April 22nd, 2024

Urban cycling won’t be safe until everyone accepts the culture


By Lethbridge Herald on March 22, 2024.

Editor:

As an avid cyclist who has ridden over 40,000kms on the roads around Lethbridge in the last 13 years, I am dismayed and alarmed with what appears to be increasing public hostility to bikes and cycling, especially in the city proper.

 There are likely many reasons behind this hostility. An over-arching one is ignorance — many adult urban cyclists do not know where they must ride (on a pathway or street, not the sidewalk), do not know when they must or should yield the right of way, and do not know or use basic cycling hand signals. 

Many adult urban drivers do not know where cyclists are allowed to ride (on designated bike lanes, bike paths, and on most city streets as well), do not know when they must or should yield the right of way, and do not know basic cycling hand signals (some drivers do not even seem to know how to use their vehicle’s turning signals).

 Although the bike lane infrastructure recently installed downtown is essential and the absolute minimum for safe cycling in the areas where it has been installed, a more fundamental issue is the need to improve the will of everyone to share the streets and roads and to know how to share them.

If I read the Herald correctly, one city council member recently raised the danger of drivers accidentally “dooring” cyclists, perhaps implying that downtown dedicated bike lanes and the cyclists riding them were solely to blame for this hazard.

In Quebec (everywhere in the province), a driver who opens his door in front of a cyclist (which usually results in severe physical injuries and sometimes in death to the cyclist) will pay a stiff fine, no matter the outcome.

 The way to resolve this is for drivers to learn and use the “Dutch Reach,” which means that car and truck passengers reach across their bodies using their arm farthest from the door to open it thereby allowing themselves to turn and see a cyclist or other approaching object. 

Lethbridge residents have not even begun to develop a fundamental urban willingness to accept cycling, let alone coming to grips with “dooring” or employing the “Dutch Reach.”

For these and a long list of other hazards that space does not allow me to address here, I almost exclusively ride out of town on highways with wide verges, which allows me and others like me to ride for distance, speed, exercise, and pleasure. Necessities of route navigation, however, often compel me to ride two-lane paved roads which have narrow verges. 

These roads require hyper-attention given that some drivers assume I do not have the right to be in “their” lane (I do) or even on the narrow verge. 

The widely embraced international standard is that drivers of all vehicles should give cyclists a margin of 1.5 meters (about five feet) (1 meter in areas with a 50km an hour or less speed limit) when passing’. 

It also means the cyclist needs to give her/himself 1.5 meters distance from the far-right edge of the verge, and that means (on a road like Highway 508, for example) riding just in the traffic lane itself. Most drivers willingly give that wide berth and simply pass you; a substantial few do not. 

So this year I am installing a so-called “dash cam” for my road bike, and will henceforward report drivers (through my record of their license plates) who have severely intruded on that margin.

The good news for those who just like to ride is the new Link Pathway that will run between Lethbridge and Coaldale. 

It will offer safe cycling for all in a rural setting.

 But aside from it and some of the city’s established bike paths, including the 7th Avenue bike route, urban cycling cannot occur safely, especially downtown, until there is the will and knowledge among city government, drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to accept a cycling culture and promote a knowledge base that will support it.

James Tagg

Lethbridge

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Citi Zen

I too am a cyclist, as well as a motorist. I enjoy a good ride on a warm summer day, but not a winter rider. I am appalled at the attitudes of some fellow bikers, where they assume they have the right-of-way because they are in a crosswalk, or ride on sidewalks / pathways shared with pedestrian approaching from behind with no warning. Get a bell, for Pete’s sake! Sure, some motorists won’t give us the time of day, but respect has to come from all sides.
As for bike lanes downtown, I won’t go downtown with my bike, for several obvious reasons. To my knowledge, there has never been a problem with bike / vehicle collisions downtown prior to the installation of the new lanes. The bike lanes are more dangerous than properly sharing the road.
Now my fellow bikers aren’t going to like this, but I believe that we should follow some other cities that require a bike license plate. Firstly, the revenues would help to offset the maintenance and development of our bike lanes. Secondly, it would go a long ways toward warding off theft, and give traceable ownership back to the proper owner through proper registration. It is unconscionable to expect the motorists to pay for all of the cycling infrastructure and maintenance through road taxes.
But above all else, teach your children about bike safety! Teach them where and when they do or do not have the right-of-way. Riding across a street in the crosswalk against the pedestrian light isn’t very bright. We all, motorists and cyclists alike, have a responsibility to obey the laws of the road, and to be respectful of each other.

Keilan

Taxes paid by motorists don’t pay for bike lanes, or even car lanes. They go into general revenue, and bring in less than the budget for Alberta Transportation, let alone municipal road work. Bike lanes are paid for the exact same way as all other road infrastructure – property taxes (paid by everyone), and provincial/federal transfers (paid for by income taxes and sales taxes, paid by everyone).
The difference is that cars do thousands of times more damage to roadways than bicycles, and require vast amounts of land dedicated to parking them. Every km someone bikes instead of drives saves taxpayer money.
Much of the rest of your post is good advice, but with misdirected emphasis. A pedestrian or cyclist screwing up might get themselves killed, a motorist screwing up might kill others, and does so regularly. We all have responsibility but responsibility scales with capacity to harm.

ReallyReally

I have long thought that LPS needs to dedicate some days to reeducating this city’s motorists to pedestrian rights… akin to the vigilance they formerly (still do?) with distracted driving issues. It has become quite dangerous to be a pedestrian crossing streets in Lethbridge. And as someone pointed out in these columns, City of Lethbridge vehicle operators and bus drivers of both city and school buses are frequent speeders and fail to respect pedestrian rights.

ReallyReally

Some accurate observations relative to mine, and sound points and recommendations as well. There are far too many cyclists breaking rules/laws in this city. That in no way excuses motorists. Nor does it excuse pedestrians with “I’ll take my bloody time”attitudes crossing roadways; these folks are simply arrogant entitled twits and some obviously slow to a crawl to irritate motorists; I am not referring to seniors. There are definitely senior high school students in my area that think this game is great sport.

gs172

While licensing bikes would have no impact on finances I propose going one step further, operators licenses for Cyclists. Of course there would have to be limitations on what age they are required at. After all I have to get a drivers license to drive a vehicle on the road. Drivers licenses are there to make sure operators have an understanding of the rules of the road and keep bad ones off it. When I drive I put other people’s lives and property at risk, Cyclists do as well, not to the same extent but they do. Its small consolation to the driver of a vehicle who hit and hurt a bad Cyclist that they were right. Keep the bad Cyclists off the road and more importantly off the sidewalk where their odds of causing physical injury are greatly increased.

HaroldP

James, totally and uniquivocally disagree with your rationale. Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians who don’t know the basics of venturing out of their homes and onto streets should probably just stay at home on their sofa! Those of us who have passed drivers road tests and achieved our licenses are aware of the rules of the road and learned road safety regarding yielding and sharing the roadways. “Quebec” laws??? “Dutch reach”??? How about just good common sense, FOLLOWING rules of the road bikers, and designated bike lanes be damned.

ReallyReally

40 hit and runs the other day in Calgary. Common sense is obviously not the Be All To End All for that population. No fault insurance does protect drivers struck by another operator driving without insurance in some ways. But I am wondering why we no longer have updated registration tags as a mental cross-check for owners, warning for other drivers, and alert for traffic police. These things don’t make sense to me… but they affect the bottom line of insurance corporations and already over-stretched law enforcement budgets according to some conversations I have had with folks in those fields of employment.
Which brings me to something I remember the instructor of the Philosophy 101 course I took back in the day tell students the first day we considered this topic: “There is no such thing as ‘çommon sense’. Discussions then occurred that had participants pointing out that influences such as family of origin, personal experience, wealth or poverty, cultural background, religious training, and personal character, stress, political partisanship, (other influences) ALL shape an individual’s sense, their attitudes and or ethics and behaviour, their “control” at any given moment. That stew of influences pretty much ensure that there will be very little “common” among us decision making-wise. Throw in the observations of many that our current society seems to have a major problem with people accepting responsibility and consequences, and their common feeling that political and corporate leaders accept even less of either these days… and maybe, just maybe a shift in integrity and ethics for the common good is the one common sense thing we can do.

Elohssa Gib

An excellent and timely comment about the idea of common sense. But those who labour under that myth almost always see the world in black-and-white, with little room for nuance. And they generally take the view that anyone who doesn’t think the way they do or hold their worldview should.

ReallyReally

Too funny Elohssa… just a few minutes ago I was playing cards with my souse and I expressed a comment that there are some folks posting in these editorial comment sections who simply see the world through black and white lenses and that they repeatedly make comments that pretty much indicate that they can only tolerate ideas matching their own. I think there is a term that aligns with that as well, “super logical thinking”. I might be wrong regarding that last note. I am willing to stand corrected on that, and many things, given sound feedback and new information. I disliked Brian Mulroney intensely when younger. Listening to storytellers regarding their viewpoints on his influence on Canada I realized that not only had my values changed regarding some of his legacy, but even when he was our P.M. I was blind to some key character qualities I highly value in anyone. Plus I was reminded that he was pretty much the “greenest P.M.”in Canada’s history. Yep, bring it on… more info more colour behind a topic the better.

ReallyReally

My “souse” (above typo) tells me that I am in a pickle for this mistake. Should read “spouse” of course. This fine text and low contrast type on my screen seems to equate to more and more typos for me.

ReallyReally

A variation of the “Dutch Reach” during certification courses was taught to forklift operators during safe operating practices. The idea was that you backed the forklift up when carrying loads that obstructed forward vision. In this case you were taught to turn your body sharply inside the cab and even touch something behind you to ensure you were getting a good view. Accidents at my workplace dropped sharply once we all adopted those habits. Of course there was one fellow who felt his freedoms were being infringed upon so he continued to drive forward with view-blocking loads. We all scattered to safety when we saw him coming.

Lethson

Assuming others will follow the rules of the road will get you killed. Any driver training instructor will tell you it’s better to assume the other guy may do something stupid. Red light? They might not stop, look to see if they do. That’s common sense.

Dennis Bremner

My unrequested but provided .02c I know a person who walks a lot, and when I say a lot I mean 5-7 miles a day when sidewalks are clear for the last 15 years. So she competes with Bikes, powered scooters and Motorists.
Bikes do not stop at stop signs
Bikes will swing wide on a street with lights and cross against Red lights.
Bikes will jump on and off sidewalks when any mommentum on the road is impeded.
Bikers will not announce themselves with a bell or whatever means to let the walkers know they are coming up behind them.
Bikers will pass walkers on whatever side of the walker on whatever side they choose. Constantly making the walker play mind games and try to figure out which side they will get passed.
Bikers will, when possible exceed the speed limit so they go wizzing buy catching everyone off guard
Bikers will race pedestrians to the intersection so as to ensure they do not have to stop or wide swing around them so they do not have to wait for a pedestrian to cross.

Motorists will hug the curb in an effort to impede a biker as if it is some race that requires some cheating
Motorists will pass as close as possible to a bike to scare the crap out of them
Motorists will belch black smoke from their vehicles and get a chuckle doing so
Motorists will cut off a bicycle with the claim they did not see them
Motorists will honk when right on a bicycle and scare the crap out of a biker.
Motorists will splash a biker and think it hilarious.
Motorists beleve that they have 100% right to the road and anything that impedes that progression results in an “anti-bike action”
Motorists will race pedestrians to the intersection so as to ensure they do not have to stop and wait for a pedestrian to cross.

Observation by the “Walker”
Both lists are not causing our problems. A single issue is causing the problems. Anxiety/stress!
Bikers/Motorists are no longer smiling and the number of people that fit that category increases every year
Bikers/Motorists numbers increase every year that no longer are smiling, courteous to coffee servers, and in fact are now scowling and are impatient, short, or rude to everyone else.
Bikers/Motorists are under so much economic stress concentrating on keeping their job, paying their rent, paying their mortgage, trying to make ends meet, supporting families etc etc that many bikers and Motorists have no time for each other or paying attention to courtesy or the rules of the road.

Last edited 29 days ago by Dennis Bremner
Citi Zen

Agree with the above… a cyclist came flying around the corner on two wheels here recently.

ReallyReally

I agree with several of these observations Dennis. Cyclists frequently ride like entitled fools. Recently at Henderson Lake a cyclist flew past us from behind with little concern for our safety, had no bell nor horn, and we commented that had one of us stepped one or two inches to the left at that moment someone would have been in the hospital with serious injuries. Just a thought here (there have been frequent examples of this insanity actually)… it was my belief that a bell or horn and use of such when passing pedestrians was required… so, IF there are such regulations, perhaps police officers riding along the cycling paths and educating and enforcing regulations should become a regular event ? I remember when there public service announcements required on TV broadcasts, and those infomercials were determined to have a positive effect on educating the general public. I highly doubt that broadcasters will give up a dime to allow those again, but the officers effect on education, reminding folks, would train a new generation of citizens methinks.
I know school teachers who bemoan the loss of that “Safety City” set up at the exhibition for educating elementary students. Why was that facility shut down?

ReallyReally

Chuckle… misplaced the entry above re frequent examples — intended for placement after “serious injuries” above. And yes, I do see the humorous remarks my mistake has set me up to receive.

Keilan

Unfortunately the Lethbridge Bicycle Bylaw was last revised in 1986, so it’s a tad outdated and tends to be ignored. It still references licensing bicycles, which is a practice long since abandoned given the costs far outweigh the benefits. It’s from a time before things like easily accessible rechargeable lights.
https://www.lethbridge.ca/media/5aujw2xa/3515-bicycle-bylaw.pdf
There are Alberta laws however – which require a bell when sharing a path with pedestrians, and lights when biking at night. That being said, if we’re going down the enforcement route (which I don’t think is the best option), I’d rather we focus on cars, the potential to harm is so much greater.

biff

love this entry

gs172

I agree with you with a “but”. As a motorist and a past cyclist I have a mixed view on the subject. Cyclists have an equal right to the road but like motorists there are rules and like bad motorists bad Cyclists ruin it for everyone. I give Cyclists full attention on the road while driving which is good considering some of the stuff I’ve encountered. From riding the wrong way, unsignaled lane changes across multiple lanes of traffic ignoring traffic control signs to my favorite one riding on sidewalk at speed crossing streets against lights giving unexpected drivers a fright when a bike comes out of nowhere ahead of you. When I lived in the London road area a few years ago there was a group of riders that biked on Sunday mornings riding 4 abreast with no concern for vehicle drivers behind them or ahead of them. The tragic thing is with a collision between a bicycle and vehicle usually there’s only one who comes out unscathed. I’m sure that there are motor vehicle drivers that deserve equal criticism. I respect Cyclists and expect the same. I wish you well on your journeys biking.

Last edited 29 days ago by gs172
Lethson

It’s true, cycling in Lethbridge can be a death-defying feat. It’s also true many cyclists make it worse by not following traffic laws. More effort is needed by both drivers and bikers to make transportation safer.
I was also astounded by our Councillor’s complaint that could no longer fling his car door open into traffic because the streets are too narrow. Perhaps he should wait for a break in traffic before opening his door, like everybody else?

The Dude

Yes, indeed, indiscriminate automobile-door flinging, paying no regard to passing vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians for that matter, must be assigned a very high priority in urban design.



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