Archive for September, 2009

Why Licensing Cyclists is the Wrong Reaction

So, the other day I made a reasonably sarcastic post about an entirely meaningless web-poll that was up on the CTV Ottawa website.

Anyway, Marcus Gee over at the Globe takes the time to offer a more serious and detailed reason why bicycle licensing is a silly idea. The key part, emphasis mine:

That is the key objection to Mr. Walker’s proposal. There is no proof that licensing would persuade wayward cyclists to pay any more heed to the traffic laws. They already fall under the very same laws that motorists do and police can charge them accordingly. In one safe-cycling drive this summer, Toronto police handed out 1,373 tickets to cyclists for infractions from running red lights to failing to yield to pedestrians. Police can stop an unlicensed cyclist as easily as they could a licensed one.

Nor is there any proof that a testing regime would make cyclists more aware of the rules of the road. Many of them are motorists as well as cyclists and all of them are pedestrians when they’re not mounted up. They know what a red sign saying “stop” means. They just choose to ignore it. The best way to address that is through education, not licensing.

Bank Street’s Fancy New Bike Racks

The city is beginning to install new bike racks along the northern part of Bank Street this week. In a happy change, they’ll serve as a useful form of public art – not that subtle reminders to buy Gabriel’s pizza are that unwelcome, just not that attractive. From the city press release:

The public art bike racks reflect the unique identity and character of the neighbourhood and exhibit the talent and diversity of Ottawa’s artists. As a series, they encourage cycling and movement up and down the street as people explore and discover the clever and exceptional designs and make connections to the vibrant community.

I’ll spare you a snippy comment about “unique identity” of that stretch of Bank, but I think we can all be happy that there will be more places to lock up your bike. Now, let’s all look forward to when the current phase of reconstruction is finished and Bank becomes usable all through Centretown!

Another Shocking Cyclist Collision

By this point, it’s pretty safe to assume that most people have heard about Monday’s incident between former Ontario cabinet minister Michael Bryant and courier Darcy Sheppard. Details as to what exactly happened, or at least what started it all, are still being sorted out, but the Star seems to have a pretty good initial rundown. It’s pretty shocking, it’s more than a little bit terrifying, and obviously absolutely tragic.

There isn’t a lot to say about something such as this, except that at the end of the day, regardless of potentital criminality, this was almost certainly avoidable at a couple of stops along the way. Christie Blatchford, writing in the Globe, however, uses this as an opportunity to reflect on road rage and the motorist-cyclist dynamic. I think that this is the best part and is how I feel, regardless of whether I am behind or on top of the wheel.

It worked: At the next light, he got out of his car and put a boot through my door. I was so shaken, and simultaneously mortified by my own conduct, that I reported him neither to police nor insurance company, and just paid for the damage myself – and that was in a clash with a peer, a fellow motorist driving a vehicle as big and powerful as my own. We were for the most part in our moving bubbles, seat-belted and air-bagged and roll-barred unto safety.

But a cyclist is never in a bubble like that.

Thus, it is the motorist who has the greater responsibility – not just because he is the only party licensed by society to drive, by which I mean granted the privilege of driving – but because on some level, all of us understand the rules, one of which is that behind the wheel, we are driving a potential weapon. The burden of sucking up the insult, the raised finger, even the punch, and acting like a grown up is always and forever with us.