I stayed out of local cycling advocacy for 10 years. Earlier this year (2010) however I learned that the City was planning to incorporate bike infrastructure in one of Ottawa's downtown corridors. It was then that I decided to come out of "retirement" and to raise a voice in favour of competent and lawful cycling. Three long time cycling companions of mine, Bruce Lowe, Eric Wright, and Rick Moll, had shared similar concerns over City plans with me. Few others were speaking in favour of responsible cycling and looking out for the interests of skilled and lawful cyclists. We all want cycling to grow but not at any cost. We decided to act.
The City has taken upon itself to promote cycling among inexperienced, less-than-competent, and soon-to-be, but-not-yet cyclists. A job left in the past to bike clubs with little help from the City. Having ignored the advice of those with the most experience in such matters, the City instead responded to political populism by adopting the public's perceptions and prejudices related to the alleged dangers of cycling. Facts have been the first casualty of the process. The safety of cyclists and the convenience of cycling will be but two of its costs.
It is clear that the City pays lip service to safety. Safety is not a priority for this project or any other City cycling project. How else can it be explained that the number one accident reduction measure by a country mile - cyclist skills training to improve cyclist practices and habits - doesn't even appear on the City's radar? Cyclists have to ride on roads in mixed traffic to get downtown facilities even if the claims attributed to bike infrastructure could be delivered. Danish and Dutch children are not just turned loose on the streets at the whim of bureaucrats. Children in the countries of those children receive cycle skills training before going anywhere on bikes.
The price tag on the Laurier Avenue infrastructure project planned by the City is $1.2m. Half that amount would pay for the training of tens of thousands of cyclists to become confident and skilled cyclists. There would still be change for a campaign aimed at motorists to improve their driving habits while around cyclists. These are our tax dollars, let's not waste them on ill-conceived schemes.