By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published July 04, 2013
The Toronto Star published a rather confused anti-cyclist and -pedestrian rant today that manages to accept that all road users break the law but then claims that the most dangerous road users are cyclists and pedestrians.
Author Judith Timson writes that she has "come to the end of silently tolerating cyclists who break the law - placing themselves and others in danger." She covers herself by briefly mentioning, "No one - pedestrians, motorists or cyclists - obeys all road laws. Everybody, middle finger at the ready, is mighty entitled."
Yet she then focuses on what she considers the most "dangerous" group of traffic law breakers: cyclists, with jaywalking pedestrians not far behind. It is beyond me how someone can recognize that all road users break the laws all the time, but then single out cyclists and pedestrians for special attack based on a perception of danger.
As a motorist, and even as a cyclist, I find it very irritating when cyclists break certain traffic rules, and it seems unfair that cyclists break some rules more than motorists (although motorists break other rules far more often than cyclists, such as speeding). But there is a difference between "unfair and irritating" and "dangerous" (especially if one means "dangerous to others"). And Timson just doesn't get this distinction.
Surely anyone who sees the injury statistics or knows the laws of physics understands that a speeding, drunk or inattentive motorist poses a far greater danger to other road users than a cyclist rolling through a stop sign or cycling the wrong way down a one-way street, or a pedestrian crossing against a red light when there is no traffic around - three examples that get the writer especially riled up.
I agree that cyclists should obey the law, but where exactly is the evidence that cyclists are "placing themselves and others in danger" by their lawbreaking? In fact, the evidence goes completely the other way: it is motorist law-breaking that places the motorists themselves and others in danger and leads directly to thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of serious injuries in Canada every year.
A study of cyclist-motor vehicle collisions in Toronto found that motorist behaviour was the cause of 90 percent of the collisions. The study author, University of Toronto Professor Chris Cavalcuiti, concluded: "The available evidence suggests that collisions have far more to do with aggressive driving than aggressive cycling."
Let's put things in perspective and focus on rule breaking that really does have the most potential to cause harm, especially to others. Cyclists should obey the laws, but encouraging motorists to harangue cyclists for rolling stops or other infractions, as the author does, is not helpful.
Perhaps Timson would appreciate being told how intrinsically dangerous driving is, since she is on a personal mission to improve road safety by telling off rule breakers - if those rule breakers happen to be "middle-aged women" cyclists she can corner.
Does the author really never exceed 100 km/h on the highway or roll through a stop sign when driving? How would she react if cyclists started telling her off for speeding, talking on a cell phone, rolling through a stop sign or changing lanes without signalling? Would she contritely pledge to obey the rules in the future?
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