streets i stay on the sidewalk. i am very cautious when approaching a blind area and i always yield to pedestrians by either going around them by hopping out onto the street or by riding over the grass. by doing this i can go for a ride and feel confident that i am not going to get smoked by a careless driver whom i cant see behind me. bike lanes are ok, but i will not feel safe on them until there is some sort of barrier set up to protect the cyclists. cycling is way too big a part of my life to risk getting crippled by a car out on the street.when i ride on the sidewalk i know that i am in control of my safety.

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By gf (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2007 at 18:50:10

ryan: the fact that most accidents occur when sidewalk riders enter an intersection doesnt surprise me one bit. When I ride a sidewalk, I assume every car at every intersection is going to do something against expectations. So I wait until they commit to their move. If I have to slow or stop, then so be it. if cars aren't looking out for me on the street, they certainly aren't looking out for me on the sidewalk. even at a slow speed i would never blindly go through a crosswalk showing a walk sign.

I'll stick to the sidewalk on dangerous busy streets, and leave my safety in my own hands and not every single car that passes me on the road.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2007 at 19:02:14

gf... riding on the sidewalk is one of the most dangerous things you can do.

I strongly urge you to read this report on cycling safety: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health...

And then this article which details how to reduce the risk of being hit from behind: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/traffi...

It could save your life...

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By gf (anonymous) | Posted July 23, 2007 at 21:11:20

i'll give those links a read, thanks guys!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 24, 2007 at 13:49:31

Cool, let us know how it goes. In the meantime we all need to stress to our councillors that we want to foster an attitude of safety, respect and fairness toward cyclists in this city. Aggressive driving near cyclists should be punished.

I had another thought actually... I'm sure you've all seen signs such as "reduce to 60 in construction zone" and "fines doubled when workers present". I think it would be a great idea to build similar protections into the laws regarding cyclists. Speed limit 60km/h when passing cyclists and fines doubled when cyclists are present!

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By Frank (registered) | Posted July 31, 2007 at 09:38:11

Hey Jay, HTA governs the roads, it doesn't tell you how to build the road. The Canadian Geometric Standards for Roadway Design were amended a while ago to include things like cyclists. That being said, I have no problems with the suggestions listed above provided there are specific bike lanes in the area. I don't want to have to drive around being worried that a cyclist is going to blast past me on the shoulder. That's is one MAJOR complaint that I have. I don't mind sharing the road and at times I am the cyclist myself however, when I'm biking, I obey the same rules as the cars I'm sharing the road with. If there's no bike lane, don't use the shoulder to get to the front of the line of cars. All that does is make a whole line of drivers angry because they have to wait to pass you. Not to mention the safety concerns associated with that sort of activity. Also, roads are designed for cars i.e. sight lines etc and can be changed to ACCOMODATE cycling. Multiuse paths are designed for cyclists. Anyone who has an argument with that is welcome to borrow and read my roadway design manual. it's kind of boring though.
I've said this before, I live 8 minutes from my work by car, 20 mins by bike. I have biked several times, but the lack of bike lanes along sections of Barton makes it incredibly dangerous. I think that the first step to getting more people to use their bikes is to make the experience as a whole more safe. And a little education would be good to. There's nothing more surprising than having someone show up at an intersection going the wrong direction in a bike lane. Adding bike lanes would, at least in my opinion, eliminate the need to change the rules of the road. If there's a bike lane, I check for cyclists...so should you.

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By fborger@cogeco.ca (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2007 at 09:56:48

sorry about the double post

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 31, 2007 at 10:54:58

Studies have shown that bike lanes are more about perceived safety, and that they are often more dangerous to use. I am still on the fence about bike lanes. On one hand, they will encourage more people to ride because of the perceived safety. On the other, they create a division which lulls motorists into a mindset where the cyclists have their own space and don't need to be paid attention to anymore.

I do have one beef with your saying "multiuse paths are designed for cyclists". They are actually designed for multiple uses -- to be shared between cyclists, rollerbladers, pedestrians, and any other human powered transportation. Cyclists travelling at commuting speeds (in excess of 20km/h) are generally not welcome on multiuse paths. These commuters need a place to ride, and that place is the road. Ideally, roads should be designed as a space where all users can experience an equal level of convenience and safety. This means designing for cars AND for bikes -- NOT designing for cars and simply accommodating bikes...

Regarding passing on the right, I agree that a cyclist should not squeeze up the right had side of a line of cars. At the same time however, cars should not race past cyclists in order to get to a red light or stop sign sooner -- and that happens all the time. Especially bad is when a motorist rushes past a cyclist only to make a right turn immediately after passing. The "it's not fair" attitude regarding cyclists passing lines of cars applies equally to the cyclist being passed immediately before the intersection!

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 31, 2007 at 11:17:15

i much prefer a street with shared access like Locke or Delaware, but Hamilton has some zingers - Main, King, Centennial, Barton, pretty much all Mountain streets etc.... we need bike lanes on these streets to make them safe.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted July 31, 2007 at 12:24:20

Or instead of trying to fit cyclists onto the obvious highway-mentality streets, we could allow cyclists to yield-at-stop-signs and give them well-signed alternate bike routes which allow them to travel parallel to the big roads while minimizing the requirements to stop at every tiny intersection...

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By Frank. (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2007 at 12:30:21

Sean, multiuse paths aren't meant for commuting and as such aren't designed for 20km/h bike travel. I designed about 10km of the Greater Niagara Circle route along the Welland Canal. Roads can't be designed for cyclists from an economic standpoint. Any construction company will back this up: the most expensive part of construction is earth movement. In order to properly build a road for a cyclist, grades would have to change because sight distances are much different. I agree with the part about not racing past cyclists and then turning right or stopping. I've never seen it happen but I can imagine it does. I'm not even sure that changing road geometrics would help that. That's a mental problem. Society has the "every second counts" mentality when in reality if you arrive at work at the right time or 2 minutes late, you're still late. It's much better to plan to be early. If more people did that, there wouldn't be such a rush. The same goes for the false sense of security. However, a bike lane gives a place for a motorist to look for a cyclist. Caution should also be taken from both sides of the coin. Cyclists need to watch for drivers and vice versa. Mutual consideration is part of sharing the right of way.
Jason, Centennial doesn't even have a sidewalk along the East side (the side most used by pedestrians) except in front of the Food Basics plaza. I can't wait til the RHCE is built. I'm hoping that the City will take the intiative at the time and change that road. Not only is it poorly designed but it's just plain ugly.
On a side note, anyone know what's going on with the former "gentemen's" club on the east side of Centennial by Crabbys? It's getting used as a truck stop right now but that place is nasty!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 31, 2007 at 14:14:35

I'm sure by now most of you have seen the letter to the Spec today suggesting that bikes have no place on "higher speed limit" roads. I expect to see an authoritative response from an articulate RTHer in tomorrow's paper! ;)

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 31, 2007 at 16:29:46

let's hope that thinking doesn't hold true (no bikes on high speed roads) or we're really screwed in Hamilton! Pretty much every street is a high speed road.

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By Ron (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2007 at 17:31:00

In the past month I've experienced:

-as a pedestrian getting yelled at by a cyclist while crossing at a stop sign - to "watch where the #### I was going" as he sped through the intersection without stopping.

-as a driver, having to slam on my brakes in order not kill a cyclist (in pro gear) running a stop sign (where I had none) and getting "the finger" as my reward.

-as a pedestrian on the Mac campus, seeing two cyclists collide as the both ignored stop signs.

-as a driver, stopping at a stop sign with a cycle lane on my right. Turning right and having a cyclist nearly plow into my fender at full speed (no intention of stopping for the stop sign - at the east entrance to McMaster University)... with her cursing the whole time about her perilous situation...

Making the cycling laws a little more lenient won't necessarily help. Cycling is great and I'm sure it's the minority that cause the problems - but until we can enforce the laws we have (on cyclists) I don't see a point in tuning them for cyclists.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 31, 2007 at 22:37:46

Re tuning the laws for cyclists:

The WHOLE POINT is that the laws today do not support or encourage cycling and the roads aren't cycle-friendly.

The main streets are too fast-moving and scary, and the side streets have too many stop signs. Add all the one way streets, and it just encourages cyclists to flout the laws. No, it's not right, but PEOPLE RESPOND TO INCENTIVES.

If you make it easier, safer and more convenient to cycle, more people will cycle. If more people cycle, norms of cycling behavior will assert themselves and drivers will get more used to cyclists, which will make the streets safer for cyclists and encourage still more people to come out - just like they are doing in Portland, Oregon.

And if it's a war of anecdotes you want, I can see your getting-yelled-at and raise you a run-off-the-road-by-SUV-guy. ;o)

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By Frank (registered) | Posted August 01, 2007 at 09:54:11

I'm with Ron on this. I don't think that making the rules lenient especially the yielding at stop signs on streets is going to make things safer. When I bike, I'd much rather stop to make sure that I'm not going to get hit than yield at a stop sign expecting a motorist to stop and get broadsided. When you're biking on side roads, obviously you'd yield at a stop sign. Generally you can see what's going on and road speed are usually slower than the main roads. Look both ways and cross. It's the same as walking along the road. As a cyclist I don't think I'd want to put the onus (sp?) on drivers to stop at stop signs when they don't follow the majority of the rules of the road anyway. The argument is kind of moot if you're laying on the ground with broken legs or worse because "he was supposed to stop at the stop sign". You've still got broken legs. Also realize that ignorant people in cars aren't just ignorant to people who walk or bike. They ignorant to everyone including other drivers. Just to relate an experience of my own, I was driving through downtown about a month ago and watched a driver run nearly every light on the red. When I managed to get his attention and get him to pull over to ask him what he thought he was doing, he stated "they're going to turn green anyway"!!! Guys its not a problem with the rules or even road geometrics. It's a mental me-first-and-who-gives-a-rat's-@$$-about-everyone-else attitude that needs to stop.

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By Ron (anonymous) | Posted August 03, 2007 at 16:58:40

Frank - I think you understand... lowering the bar just means that people will stoop lower still.

It's like the 400 series highways... the limit is 100, most people drive around 120 it seems. There's a call to just increase the limit to 120 - but then you know what will happen... people will just drive 140.

The problem truly is that a good number of drivers and cyclists (and pedestrians for that matter) just don't care. How do you fix that?

Communism looks great on paper - but doesn't take into consideration that people are selfish. Changing the rules of the road may fall into the same category. :(

I'm not arguing against it - I just don't think its as cut and dry as you'd like it to be.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 07, 2007 at 14:35:23


Frank Said:

"Sean, multiuse paths aren't meant for commuting and as such aren't designed for 20km/h bike travel."

I know... that is why I took offence to your original statement that they were designed for cyclists which implied to me that you believed all cyclists should ride on multiuse trails whenever they are available. My point is that even if there is a multi-use trail right next to a road, commuting cyclists should in most cases continue to use the road in order to maximize safety for all users.


Frank Said:

"In order to properly build a road for a cyclist, grades would have to change because sight distances are much different."

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by this.... can you give me an example? I'm just trying to visualize it...


Frank Said:

"I agree with the part about not racing past cyclists and then turning right or stopping. I've never seen it happen but I can imagine it does."

It does all the time and I know it is more of a mental thing that you can't design out of roads. However, by encouraging people to cycle (or walk), these mentalities can slowly be changed as drivers learn to expect that they will encounter many more cyclists and pedestrians and will learn how to act around them.

The main point I was making here was about a serious double standard with regards to lane sharing. Whenever traffic is moving, motorists have an attitude that the very right hand side of the road is the cyclist's "lane". They think that the cyclist should stay there at all times. When it comes to a stopped situation, their perception shifts. They think that cyclists should stay in their place in the full "shared lane" and not create their own lane to the right and pass everyone. Let me demonstrate with two scenarios:

  1. A cyclist is riding on the right edge of a single lane road. A group of 20 cars comes from behind and begin to pass him (perhaps they were released as a group from a distant traffic light). The cyclist needs to turn left. Despite the fact that the cyclist was "first in line", if the cyclist signals to turn left, no cars will let him in. He has to wait until all 20 cars pass before daring to venture into the full lane in order to initiate a turn. If he DOES find his way into the lane and has to wait to turn (thereby holding up the line of cars), he gets honked at. Meanwhile if any of those cars had to make the turn, everyone would wait patiently. This is a clear case where the motorists view the right side of the road as an implied "bike lane" even though none is painted there.

  2. Same as above, but the cyclist does not make the turn. All 20 cars legally pass him and get stopped at a light up ahead. The cyclist then passes all of the cars to the right. In this case, all the motorists get mad because the cyclist was not waiting his turn. However, all the cyclist did was use his "implied bike lane" just as the motorists would have wanted him to do in the first scenario. And to add insult to injury, the situation hasn't even changed after he performs his pass! He is at the front of the line of vehicles that he was ahead of from the very beginning.

Clearly you can see that these two scenarios result in conflicting attitudes toward the cyclist's right to the lane. Please be honest about your attitude when driving. If you come upon a cyclist on the shoulder who has his left hand out, do you let him into the lane in his rightful spot so that he can turn (even if it means you might have to stop and wait)? Or do you hurry past him so that you aren't held up. If you'd do the former then you are in a miniscule minority. It's more a matter of "what's most convenient for the motorist" than "what's safest for the cyclist". If safety was number one, motorists would request that cyclists take the entire lane all the time and act as a car in every situation, even if it means following a bike at 20km/h for 2kms straight.


Frank Said:

"However, a bike lane gives a place for a motorist to look for a cyclist."

Bike lanes can be (and usually are) less safe for cyclists than traffic lanes. Removing bikes from the driver's lane (and primary viewing area) encourages motorists to NOT look out for bikes. Conflicts are created at intersections where a cyclist has a clear lane through an green light while a motorist is forced to make a right turn across the bike's path. Bike lanes also tend to collect more debris and potholes, and because the lane is painted, the cyclist cannot avoid these obstacles as easily because motorists expect them to "stay in their lane" regardless of these obstructions. It is no secret that the safest way to cycle is to act in a predictable manner as a part of traffic. I am proposing that we write the laws in order to encourage predictable cyclist behaviour.


Ron Said:

"In the past month I've experienced..."

Do you drive daily? You listed four incidents where you noticed bad cyclist behaviour. Can you list all of the incidents of bad motorist behaviour you witnessed ths month? Is there enough room on this page to fit then all? Don't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch. Please count the number of motorists you see rolling through stop signs. My guess is that the answer is "99.9% of them".

Here's some footage for you: http://youtube.com/watch?v=182F3KnT9Z4 | http://youtube.com/watch?v=5d24EaUzjiU | http://youtube.com/watch?v=_v4TdLFDV6Y


Ron Said:

"Making the cycling laws a little more lenient won't necessarily help. Cycling is great and I'm sure it's the minority that cause the problems - but until we can enforce the laws we have (on cyclists) I don't see a point in tuning them for cyclists."

I am not advocating making them lenient. I am avocating the creation of laws that are fair, safe, and accommodating equally to all road users. Regarding enforcement, I am also advocating full enforcement upon all users equally and fairly. This includes cars speeding and rolling stops as well as cyclists blowing through red lights. I've said it before: start enforcing the traffic laws for cyclists only when you equally and fairly start enforcing them for drivers.


Frank Said:

When I bike, I'd much rather stop to make sure that I'm not going to get hit than yield at a stop sign expecting a motorist to stop and get broadsided.

Under these proposed law changes, nothing prevents you from stopping at every sign if you feel it necessary for your own safety. That's the beauty: your safety would be in your own hands!


Frank Said:

"When you're biking on side roads, obviously you'd yield at a stop sign. Generally you can see what's going on and road speed are usually slower than the main roads. Look both ways and cross. It's the same as walking along the road."

Here, you are advocating breaking laws because you want to use common sense: 'clearly there is no traffic, so I can coast through'. I am advocating making it legal to do so. I think you are missing my point in this article. I am not saying that all cyclists can or should blow through every stop sign. I am advocating allowing everyone to make the decision about the safety of doing so on their own, the same way a motorist does at a red light when he decides to turn right. Obviously at a major intersection where the street you are crossing does not have a stop sign, you are likely, for your own safety, to stop completely to check for traffic before crossing. These law changes aren't going to alter the actions of idiots who never stop. They are meant to encourage more people to ride and create a safer environment for everyone.


Ron, regarding your last post:

First, I don't understand why you perceive this as "lowering the bar". As I said before, allowing cyclists to make the call in certain situations is akin to allowing motorists to turn on a red light. You leave the judgement up to the individual.

Second, the problem on the 400 series highways is not the numerical value of the speed limit. It is lack of enforcement of the speed limit. The proposal to raise the limit to 120 is inherently connected to the proposal to improve enforcement. The idea isn't just to change it to 120 and hope for the best, the idea is to change it to 120 and then ACTIVELY ENFORCE the new limit. The same could be said about these law changes. You change the laws, and then you have a set of laws that are actually enforceable.

Third, connecting this to communism is a bit of a stretch :-)


Sorry about the long windedness of this response but I jumped in a bit late. I don't want to come off as argumentative, I just hope to make it clear that the whole point of this discussion is that I want to promote fairness in terms of the way the laws are written and the way the laws are enforced. There is a great inequality right now where the laws are written in favour of cars, and many of the laws governing cars are simply ignored. We need to reach a balance where everyone is justly represented by the laws, and that the laws are fairly enforced.

(comment edited for formatting by site administrator)

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-04-07 14:58:43

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 09, 2007 at 09:28:54

Chalk me up as one more cyclist who treats all-way stop signs as a yield. I also have been known to just take the sidewalk (at a snail's pace for safety, and get off and walk if I'm approaching a pedestrian) rather than reroute in the face of a wrong-way-street.

That being said, I'm also a motorist, and love Hamilton's one-way-structure. It allows me to quickly get to downtown without traffic lights - the only thing I'd change with them is to change the speed-wave of the traffic lights such that they will slow down traffic a little - as it stands, most drivers will go about 55kph (or more) to avoid getting caught by a traffic light. If the lights were timed such that drivers would be encourage to go, say, 40 kph (and never see a red light at that speed), then traffic would flow at that speed.

I have to agree with other posters: more two-way bike-lanes on one-way streets, and allow cyclists to treat all-way (NOT regular stop-signs) as yields. And get bike-racks on the up-down mountain busses.

To protect pedestrians, I think the city's approach of putting "no-turn-on-red" signs on blind corners could be expanded. There are a lot of corners with only partial visibility that could use these signs.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted August 09, 2007 at 12:41:40

Sean, I'd have to loan you my design manual. It's nearly impossible to describe without looking at a picture.
I do believe that if there's a multiuse pathway cyclists should use it for recreational cycling. If I'm cruising along at near traffic speeds on a bike then by all means use the road. I think you might find the answer to your problem about people passing you and not letting you turn left in changing the location where you bike. Use the middle of the lane or the left side. I can't remember where I read the suggestion but I read it with respect to motorcyclists complaining about people passing them and not moving over completely into the next lane. If you're using the left or centre of the lane, a driver will be forced to move over completely in order to pass and it'll also allow you to turn left when you need to. Having said that, I've seen a lot of cyclists on the road, and it's a veeery rare occasion that I see a cyclist signal any turn that they're making. Also, I changing laws won't change drivers' attitudes towards cyclists. My suggestion is that if there's a bike lane, there's no need to worry about passing cars cutting you off or getting angry when you pass them, you have your own lane. I'd like to see studies/statistics on your assumption that increasing the number of cyclists using a shared roadway will be safer and that having a bike lane made specifically increases accident rates. I agree with increasing the viability of cycling however I don't see your logic in this. As cycling use increases in the bike lane, drivers will also be trained to look there. As your driving down a road you should be observing what's going on around you anyway, didn't your driver's instructor teach you to "scan"? A bike lane is part of the roadway, the shoulder if you will. When there are parked cars along the side of a road, do you keep an eye out to make sure that a door doesn't open suddenly in your face? Same idea. The lane is right there - adjacent to yours. If the bike lane has more potholes, the reason is because it's usually limited to 1.5 metres on the side of the road which of course is where the most pavement failures will occur. Changing the lanewidth would help. I know the potholes are an issue because I've nearly lost my chance to have kids on account of a few. Also, your basing your assumption that the rules will work on the fact that cyclists will abide by them? I wonder how many cyclists would know the rules of the road with respect to them if I stopped them? I would bet the number would be fairly low. How would this make things more predictable? I have driven down busy streets many times just to see a cyclist "squirt" out of a driveway into a travelled lane with no regard for oncoming traffic. In fact, this weekend three cyclists pulled onto Highway 20, which by the way has more potholes on the lanes that on the sidewalks, none of them were wearing helmets and I had to try to avoid getting rear ended by the driver behind me as I slammed on my brakes while they zigzagged through the lane on their way back onto the sidewalk. People need to follow rules that are in place (both cyclists and motorists) before there should be any talk of changing them. If you're proposal to yeild at stop signs is a choice that the cyclist makes, you're also proposing a double standard. That means there is no predictable behaviour on the cyclists part either.
If you're planning on changing laws, how about putting a little more teeth in the helmet rules?
You said that everyone should be justly represented by laws, I agree. However that's subjective. Also, a car hurts more than a bike. I hit you with my car, whether you're biking or walking and it'll hurt a lot more than if you hit my car with your bike. So yes, there is a balance in rules and regs but the balance you propose would treat cyclists as if they were motorists and I dont believe that's a very smart approach. Once I see seatbelts, roll cages and air bags on bikes then you can expect the rules to change drastically.
Bottom line is, bikes are vastly different from cars and the majority of rules are in place to preserve your safety. If you can PROVE with numbers that your proposals increase safety, then let's do it. As far as I'm concerned, logically, your proposals don't increase safety at all.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted August 09, 2007 at 12:47:41

Wow, sorry for the poor grammar and spelling mistakes. In a bit of a rush.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 09, 2007 at 15:47:42

Thanks for the responses Frank. First of all, regarding the road design manual, I'm just trying to understand why road grading would have to change due to sight distances. When on my bike, my head is at the roof level of most minivans, and well above the roof level of all cars. I have no obstructions to my view by pillars etc. I can see farther and in more directions than anyone in a car, and most people in a van or SUV. Above all that, I can hear what's going on around me. I feel like I'm completely misunderstanding your meaning here.

Regarding the "people passing me" problem, I frequently ride toward the centre of the lane when necessary, and stay to the left when making a turn. My point isn't about cycling style, it's about motorist's attitude. The fact that I am agile enough to make these maneuvers, and that I am polite enough to signal them is beside the point. My argument was meant as a rebuttal to the complaint regarding cyclists riding up the right of a lane. Regardless of what I do, motorists will get mad whenever they perceive that I am slowing them down. You are right -- changing the laws may not directly change motorists attitudes -- but making cycling a more viable option will get more bikes on the road. And that WILL cause an attitude shift.

Having your own bike lane is great... until you want to make any of these lane-changing moves. Want to turn left? Want to avoid an opening car door, or pothole? Now you have to cross a solid line into a separate traffic lane, and "fight" with the motorists even harder than before. Your point about doors being opened is another point against bike lanes. They are frequently placed directly int the door-line of a parking lane. Until these kinds of problems are addressed, I think we should refrain from getting too excited about bike lanes.

I have tried finding data to either support or rebuke the anecdotal evidence regarding bike lanes being unsafe and have unfortunately been unable to do so. I am uncertain about whether studies even exist to support or deny this claim. However, that doesn't prevent us from performing some thought experiments. Consider this: the absolute worst situation in a bike lane is at a green light. A cyclist has a 100% legal right to travel straight through the green at full speed, but that is horribly unsafe because a car has a 100% legal right to turn across the bike lane without stopping first. If the motorist decides not to signal (very common) and not to do a shoulder check (very common), or if the cyclist cannot see the car's signal because it is at the front of a line of cars (very common), who is the one who is more likely to sustain injuries when these two collide? We would never ever EVER consider putting a through-lane for cars to the right of a right turn lane. Why would it be a good idea to do so for a bike lane? This scenario alone is enough reason in my mind to rethink the bike lane concept. An example of a better lane in town is when you are coming down from Ancaster where Wilson becomes Main. The bike lane is between the through-lane and the right-turn-lane. Even this is not perfect though.

I would welcome any evidence that you can find that bike lanes are statistically safer. The closest I can come to empirically proving my point is as follows:

First we must agree that it makes logical sense that the type of accident that is BEST reduced by bike lanes is "bike struck from behind". Bike lanes are not so good at reducing "struck from the side" types of collisions, or collisions involving turning cars or turning bikes. However, statistically, "struck from behind" is the least common bike/car accident type: "being struck from behind accounted for only 5.7 percent of all collisions" (http://www.usroads.com/journals/rilj/9708/ri970805.htm) and "Less than one percent of serious cycling injuries are caused by the struck-from-behind collisions feared by novice riders. Most cycling collisions happen at intersections, the same as automobile collisions." (http://www.bicyclinglife.com/PracticalCycling/commuteguide.htm). Search google for "struck from behind" and "bike safety" and you'll see more of the same.

It seems to me that bike lanes make the most dangerous situations (intersections) even worse, and make the least dangerous situation (travelling with traffic) only marginally safer. But this is a digression because most of this article isn't really about bike lanes :-)

Your anecdote about cyclists darting through traffic is simply an example of the worst of the bunch. Once again, I have to say that if we were to compare bad habits, motorists would fare no better than cyclists. The main difference being that motorists are in control of a vehicle which is very capable of turning a bad habit into a deadly mistake. It is much harder to kill someone with a bike!

Regarding stopping at a yield being a double standard, that is not true. "Yield" does not mean "do not stop". You are allowed to stop at a yield sign if you decide that it is the necessary action: "In road transport, a yield...traffic sign indicates that a driver of a vehicle must slow down and prepare to stop if necessary...but does not need to stop if there is no reason to. A driver who has actually stopped in this situation is said to have yielded the right-of-way to through traffic on the main road." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yield_sign)

Helmet laws are another thing altogether and are barely relevant to this discussion, but this page pretty fairly represents my views on them: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/advoca... -- that is to say, I am not opposed to helmets but I am opposed to making them mandatory.

My whole point with this article is that cars and bikes are NOT equal, and they should have separate sets of laws. You said "...a car hurts more than a bike. I hit you with my car, whether you're biking or walking and it'll hurt a lot more than if you hit my car with your bike." MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY. Currently, bikes are, by law, supposed to act (and be treated) as cars. This makes no sense because a car is capable of causing horrendous carnage when compared to a bike. I think the disconnect in our logic is clearly shown by your following statement: "the majority of rules are in place to preserve your safety". This is not the case. The majority of rules are in place so that traffic can travel efficiently while minimizing danger. This is most definitely a safety trade off. If safety was truly the highest priority, then cars would not be allowed on public land at all. Accident statistics speak for themselves: cars are DANGEROUS. The laws are not there to protect cyclists -- The laws are there to maintain traffic flow while allowing an "acceptable" number of collisions. I propose that these vastly different vehicle types can maintain this "safety trade off" by adhering to different sets of laws that are written specifically for each.

And finally, the fact that the current laws are not enforced doesn't matter at all. This is a completely separate problem. They are not enforced either because we refuse to enforce them or because they are unenforceable. The argument to 'leave the laws alone until people start following them' makes no sense at all.

Changing the laws would cause such huge fanfare that it would be hard for anyone to ignore... and ignorance of the laws, either by cyclists or by motorists, is no excuse.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted August 15, 2007 at 12:42:33

Sorry for taking so long to post back, I was having a hard time with the math question. ;) I don't think that changing the rules any way will increase safety. As you mentioned somewhere in your article, we're dealing with attitudes and giving more rules to follow won't make that much of a difference until we get to the finger pointing stage. Also, let's be honest most people using roads yield and don't actually stop at a stop sign unless they have to because of traffic travelling in the other direction and that goes for cyclists and other motorists. I believe if you read one of my earliest posts you'll see that I think it's attitudes that need to change. I do understand your statements regarding the safety of bike lanes, however I have seen that bike lanes, at least where I am, have dotted lines as they approach intersections allowing cyclists to leave the lane. You say that the cyclists who cut in front of me on #20 were the minority, I say that the motorists who cut you off at intersections etc are also the minority... there's just a larger pool to draw from.
Maybe if us cyclists start using the roads we should be getting a license that way there's no excuse for not signalling lane changes or not knowing the rules of the road with respect to whatever vehicle you're driving. You already know from reading my previous posts that I think there are a lot of drivers driving without full knowledge of the rules with respect to them. As such, I'm in favour of periodic testing of the people using our roads whether they're cylcists or motor vehicle drivers as long as it doesn't turn into a money grab. As far as the road design goes, I had it all figured out in my head at the time I posted that but it's been a while. Unfortunately, I don't have teh time to figure it out again, but if I do, I'll post it on here.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2007 at 16:21:32

My main point about attitude change is that altering the rules to better accommodate cyclists will result in more cyclists on the road. This will give more drivers exposure to cyclists. This will in turn result in a slow attitude shift as people realize that bikes-on-the-road is part of normal life, and bikes aren't meant to be shoved onto the sidewalk (you wouldn't believe the number of people who think that bikes are meant to be ridden on sidewalks).

I am not talking about more rules or fewer rules... I'm talking about DIFFERENT rules ;-)

As far as licensing cyclists, I appreciate the idea but I'm not sure it's worth the time and money to set up such a system. A major reason that drivers need to go through all the fees and licensing is that (a) their vehicle is capable of causing a LOT of damage to people and property around them (whereas bikes are capable of very limited amounts of damage) and (b) cars cause a tremendous societal cost (health, safety, infrastructure, etc) whereas bikes could be argued to net a positive value on society because the health and environmental benefits of riding them might even outweigh the costs of the occasional accident caused by them. Of course proving that with numbers might be tough, but it's a nice thought :-)

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By Frank (registered) | Posted August 27, 2007 at 11:38:05

I'm sure that as people see more cyclists there would be an attitude shift, however, I do believe that education is key. That would be the only purpose of the licensing for cyclists. We've already got a lot of drivers on the road who should have their licenses revoked simply on the basis of ignorance. Adding more ignorance on a less safe vehicle (I'm talking about damage to the user)would be a big problem. No one will know how to deal with it. Let's start with educating people on how to deal with other types of vehicles on the road including motorcycles (many motorcycles who have the same concerns as cyclists) and learn to share the road properly. It's futile to change or implement rules when the ones that are in existence aren't followed.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted August 27, 2007 at 14:09:13

No. Let's start by enforcing the users who cause the most damage to the most people: private automobile drivers. I'm very sorry but your argment doesn't make logical sense. Cycling is statistically one of the safest ways to travel. Cyclists aren't killing themselves. Cyclists aren't killing others. Being a cyclist is safer than being a driver. Being a cyclist is safer then being a pedestrian. Most cyclists already act according to the "new rules" that I've proposed yet cycling remains safe. So let's make these safe cyclists legal and start punishing the drivers who are actually causing harm to others both directly and indirectly. You are advocating MORE limits on the roads' safest users. Why?

I'm not entirely sure what plan you have in mind, but it sounds like you want to start by licensing cyclists (and imposing helmet laws which have a questionable effect on cyclist safety), and follow up by waiting around until road users start to obey existing laws by their own accord. Then finally when that happens (i.e. never), revisit the rules and change as necessary. Correct me if I'm wrong. If this is your plan, I think it's kind of useless. How do you propose we "eduacte" drivers in a way that ensures they pay attention? We already have signs telling them to obey the speed limits and signal their intentions and they are clearly doing nothing.

I say: increase enforcement for the most dangerous users. Even a sliding scale based on vehicle weight would be awesome. Ability to cause damage to others increases with vehicle mass, so going 20 over in an Echo could earn you a $200 tiket. In an Escalade, $500. And in a big rig, $1000.

At the same time, relax restrictions on less damaging modes of transport: namely walking and biking.

These two measures would result in motorists taking fewer risks copled with more peole choosing the safer modes (since they are made more convenient). For every person riding to work, it's oneless dangerous car. This is the way to make roads safer. Licensing cyclists is not going to reduce vehicular deaths. Waiting for people to start paying attention to current rules won't either.

Though maybe I'm missing something in your argument...?

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By Frank (registered) | Posted September 07, 2007 at 15:27:49

Ummm, ya.

The only reason for the "license" for cyclists is for education. The people you know who cycle regularly would generally know the rules. The recreational cyclist rarely does.

A sliding scale would also be useless at least with respect to big rigs. Most of the accidents even those involving big rigs are caused by motorists in much smaller vehicles. Also, how many accidents happen on city streets as a result of big rigs?

And by the way, I never said that rules regarding car drivers shouldn't be enforced, in fact, I'm all for it. I hate seeing police in their "regular" spots doing radar "traps" when everyone knows where they are to.

Now, you're proposing rule changes and new signs which of course is going to cost money. If what you're saying is true, then why do we need to...most cyclists are following those rules already.

Also, by sheer volume and size it would make sense that the "safest users" are cyclists. I'm not proposing more rules, I'm saying education on the existing rules is necessary. I don't care how it's done, EVERYONE using the road needs better education.

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