|Photo Cred: Harrogate Cycling Group|
Counter to common sense. Later on he uses the term, "unwise."
I'm with him sort of... K-W feels like it's not a cycling-friendly city. But to suggest that people who cycle in the city lack common sense is to shame the cyclists and add to the prevailing sentiment that cyclists shouldn't be on the road where weary drivers are likely to smash into them and crush them all to bits.
But if we look at it another way - by the number of collisions involving cyclists and those just involving cars - cyclists in Waterloo Region make up only 1% of total collisions, and, in Canada, less than 1% of fatalities. That number is on par with the number of cyclists commuting to work compared to vehicles, so really, statistically, it's no more dangerous to bike than to get behind the wheel. It's actually most dangerous to be a passenger in a car (especially on Fridays between 4 and 5 pm).
Outhit goes on to use stats to insist that the number of cyclists here is "insignificant as a transportation share." We make up only about 1% compared to the 78% of people who drive their cars to work. (I can only find a link to stats for 2006.) We have no common sense, are unwise, and now we're insignificant! He concludes, "To make people feel safe bicycles must be separated from traffic." I like that one sentence a lot. Unfortunately, he keeps going, "Even then, odds are long that commuter cycling will ever take hold."
I'll take those odds.
In 1977, in the town of Groningen, a town with a similar population to K-W, but with less sprawl and a slightly more moderate climate (on average, 10 degrees warmer in the winter than we are, but that could change as our climate warms in the coming years!), a few simple policies turned it all upside-down, and all it took was,
A small group of young, enthusiastic, left-wing ideological people said, "Right! We're going to change everything radically!"What they did was to create and enforce a traffic circulation plan that made it very difficult for cars to get from one part of the city to another, but allowed all other modes of transportation to make straight lines through the middle of town. Jane Jacobs harped on this for decades!! Make pedestrians the focus, and everything else falls into place. They also offer free, guarded bike parking areas for 10,000 bikes which completely fills up on weekends. And they have 340 bike share stations. Their population is a bit smaller than K-W. Can you imagine??
Many important people actively protested this move. Business owners feared that their shops would close, and they threatened to leave town. But the ballsy politicians did it anyway, by hell or high water! And IT WORKED!! Businesses boomed as the city centre became friendlier and quieter. It was a difficult change, but people adapted as we are programmed to do.
Here's the video that explains it all:
Groningen: The World's Cycling City from Streetfilms on Vimeo.
Now about that snow. I don't bike in winter because the snowbanks take up the bike lanes and make sharing the road even more crowded. If we had a wider space to bike on, then I'd bike all year. But many won't. BUT, if the streets are significantly easier to get across by bike then car, most people will likely extend their bike season to a solid nine months a year, and, I believe, and I'm in good company with Jane Jacobs to back me on this, if we make the streets awesome for cyclists, the cyclists will come out in droves.
If we want to conserve energy and pollute less and make the streets safer, we can do it with just a little political willpower. Remember all those Australian politicians committing political suicide by having the guts to ban guns? Homicides decreased dramatically and everyone's happier and safer and even the nay-sayers are fine with the law now. It was a tough few years making it happen, but the politicians took the responsibility for making the decision that's right for a population that just didn't understand the big picture.
And here we are in Waterloo Region complaining about cyclists being in the way of all the cars that have places to go while the climate is falling to the dogs. We are being outrageously short-sighted on this one! We can make our city a haven for cyclists and pedestrians, a world-class city that others will scramble to emulate, or we can maintain the status quo and let vehicles drive policy until the GHGs they produce cause fatal problems for our species. Write to Halloran and/or Zehr right now to tell them which path you support.