Cycle in the City

Cycling in the City of Ottawa is still a risky activity

You may have been busted a couple weeks ago in the “Bike Safety Blitz” conducted by the Ottawa Police in attempt to “to bring awareness to cycling safety and to ensure that all cyclists follow to the rules of the roads set out in both the Ontario Highway Traffic Act and Municipal Bylaws”. If you were one of the 385 persons that were charged over the three day span, then you know that this translates to “the Ottawa Police pulled over a bunch of cyclists in order to dish out tickets for anything from not having a bell and proper lights at night to not fully stopping at stop signs”.

I understand the need to enforce good biking behaviours in order to prevent sidewalk cyclers and nighttime collisions but the issue should be a two-way street (if only all one-way streets had counter-flow bike lanes like the ones in front of Marie-Curie at uOttawa, then you wouldn't have been pulled over for cycling the wrong way up a one-way street).

Every day cyclists in Ottawa  face-off against motorists that do not respect their space on the road (everything from your average motorist blaring his/her horn to OC Transpo drivers passing frighteningly close). According to the Highway Traffic Act relating to passing cyclists, a motorist passing a bicycle going 50 km/hour of less must give three feet of clearance whereas any motorist going over 50 km/hour but under 80 km/hour must give four feet. Speaking from experience biking in Ottawa, this consideration and respect is a rare occurrence. If you think I am over exaggerating, feel free to check out some footage of biking in Ottawa by BikeView.ca.

I am not saying that cyclists are free from responsibility or that they should be less accountable for their actions but it is difficult to travel around this city in a more sustainable manner and not feel a bit frustrated that cyclists are being targeted for their behaviour while motorists (you know, the ones that actually need licences) are free to break regulations that in turn make the cycling in the city unappealing to a lot of people.

I am waiting for the day that Ottawa Police ride “undercover” bikes and pull over cars that pass them unsafely in a week-long “Car Safety Blitz”, fining them the prescribed $310-$750. Until then, I suggest that the #ottbike community sign the Complete Streets Plan Petition which aims to improve streets for all users including pedestrians and cyclists which would encourage safe and sustainable transportation that is not vehicle-dominated.

And now- I am off to check my bell, ensure my lights are fully charged, re-learn all of the appropriate hand signals, and fix my breaks so I can make a complete stop at each stop sign (and maybe I will attach a three-foot pole to the side of my bike, Roman chariot style, to ensure vehicles pass me at a safe distance  ;) ).

~ merissa - campus sustainability coordinator
photo credit - jonathan rausseo


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