Transportation

Police Ticket Cyclists While UN Slams Canada for Failing to Design Safe Streets

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published March 14, 2013

This in the Toronto Star today:

Canada is falling to the back of the pack when it comes to policies aimed at protecting vulnerable road users, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization.

While 77 per cent of United Nations countries carry out safety audits to ensure the safety of road infrastructure projects for cyclists and pedestrians, Canada does not, and is contributing to a concerning trend of countries promoting alternative forms of transportation without ensuring their safety, according to the Global Status Report on Road Safety.

While studies have consistently shown what types of walking and cycling infrastructure are needed to improve road safety, including safe routes and crossings for pedestrians, slower traffic speeds, and dedicated cycling lanes, policies are not in place to ensure that these are incorporated into road infrastructure projects, according to the report.

In the meantime, the police have been out in force on Sterling Street ticketing cyclists for rolling through stop signs. It's clear where our priorities really lie!

See also:

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 Don't Worry about it (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 00:26:31

Well guess what, cyclists aren't exempt from the rules of the road! I have nearly killed cyclists running red lights and stop signs and walking right in front of my car! Luckily I haven't hit one yet *knock on wood*. If drivers can't roll through atop signs putting people at risk neither should cyclists. This article is pointless police shaming. Stop the war on cars. We can all get along if we play by the rules.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 14:40:55 in reply to Comment 87241

I agree that this is dangerous behaviour, but it is primarily harmful to the law-breaker, not others.

When a motorist engages in dangerous behaviour (speeding, running a red light, failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk or at an intersection), it is harmful (often lethal) both to the driver and especially to vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. This is an important distinction.

Also, as pointed out by Arien, driving a vehicle is making a deliberate choice to engage in an activity that is potentially extremely dangerous to yourself and to others, both in principle (due to size, energy and momentum) and in fact (around 2000 deaths and 20 000 serious injuries every year in Canada).

Choosing to walk or cycle just doesn't involve the same risks to others.

Finally, as the book "Car Jacked" points out,

http://www.amazon.ca/Carjacked-Culture-A...

in the USA (and Canada) even if you kill a pedestrian or cyclist and are at fault, it is very unlikely you will face anything more serious than a $500 fine. The only cases that result in serious charges are when it can be proved that you were deliberately trying to run someone down.

There are many cases of drivers in the GTAH being sentenced to only the maximum $500 fine after killing a pedestrian in a crosswalk, even when the driver pleads guilty to failing to yield.

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2011/0...

According to the article the driver was originally charged with "careless driving", but the charge was reduced because

"Police say careless driving is one of the toughest offences under the Highway Traffic Act to prove. "

In other words, the penalty for killing a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a $500 fine (and the driver's own remorse).

This shows society's true attitude: lethal "accidents" are a normal part of driving, and drivers can't be expected to pay attention all the time.

Some more examples of drivers killing pedestrians in crosswalks getting off with $500 fines:

http://metronews.ca/news/halifax/449137/...

http://gothamist.com/2011/07/14/unlicens...

http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2011/0...

http://www.mississauga.com/article/15011...

http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/11/11/un...

$500 does indeed seem to be the normal cost to a careless driver at fault for killing a pedestrian. Far from always being "blamed", the motorist who kills a pedestrian in a crosswalk is almost always given the benefit of the doubt: they are almost always charged with the minor offence of "failing to yield", with the assumption that no one can be sure why they failed to yield ... but they probably had a good excuse.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-03-15 15:41:09

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By 100km per hr (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 03:12:57 in reply to Comment 87241

Shall we talk about speeding instead? Or would you prefer to stay up on that horse?

I have an idea - start with the most damaging lawbreaking and work all the way down bit by bit to bicycles, jaywalkers and kids on bigwheels.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2013 at 03:08:13 in reply to Comment 87249

I like your logic. Let's get the police to concentrate on the serious crimes in our society murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, rape, armed robbery, serious assaults and the like. Then they won't have to bother giving tickets to cyclists or car drivers. Sounds good to me.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 18, 2013 at 19:28:15 in reply to Comment 87277

In 2007 there were 594 homicides in Canada

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux...

but there were 2767 traffic fatalities

http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/tp-tp...

Traffic (almost entirely to due motor vehicle collisions with other motor vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians) cause almost five times as many deaths as homicide!

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 19, 2013 at 02:01:56 in reply to Comment 87295

Very clever. The one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Whenever we get into a car or other vehicle we all understand there is a possibility we will be involved in an accident. The accident can be the result of driver error or weather or mechanical failure or a myriad of other reasons. No matter the reason we all know that there is a risk, no matter how slight. With homicide that is a little different isn't it? But you aren't interested in that are you? All you want to do is parade the numbers like it means something. Which it does not.

Let the downvoting begin.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 19, 2013 at 02:15:08 in reply to Comment 87307

Let the downvoting begin.

Being deliberately obtuse and obnoxious and then daring people to notice doesn't exactly make you a martyr.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 02:19:57 in reply to Comment 87241

Yes, this 'war on cars' is getting right out of hand these days. I mean, look at how little road space is left for cars here:

http://goo.gl/maps/AzqVY

Rob Ford for life....

EDIT: And I should mention, behind that row of trees on the right is a high-school. Turn the photo around to face the other way and you'll see an elementary school. Best place to raise a child.....

Comment edited by jason on 2013-03-15 03:46:28

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 15, 2013 at 00:34:42 in reply to Comment 87241

All of the evidence is that streets become much safer for all users, including drivers when they are designed as complete streets that accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. As a driver who doesn't enjoy sharing the road with cyclists, you should welcome dedicated bike lanes as a win-win solution.

Also, there is no "war on cars", particularly in Canada, where even the UN recognizes that we are failing to keep up with the rest of the industrialized world in following best practices for designing safe, complete streets.

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By Don't worry about it (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 00:42:28 in reply to Comment 87244

I agree with your post. My point was that we should't be all up in arms about police ticketing cyclists who are making the streets even less safe by breaking the law and putting their own lives, and the sanity of drivers, at risk.

My definition of the war on cars is the increasing anti-car sentiment that is cropping up. Especially the mentality people seem to have of "the car is always wrong". Had I hit that cyclist who crossed against the signal, I would have been blamed, simply because I'm a driver. I applaud and welcome cyclists who follow the rules, and equally deplore drivers who are aggressive towards them.

I do agree though, sharing the road is unsafe and impractical. We need better designed roads. We shouldn't have to share the road with them- it's not safe for anyone.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 15, 2013 at 13:12:04 in reply to Comment 87245

Had I hit that cyclist who crossed against the signal, I would have been blamed, simply because I'm a driver.

That's true in some European countries but not here. Despite the fact that drivers are legally obligated to be in full control of their vehicles at all times, in practice the police evaluate each collision or crash and determine who is at fault. In most cases, no charges are laid even if a pedestrian or cyclist is killed.

The situation is so bad in New York that a running joke goes: if you want to kill someone and get away with it, hit them with your car.

It's even worse in Atlanta, where a grieving mother was actually convicted of "vehicular homicide" while walking across the street, when her child slipped out of her hand and stepped in front of a speeding car. The driver had previous hit-and-run convictions, was blind in one eye, had been drinking that day and was taking pain medication - and he didn't even lose his driver's licence!

Incidentally, they were crossing the street from a bus stop to their apartment with a group of other residents who had also gotten off the bus. The nearest crosswalk was half a kilometre away. (What city puts bus stops on either side of a thoroughfare next to a residential side-street but doesn't put in a crosswalk? Oh, right: Hamilton.)

This mother was convicted of vehicular homicide even though she wasn't in a vehicle, and even though her child was killed by an intoxicated, one-eyed driver with a history of hit-and-run convictions.

Granted, things aren't quite as bad here as they are in Atlanta, but we are points on a continuum of systematic disregard for the safety and accommodation of pedestrians and cyclists.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-03-15 14:47:59

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 02:04:01 in reply to Comment 87245

"Had I hit that cyclist who crossed against the signal, I would have been blamed, simply because I'm a driver."

Which is exactly as it should be. The larger, faster vehicle on the road has a duty to actively protect the welfare of the smaller and slower. If you are not willing to accept that responsibility, you shouldn't have chosen a vehicle with such power. With great power comes great responsibility.

These days, it seems as if putting a foot on the brake pedal or waiting an extra second or two to save a life creates some kind of undue hardship for some.

That said, if cyclists are blatantly blasting through stop signs without even checking to see if they have right of way, they should be ticketed. However if a cyclist approaches a clear intersection and decides to coast through instead of stopping (just like 99% of motorists do) without harming anyone, they should get a let, just like drivers who speed at less than 15km/h over.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 06:51:58 in reply to Comment 87246

I like your comparison of rolling through a stop sign to drivers speeding but only 15 over. I frequently roll through stop signs and have never had any problems, because I look where I am going.

That being said, how can you legitimately argue that drivers should be charged regardless of fault? That is the opposite of justice. If the driver obeys the rules of the road and makes every reasonable effort to drive in a manner that is safe, then they should not get in trouble. Don't make me responsible for careless cyclists. Yes, roads may be safer for drivers, but adding another injustice won't rebalance or fix anything.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 19:44:20 in reply to Comment 87252

Yes, the standard of care implied by my comment is higher for motorists, as is the destructive potential of the automobile being driven. "Not being at fault" should not be sufficient to excuse one from responsibility.

There is a requirement to do everything in your power to avoid the collision, which includes being aware of your surroundings and exercising additional caution in areas where there is potential for conflict with more vulnerable road users.

When I took drivers' ed many years ago, the message was that there is no such thing as an unavoidable accident. If you're driving defensively you can and should be expected to anticipate and react.

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By Don't worry about it (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 00:28:36 in reply to Comment 87241

stop signs* my bad

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By realist (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 04:21:48

I think if cyclists(like me) want to be respected as equal users of public roads, the standards need to be met (the laws). The alternative is a reluctance to listen to 'crazy cyclers' and of course death.

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By double double (anonymous) | Posted March 15, 2013 at 18:42:05 in reply to Comment 87251

Whatever. I'm sick of the double standard. Speeding is somehow ok but cyclists have to be PERFECT in order to be taken seriously? I have two words for drivers who bitch about "scofflaw" cyclists. Eff off. Every single driver breaks laws. EVERY one.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 16, 2013 at 15:46:13 in reply to Comment 87258

You are absolutely right. All drivers break the law from time to time, and all are liable to be charged for that offense. Those charges can be laid against the driver of a car, bus, truck or bike. What exactly are you referring to as a double standard? What double standard? What you want is a double standard, where cyclists get to flaunt the law and not get a ticket. There is no double standard now but you want a double standard. Grow up and stop the whining. Automobile drivers must prove that they are capable of driving in a safe and legal manner. Any yahoo can hop on a bicycle and putter away and do whatever they want or think is proper. This is what the reality is.

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By double double (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2013 at 16:58:52 in reply to Comment 87270

Show me a case of someone being ticketed for going 10-15 over the limit in town, or 20-30 on the highway. It simply doesn't happen. The letter of the law is being broken, but the spirit clearly allows it. Meanwhile cyclists are held by drivers to the highest standard. Even when the OPP does a safe driving blitz, there is a speeding tolerance of at least 20% over the limit. THAT is a double standard.

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By double double (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2013 at 13:31:44 in reply to Comment 87290

That's what I thought.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 17, 2013 at 16:05:40 in reply to Comment 87270

The double standard is that some believe that in order to be considered worthy of having a place on the road, all cyclists must obey the laws all the time, when in the real world, all drivers consistently and routinely break the law. If you held motorists to the same standard, we would all be walking everywhere.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 17, 2013 at 20:18:44 in reply to Comment 87275

"You can get that new street once you start consistently obeying stop signs on the streets you've already got."

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2013 at 21:18:57

So what are you saying? Cyclists who break traffic code should not be ticketted? What should we do with those who break the law?

This is why you bike nuts cannot be taken seriously. You want all the privilages of riding your bike on the road with taxpayer paid bike lines yet you want none of the responsibilities that go along with it. If you want to ride you bike on the road obey the rules like everyone else or face the consequences.

Typical of the left.

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By who's nuts (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2013 at 13:31:08 in reply to Comment 87298

you had me at "you bike nuts"

*rolleyes*

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 18, 2013 at 21:43:33 in reply to Comment 87298

Cyclists should obey the law, and cyclists do pay taxes that pay for road construction, maintenance, policing and emergency services. (Municipal roads are paid from property taxes, fuel taxes do not come close to covering the cost of building and maintaining highways and freeways and, in any case, the vast majority of cyclists are also motorists!).

I certainly don't object on principle to cyclists being ticketed for infractions. This has nothing to do with being left, right or centre (I support road tolls, which is usually considered a right wing solution, rather than subsidizing everyone through taxes and I am happy to take the 407).

What I do object to is:

  1. The implication that motorists obey traffic laws and cyclists don't. Both groups (who are often the same people) break many of the laws most of the time. For example, motorists speed almost all the time (especially on freeways), cyclists coast through stop signs almost all the time. In both cases, the police do not enforce the letter of the law. It is a fact that you will never get ticketed for doing 105 km/h on the QEW. And the law states that you must not exceed the posted limit, there is no +5km/h or +10km/h grace zone!

  2. The claim that enforcing all traffic laws is equally important and deserves the same resources. A motorist speeding is far more dangerous than a cyclist coasting through a stop sign. And a motorist doing 70km/h on a residential street is far more dangerous than a motorist doing 120 km/h on the QEW in good conditions.

  3. A four-week campaign targeting only cyclists reinforces the false impression that cyclists law-breaking is a significant danger to the public. Statistics in Hamilton and Toronto suggest only 0.4% of traffic accidents are caused by cyclists!

By all means, ticket a cyclist who is behaving dangerously. But don't pretend most cyclists are dangerous scoff-laws, and don't forget that the police also exercise a lot of discretion in ticketing motorists.

If they target drunk drivers and urban speeders and red-light runners more than cyclists, it is because they pose a much greater risk to themselves and others. And this is how it should be.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-03-18 21:44:46

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 18, 2013 at 21:59:22

Cyclists are not held to the same level of accountability as motorists are. A motorist who drives through a red light will have to pay a fine and will lose demerit points that could result in insurance rates going up. Cyclists do not have insurance. Cyclist that want to ride on the road should be required to have insurance to level the playing field.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 20, 2013 at 05:39:23 in reply to Comment 87302

But does it make sense that someone driving a 20 pound vehicle at 20 km/h is held to the same level of accountability as someone driving a 4000 pound vehicle at 60 km/h?

The chances that someone on a bicycle will cause significant property damage or personal injury to others is miniscule compared to that of a car or truck.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 18, 2013 at 22:27:52 in reply to Comment 87302

Well, now you are talking about changing the law, which is an entirely different question.

In any case a cyclist running a red light will certainly be ticketed if a police officer spots them. And I strongly support the cyclist being ticketed in this case.

Again, the reason motorists need insurance and cyclists don't is that they don't pose the same level of risk. Do you also think pedestrians need walking insurance if they want to cross the street? Should pedestrians pay special 'shoe taxes' to pay for sidewalks and the portion of the roads they cross?

In any case, insurance companies don't hesitate to sue cyclists to recover damages if they are at fault, insurance or no insurance.

http://www.rbs.ca/media/news/72_OpenFile...

As this article points out, most cyclists are in fact covered by their homeowners or tenants insurance policy.

"Lindsay Olson, vice president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada assures that most insurance companies cover cyclists under homeowner’s or tenants insurance. “In terms of homeowner’s liability, I’ve been in the insurance industry now for many years and I am certainly not aware of any policies out there that limit liability coverage for cyclists,” she says."

So, once again, cyclists pay taxes for the roads and the vast majority of cyclists are in fact insured through their residential insurance policy. In fact, much of the fuel tax goes to freeway and expressway construction and maintenance - roads cyclists are prohibited from using. And the relative risk to others is negligible compared to motorists (the risk of non-insurance is primarily a risk to cyclists themselves). This is a not a major issue! Only a socialist would want to force the government to regulate and tax something on such a slender justification as enforcing a "level playing field"!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-03-18 23:36:13

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By arienc (registered) | Posted March 20, 2013 at 05:33:51 in reply to Comment 87304

And when I leave my car at home (on which I am already paying for insurance), this effectively subsidizes the other policyholders by reducing the overall claims levels.

Imposing an insurance requirement for cyclists will reduce cycling rates, increase traffic levels and automobile accidents, and thereby will also result in increased insurance premiums for motorists.

So in the end, we all lose - except for maybe the insurance companies. Is that what so-called capitalists who advocate unnecessary government intervention really want?

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2013 at 16:05:54

I was giving this more thought.

People who want to ride their bike on the road should be required to register it and have a small licence plate or some other identification on the bike. This way if some drunk cyclist rides into my car I can take down the plate number, notify police, identify the rider and begin legal action. Without this information the rider could just ride away and I would have no way to identify him/her.

Sound good?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 20, 2013 at 16:51:39 in reply to Comment 87395

Without this information the rider could just ride away and I would have no way to identify him/her.

So could a pedestrian (walk/run) away. Should we all wear id badges?

I'm not opposed to licensing of cyclists, per se. But the actual benefits of having cyclists tagged just doesn't outweigh the costs so far as I can see.

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By Market Theorist (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2013 at 16:15:21 in reply to Comment 87395

No, that sounds stupid. It's already illegal to ride a bike drunk, you should call the police. Making cyclists get a licence and register there bike would stop most people from riding bikes without doing anything to help you.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 20, 2013 at 20:20:46 in reply to Comment 87396

"No, that sounds stupid. It's already illegal to ride a bike drunk, you should call the police."

Ok, so if some drunk guy hits my car should I ask him to kindly stay where he is until the police arrive? What are the chances of that happening?

With the license at least I can copy it down and then go after him/her.

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By billn (registered) | Posted March 22, 2013 at 14:24:16 in reply to Comment 87407

If a drunk guy on a bike hit your car hard enough to cause you concern, he'd likely be lying in a heap. Wouldn't be to hard to detain him until the police and ambulance arrived.

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By Market Theorist (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2013 at 02:24:29 in reply to Comment 87407

So they'll hit and run if they don't have a licence, but they'll stick around and let you frisk them for ID if they do have one?

Give your head a shake. Bike licencing is a non starter.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2013 at 20:37:58 in reply to Comment 87414

"Give your head a shake. Bike licencing is a non starter."

Of coarse it isn't. Just like everybody else on the left you expect all of the rights with none of the responsibilities.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted March 25, 2013 at 15:31:40 in reply to Comment 87466

"Give your head a shake. Bike licencing is a non starter."

Of coarse it isn't. Just like everybody else on the left you expect all of the rights with none of the responsibilities.

Traditionally, the right is not for regulation and beauracracy unless there are very clear benefits for the common good.

It's not at all clear to me that a bicycle licensing scheme would make the world better for anyone. Except that it would give the police another thing to write tickets for.

In my experience, the best way to encourage cyclists to act like traffic is to give them infrastructure. It's even worked in Montreal, that city of mild traffic anarchy all around.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted March 22, 2013 at 22:45:48 in reply to Comment 87466

Atta way to not answer any of the responses to your scheme and just go straight for insults.

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By Mainstreet (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2013 at 11:29:14

This is the grave of BikeNut O'Day,Who died maintaining his right of way,His right was clear,His will was strong,But he's just as dead as if he were wrong.

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By thanks (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2013 at 13:43:01 in reply to Comment 87458

That was really helpful

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