News, Articles and Opinion
On June 3, 2015, the Ottawa Sun published an opinion piece by one of its journalists Ron Corbett, also the host of radio station CFRA's nightly "Unscripted" program. Although nominally, it was a condemnation of the Ontario government's Bill 31, an amendment to the Province's Highway Traffic Act, the cycling community felt much of the article comprised an attack on cyclists' right to use of public roads and highways. Corbett essentially was suggesting that cyclists weren't paying their fair share, and as a minimum should have their bikes licensed. Following some discussion about the article on the 840 member Ottawa Bikes Facebook page, Avery Burdett, RCC co-founder, forwarded a link to an article on the subject on the website of Iamtraffic. Ron responded by inviting Avery to be guest on his show (podcast at 18 mins 30 sec) June 9, 2015. After the discussion, the show returned to its call-in format and a number of listeners called in to express opinions. As you would expect, there was a considerable amount of criticism of Corbett's point of view on the Ottawa Bikes Facebook page, much amounting to ridicule. At least one cyclist, felt sufficiently offended by his views that he penned a rebuttal, a copy of which we have added to our Personal Perspectives section.
The City of Ottawa is demonstrating its incompetence as it pursues its policy to treat cyclists differently from other road users. Some say treats them as second class road users.
The pictures below are very recent examples of,
(i) use of non-regulatory signs to confuse cyclists and motorists alike at new roundabouts - this one on Trim Road which appears to instruct cyclists to dismount and walk around the roundabout,
(ii) a cyclists' left turn box northbound on Churchill Avenue at Dovercourt Avenue. The latter is an opposite direction one way street as indicated by an "arrow" sign, as well as a "no entry" sign. This looks like an invitation for cyclists to squeeze into the narrow exit lane or to ride on the sidewalk.
Cycling is not as risky as official statistics suggest according to new British research - in fact, for young men it is safer than driving.
In fact, it isn't until men are in their thirties (and possibly even later) that driving becomes safer than cycling. “An individual who cycles one hour a day for 40 years would cover about 180,000km, whilst accumulating only a one in 150 chance of fatal injury. This is lower than for pedestrians who face a higher fatality rate per kilometre travelled,” said the report's lead author, Dr Jennifer Mindell.. “The health benefits of cycling are much greater than the fatality risk”, she added.
Urban planners in Ottawa's bureaucracy have now adopted this configuration as their preferred intersection design in their crusade to promote cycling and reduce accidents.
This design coming to Ottawa?
Colin Simpson, project manager for the Laurier Avenue segregated bike lane, has indicated that when you build in hazards at intersections drivers compensate by becoming more aware of their surroundings. It's based on the principle that the riskier it appears the less the chance of accident. His theory is that with cars, bikes, emergency vehicles, disabled folks in wheel chairs, joggers, skateboarders, dog walkers, pedestrians, and possibly helicopters coming in all directions drivers will eventually slow down to the point where you'd rather get hit by a car than an out-of-control cyclist trying to beat the red light. Simpson got his idea on visits to Peking, Ho Chi Minh City, and Ouagadougou where he watched in awe as his traffic chaos theory was put to practice.
In addition to implementing his unique design at every intersection in Ottawa, he plans to take on greater challenges. Before year's end, he will be meeting with auto executives to discuss the viability of removing brakes from cars and installing upturned carving knives on their steering wheels.
Hmmmm ... maybe he's on to something.
The city of Ottawa has been accused of ignoring the education component of its cycling strategy while it builds its cycling infrastructure across the municipality.
To educate cyclists of all skill levels, the city runs CAN-Bike, a certified cycling curriculum created by the Canadian Cycling Association.
Ottawa’s spring and summer schedule provided 56 opportunities for children, adults, novices and experts to learn to ride a bike or gain confidence commuting on major roads. But 46 per cent of those were cancelled due to low registration according to city spokesperson Jocelyne Turner, a statistic the Responsible Cycling Coalition said is the result of poor marketing.
“The training as it exists is not being used because it’s not being promoted by the city,” said Avery Burdett, a co-founder of the small group that promotes vehicular cycling and opposes segregated bicycle lanes. “The city needs to take cycling far more seriously than they do. It has to be recognized that skills will reduce the risk of people getting injured.”
Ontario’s chief coroner reviewed the circumstances of cyclist deaths across the province between 2006 and 2010, and found that 73 per cent of cases identified cyclist errors as contributing factors.
The city’s CAN-Bike portfolio manager Janice Phillips agreed that skilled cyclists will be safer on the roads – that’s the drive behind the CAN-Bike program, which has a $40,000 budget in Ottawa. She said that some CAN-Bike programs are inevitably cancelled, but the program is built that way to increase opportunity ahead of demand.
“We’re trying to build it so we’re putting out more programs than we expect to fill,” she said.
Between 50 and 75 people take the CAN-Bike courses every season she said, and programs usually require a four-person minimum to proceed.
The schedule was dominated by children’s courses, but also included commuter traffic skills courses, and a teen course on Friday nights, a women’s safety course, a seniors’ course and CAN-Bike level one and two courses. Private lessons on your own driveway are also available. New this year, the city will also offer four autumn sessions for children in September, as well as an instructor’s course.
City spokesperson Jocelyne Turner said there has been increased demand for private lessons this year, as well as the free “cycling rodeos” and safety workshops that are offered in partnership with Ottawa Public Health’s injury prevention helmet promotion program.
Turner said those workshops have reached 2,805 children and 493 adults through 33 events, and more events are planned for the fall.
Capital Coun. David Chernushenko said the city should split its efforts equally between building infrastructure like segregated bike lanes and educating cyclists and drivers.
“We have to do both. I don’t think it’s either-or,” he said. “We have to reinstate really good education programs and get them into schools.”
He said CAN-Bike specifically needs more attention from the city.
“They used to do much more and then it got cut, and then it got brought back in a much more modest way,” he said. “But I think we have to find a way to really properly fund
and find a way to make available Can-Bike” or another education program, he said.
In terms of promotion, Canadian Cycling Association’s CAN-Bike co-ordinator Andy Wilson said the national organization gives local facilitators the logos and materials to promote the courses, and it’s up to them to market them to its residents.
He said the cycling association is partly to blame for the fact that CAN-Bike has not become the household name it should have been since it was created in the 1980s.
“It’s something we’re working on, the branding aspect of it. We’ve recognized that it needs to be a household name, it needs to be recognized and have a specific look,” he said.
Turner said CAN-Bike programs are promoted locally at city events, on the website and posters at city facilities, as well as in flyers distributed by Ottawa Public Health.
But drivers also have a responsibility to understand cycling signals and rules.
“The city could do more in active education, not only for cyclists but for drivers. It’s the whole ‘share the road’ thing. Both parties have to act responsibly,” said Bushtukah’s cycling manager Peter Shattmann.
Cyclist Michelle Tribe agreed, noting that there needs to be a culture of respect.
“We’re all kind of selfish about our spots on the road,” she said. “People are working 9 to 5 jobs and just think ‘Got to get to work, got to get home,’ and it’s a mentality of ‘everyone’s in my way.’ But you have the right no matter who you are or what vehicle you’re taking to be there.”
MEDIA RELEASE - Subject: City Cycling Program Collapsing - August 1, 2012
The Ottawa-based Responsible Cycling Coalition calls on the City of Ottawa to re-examine its cycling priorities.
While the City is totally focused on managing its public relations in respect of the Laurier Avenue segregated bike lanes, it's Can-Bike cyclist education and training program is going down the tubes. Can-Bike is the certified national program that teaches club-level skills to beginner cyclists.
RCC estimates that a majority, as much as 80%, of the courses has been cancelled, apparently owing to low or no registration. RCC believes the principal reason for this has been the City's failure to promote the Can-Bike program at the level the Laurier Avenue project is promoted and its lack of commitment to ensuring that the cyclists have the requisite skills to ride safely in Ottawa.
Research has shown that skilled cyclists reduce their risk of being involved in collisions by over 80%. That is an enormous difference in transportation safety. This year Ontario's Chief Coroner reviewed the circumstances of cyclist deaths that occurred in the province during the five year period from 2006 to 2010. He reported that in 73% (92 of 126) of cases contributing factors on the part of cyclists were identified. Last year in high profile case on Queen Street, a cyclist rode too close to a parked car the door of which was opened resulting in the loss of the cyclist's life. Such fatalities were avoidable. Despite these facts, the City appears to be oblivious to the difference between skilled cycling and an unskilled cycling. It is alarming that in order to increase cycling's modal share in Ottawa, the City is promoting cycling among the general (unskilled) population .
The RCC points out that the City and the Province are jointly funding an $84,000 analysis of problems caused by the installation of segregated bike lanes. Had the bike lanes not been installed, these problems would not exist. That sum of money would far better be spent on a publicity program promoting cycling skills acquisition and law abiding cycling. There are models that the City could take advantage of, for example the Florida Bicycle Association, a non-profit organization, describes its program at: http://cyclingsavvy.org/about/cyclingsavvy-origins-and-principles/. As it is, the City's lack of action unnecessarily puts the lives and limbs of beginner cyclists at risk.
The RCC believes now is the time for the City to re-orient its cycling program and put the dollars where they are needed - in improving the skill levels and standards of behaviour of Ottawa cyclists and in raising the awareness among drivers that cyclists are legitimate road users.
"Bike lanes put inexperienced cyclists at risk: (says) cycling coalition"
The Ottawa Sun has a coverage of the incident that Bruce Lowe reported on yesterday.
"A cyclist hit by a car in the Laurier Ave. segregated bike lane Sunday is the latest incident in what critics suggest could be a growing number of mishaps.
Co-founder, Bruce Lowe reports that he met a young cyclist yesterday (July 22, 2012) pushing a damaged bike. Apparently he had been riding in the segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue when he was hit by a car making a right turn. Police, ambulance, and a fire truck were called to the scene. The cyclist had a few bruises and scrapes and there was damage to his bike. The driver was charged.
Co-founder, Avery Burdett had a similar experience on only the second time he rode the bike lane this past spring. He had to brake hard to avoid a similar collision himself. We've heard anecdotal evidence there have been many crashes but no confirmation or publicity in the media.
We have been telling the City that the Laurier bike lane raises the risk of this type of accident. Laurier Avenue used to be a safe place to ride a bike - 25 accidents involving cyclists in five years. The numbers have likely risen but City staff and councillors are unlikely to admit any failure to the media.
If you have suffered a similar experience on Laurier Avenue let us know. Contact us at @gmail.com ... add prefix RCC.Ottawa
Effective Cycling 7th Edition by John Forester is now available from Amazon @ CAD$25.04.
Effective Cycling is the codification of normal everyday cycling as it has been practised since the invention of the safety bicycle over 100 years ago.
It was Forester that coined the axiom, "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles".
Canada's Can-Bike cycling instruction program is based on the principles espoused by the book's author.
This book belongs in the library of any cyclist who wants to maximize the enjoyment of cycling and minimize its risks.
Commenting about the new edition, he says changes in equipment and in governmental actions have caused those sections to have the greatest revisions, as well as part of the traffic cycling section.
The bicycle maintenance section has been revised to reflect the changes in equipment and maintenance that have occurred in the last decades. Some information on older equipment has been retained for the use of those who are still using it.
Since there has been no worthwhile research into accident statistics done in the last few decades, that section has had very little revision. The greatest changes have been in the areas concerning the interaction between cyclists and government, from traffic skills to governmental programs.
For decades, American governmental policy had been to restrict cyclists (to the edge of the roadway and to bikeways) using the argument that cyclists are incapable of obeying the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles. Effective Cycling's earlier editions argued that obeying those rules was both best for cyclists and easy to do. Now American governmental policy has reversed itself, in a way, so it now encourages onto our roadways just those cyclists deemed incapable of obeying the rules of the road. The seventh edition of Effective Cycling continues to demonstrate the advantages of obeying the rules of the road, but it also emphasizes the importance of not doing whatever the governmental policy and its bikeways appear to encourage. At the level of traffic-cycling skills this produces much more emphasis on a cyclist controlling the lane he or she occupies, together with the engineering analysis of the motorist-overtaking-cyclist situation demonstrating that, in most cases, controlling the lane precludes no opportunities for safe and lawful overtaking. For most lane widths, having cyclists operate far right encourages only dangerous and unlawful overtaking through the narrow gap between the cyclist and the traffic in the adjacent lane. At the level of political action, this new emphasis, while recognizing that it is impossible to reverse the governmental policy encouraging incompetent cycling and the bikeways it produces, is a clarion call for lawful, competent cyclists to work together to get repeal of those laws that prevent cyclists from obeying the standard rules of the road instead of the rules for supposedly incapable bicycle riders.
Toronto's Can-Bike cyclist skills training program, "... is not well known to the public at large, and demand is correspondingly low ... There's not much demand . There’s not enough publicity” laments instructor Len Dobrucki,
An article in the Toronto Star by Oakland Ross, "Taking the Can-Bike 2 bicycling safety course for a test ride" describes the author's experience. Ross notes the lack of promoting the course stating, "that’s a shame, because this kind of instruction is surely needed in Toronto." He could have just as easily been talking about Ottawa. For a number of years the City of Ottawa's Can-Bike program has been buried deep in its recreation and culture program. Although skillful cycling is the most effective means of reducing risk and improving cyclist confidence in traffic, the City has chosen instead to sink millions of dollars into cycling infrastructure, the safety of which for novice cyclists has yet to be demonstrated. By not placing the highest priority on the acquisition of on-road, in-traffic skills, the City is placing the novice cyclists at risk. Its policy is nothing less than irresponsible