Sunday, October 20, 2019

Cycling Rant

If cycling is part of your life, it looks like the NDP comes way ahead in terms of addressing cycling concerns. Extinction Rebellion is clear about the need for car-free streets as part of action to decrease the threats of climate change. And even my city claims to be moving away from our car-centric planning (paywalled in the local rag, but available in full on Reddit). But we still have problems.

About a month ago, a cyclist in my city was hit by a car, and then charged with cycling across a crosswalk, and I have so many questions! The big two:

What's the difference between being in the crosswalk and being 6" to the left of the crosswalk?, and

What do we do with the many areas of town where a crosswalk is in the middle of a bike path with a slanted curb at each end, provoking unwitting riders to bike straight across them? That should be considered entrapment!! Should we instead veer into the road and then back up the path on the other side of the intersection? I've pondered that question before as I got off my bike to try to cross a busy street, with a walk signal, and left-turning cars repeatedly cutting me off, with a flippin' COP waiting at the red watching me gingerly step off the curb and jump back on over and over again. It might be good to remind the police that failure to yield right-of-way to a pedestrian is illegal. It has a set fine of three demerit points and $180.

I've been writing publicly about this relatively straightforward issue being made so muddled and complicated since the 80s, when fitting my shellacked hairdo into a helmet added to my biking concerns. Finding a place for us all is clearly still a life and death problem. But, here's the thing: as long as we scrutinize cycling behaviour in a collision instead of car and truck driving issues, then we will continue to see fatalities from these mindless, careless accidents.


On Biking in the Wrong Place:

I still bike on the sidewalk from time to time. But I don't feel so alone since finding like-minded criminals on social media, like Melissa, Robin, and Katalin:









I said roughly the same thing in 2013:
I'm making an informed choice between getting a ticket for breaking the law and dying. What licensed cyclist wouldn't make that same choice?
In that same piece, I also wrote this - the crux of the matter:
In some cities that are more pedestrian/cyclist-friendly, if there's an accident between a car and a cyclist or pedestrian, the car driver is automatically charged. That might not be fair to them, but it has the hugely beneficial effect of altering motorist behaviour such that they stop on a dime around other people. If the law, and enforcement of the law, even slightly appears to be in the car-driver's favour, then motorists relax a little. It's just a subtle thing, but it's enough. Of course they don't want to hit someone, but if they do, they likely won't get in trouble for it. That perception changes driving habits - seriously. So they drive insanely close to cyclists. And then some cyclists die. . . . 
Until motorists become wary of getting a hefty ticket for driving too close to a cyclist, cyclists will continue to be in danger on the streets, and they will continue to use the sidewalks in order to prevent their own demise. We don't have to license cyclists or debate new legislation, we just need police to enforce the rules that are already on the books, and the media to report on this bit of information every time a collision occurs because it's pivotal to the story. Then, after motorists get over having to actually follow the rules in place, maybe we can all get along. 
The spring previous, I wrote,
Imagine every car stopping in its tracks and waiting for you as you approach an intersection because they're afraid of a ticket. It would make for a very different city: people might walk more often and would certainly feel safer when they're walking with little ones. Erecting signage to remind drivers that they can be charged for driving in front of people waiting at a crosswalk or intersection, and then actually charging a few of them to set an example, is a simple solution to prevent further tragedies.
We live in a car-first culture. The biggest and fastest vehicle wins. But imagine if, instead, we put the most vulnerable people first, like this:



In some cities, people complain if a car inches up into the crosswalk that they're trying to bike through!! Imagine!!


On a Misperception of the Oblivious Victim:

We get a sense, mainly from mainstream local media, that the pedestrians and cyclists hit are all acting mindlessly rather than doing everything they can just to survive their journey. Most pedestrians and cyclists hit by cars are not young texty texters flaunting the rules, but, in fact, the elderly.


On average, six people are hurt or killed by a car or truck in Toronto every single day. An interview with Mark Pupo clarifies some issues around Vision Zero. He mainly blames vehicle speed:
"There are only seven countries with rising pedestrian deaths in the world, and we are one of them. . . . A lot of those deaths are because there are those very fast roads in inner city suburbs. . . . They look like highways, and the temptation is to drive very fast. . . . People have a greater chance of surviving being hit by a car if it's driving 30 km/h or less. . . . There's also basic stuff like how the sidewalk meets the intersection. Rounded corners actually contribute to deaths since cars take the corners faster. . . . Suburban counsellors tend to vote against redesign proposals that could curb speeds. . . . Instead of saving lives, they decided speed was the priority. . . . We need a universal safe speed for cities. . . . We could raise the price of gas. For every ten cent rise in the price of gas, there's a decrease in pedestrian fatalities. . . . Create zones in the city where people can't drive. . . . It's really pretty simple." 

On a Paradigmatic Perceptional Change

No matter how we look at it, cars are death machines. SUVs have caused a 46% increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths, and even high-tech vehicles are bad at avoiding killing people. We have to make it safer for them to travel near other human beings and animals.

One company, Toole Design, thinks we're approaching the problem from the wrong angle:
"Since 1925, the transportation industry has been using a concept called the Three E’s—engineering, education, and enforcement—to guide decisions. Last week, Toole Design released a manifesto called “The New E’s of Transportation,” arguing that, instead, ethics, equity, and empathy should be the driving factors for all transportation decision making. . . . When police see crashes as enforcement issues, when engineers see crashes as engineering issues, when planners see them as human behavior issues, they miss the bigger picture.” . . . “Ethics, empathy, and equity are values-driven and they prompt you to really ask why you’re doing something,” Clarke tells Curbed. “We hope [the New E’s] will allow us to bring into the conversation questions that have only been answered in terms of models, formulas, and design standards that present fait accompli when there are values-based decisions we should be making.” . . . Our city cannot thrive when expanses of unwelcoming asphalt divide our communities instead of connecting them, and when roads threaten lives instead of breathing life into our diverse neighborhoods."
We need to focus less on who did what, and more on helping the most vulnerable in our cities, that would be elderly, children, and challenged citizens, get to where they want to go, safely and without any stress. Focus on making every street easy to travel by people moving slowly in order to prevent the deaths of so many. Basically, we need to create neighbourhoods, not thru-ways.

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