Comment 7095

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 22, 2007 at 14:35:55

An open letter to Hamilton Police Services:

I am writing in regards to your Bicycle Safety and Enforcement Program. As a driver and a cyclist, I am thrilled to see that our city's police service is committed to ensuring the safety of cyclists on our roads. I am slightly dismayed however at the approach that is being taken. I agree that cyclists need to obey the traffic laws as much as automobile drivers need to. But by targeting enforcement actions toward cyclists specifically, you help to foster the image of the "outlaw cyclist" who causes accidents and "seals his own fate" through reckless behaviour. Statistics show however, that cycling is even safer than walking (which is itself vastly safer than driving) -- and most cyclist injuries are caused by driver neglect, not cyclist neglect.

As a driver, I always do my best to give cyclists extra space and extra time, because I know what it's like to be on a bike and sharing the road with heavy, powerful, intimidating cars. As a cyclist, I try to obey all laws, and I know that each move that I make when automobiles are nearby can put me in danger. In short, as a cyclist, I am inherently aware of my surroundings, and have a fundamental understanding of the risks associated with each manoevre. It's all part of my built-in self-preservation instinct as a human. Drivers, however, have a more difficult time being in tune with their surroundings since they are strapped into an airbag-protected seat, enclosed in a steel and glass cage, and equipped with a powerful engine which can easily whisk them away from any uncomfortable situation.

The simple fact is that cars are the major cause of cyclist and pedestrian injury, not bikes. And this city has some of the worst driving habits I have ever seen, stemming form the fact that most of the downtown streets feel like highways. People speed here as a rule. Going 70 in a 50 and 80 in a 60 is like a God-given right in Hamilton. When I'm cycling, cars routinely pass me immediately before a stop sign, cut me off, and coast through the intersection at 5 to 10 kilometres per hour. If I come to a complete stop at an intersection on my bicycle, I will often get an angry look, occasionally a horn honk and once in a while a rude gesture directed my way by the car driver behind me who was inconvenienced for 8 seconds while I dared to try to protect my own safety.

As a driver and a cyclist, I just wanted to share with you my relatively balanced perspective on the bike-safety issue. The bottom line is that any bike safety campaign should be targeting car drivers first. Motorists need to be made more aware of the kind of damage they are capable of inflicting, especially upon the more vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists). Education and enforcement of one motorist could have the same positive effects as educating and enforcing 100 cyclists. Ticket all speeders on our roads, no matter how small the infraction. Monitor stop signs (and cars turning on red lights) and ticket any motorist that does not come to a 100% complete stop. Once these more dangerous road users are tamed, THEN focus your attention on making sure cyclists stop at every stop sign.

By focussing enforcement toward cyclists alone, yet turning a blind eye to all motorists who speed by "only" 10km/h, the police are showing that the true motivation behind this program is NOT cyclist safety, which begs the question: what is?

Thank you for your time,

Sean Burak

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