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.