When large-scale discussions used to erupt regarding obeying the rules of the road these discourses revolved around driving. Each generation seems to spur a different road safety discussion; from wearing seat belts to drinking and driving, public safety is directly influenced by the behaviour of citizens on the road. However, the millennials are less concerned with hot rods and more concerned with environmentally friendly modes of transportation. In Ontario alone, over 600, 000 citizens ride a bike daily. So now, the road safety discourse is changing.
Toronto cyclist advocate and CEO of Share the Road Cycling Coalition, believes that the millennial generation’s transportation habits are changing the ways of the road. However, other citizens are not so happy about this transition. Conversation surrounding cycling safety was sparked in Toronto after a TTC Chair was ticketed for rolling through a stop sign on her bicycle. The Chair Tweeted that she refused to pay the ticket due to a citation error and discourse boomed.
An enraged Toronto columnist responded to this news with a scathing article about bikers’ disregard for motorists and basic road safety. The Toronto Star columnist, Judith Timson, wrote about driving home late at night and witnessing a cyclist biking against traffic in the dark nestled in amongst parked cars. Timson states, “I am a motorist, fearful and angry, and I’ve come to the end of silently tolerating cyclists who break the law.”
This prompted a rather anger-filled discussion about cyclists either not knowing or not caring to obey road rules. McMahon responded stating that as we move away from being car-centric, we need to ensure that cyclists understand how to travel safely. However, this is currently an unfair assumption, as the city does not provide any type of cycling education. Motorists just assume cyclists know the best way to manoeuvre throughout Toronto’s busy streets, but that is just not the case.
Motorists have books, classes and courses about how to drive properly. Parents take driver education seriously and there are very few, if any, young motorists that have not gone through months of in-class and in-car training. But what of this new generation that is saying no to cars and yes to eco-friendly, cheap cycling? How will they learn to cycle safely if we do not take the time to teach them?
In various blogs (TORONTO BIKERS BEWARE: & “DOORING” MAJOR DANGER FOR TORONTO CYCLIStS) I have explored the dangers of biking in Toronto. But, what about the dangers that cyclists create for motorists? I can only imagine the emotional turmoil that a motorist who strikes a cyclist must suffer. What can bikers do to keep themselves safer? Beyond wearing a helmet, wear lights at night. Don’t blend into bad lighting and traffic; stand out with noticeable gear and protective headwear. Don’t cut cars off! Do not casually roll through lights or stop signs and certainly do not go against the grain of traffic to save time. I do not agree with biker bashing, but several of these motorists’ claims could have been avoided by safer, smarter biking. Do not shed a negative light on Toronto’s cycling community. Educate yourself or advocate for public cycling education. Let’s keep Toronto’s streets safe for everyone. Stand up for yourself by being safe and continuing to enjoy fast, cheap travel in Toronto.