Yesterday was the city council's PPM. They were there to hear the public's views on the Strategy Plan for 2023 to 2027. There were quite a few people there, including one of our customers, and nearly everyone had something to say.
It was the first time I'd ever been to one and I was woefully underprepared. I knew I was going to be nervous, and I was dealing with quite a lot of anxiety. I also figured that anxiety would show itself in an attack.
Surprisingly, it did not. However, I did drag my feet. And the longer it went on, the less I wanted to speak. It seemed like everyone there (who talked about cycling) said nearly everything I had to say. Nearly.
I am told I have a unique perspective on things. And I do tend to speak my own way. I'd like to share with you what I shared with the Mayor & Council. Of course, I shared it through email, rather than the spoken word.
A Plea for Infrastructure
Good evening, Mr. Mayor, members of the council, my name is Jennifer. I am an avid cyclist, although I walk with a cane; a writer; and co-owner of Spoke & Sprocket. There are so many things I’d like to talk about regarding cycling: like the climate and how cycling can help; how Bills 15 and 40 are going to change the province; educating new drivers about sharing the road with cyclists; and how what children learn of the rules and etiquette of cycling affects the way they ride as adults. I don’t have that much time, however, so I am here to talk about safety and infrastructure.
In my experience thus far, I have seen that there are drivers in London who do not pay much attention to cyclists. I have seen that there are riders who don’t pay attention to anything but what’s right in front of their wheel. Neither group pays attention to the laws of the road, nor the etiquette of sharing said road. This leads to carelessness and recklessness. Carelessness and recklessness lead to accidents.
People make reckless decisions all the time – like running a red light – whether they’re driving, riding, or walking. Often, the reason is indifference, but distraction and ignorance are the other big reasons. I believe that to save the lives of many people, riders, and drivers alike, we first need the infrastructure that will promote safety for everyone.
There is currently a great deal of tension between cyclists and other members of the community. 2022 saw a increase in the number of driver-and- cyclist collisions. Statistics Canada says an average of 74 Canadians die in cycling collisions each year and 73% of those were collisions with a motor vehicle. The OPP told CBC News that there was a 300% increase in Ontario deaths by August last year over the same time in 2021. That means the fatalities went from 2 in 2021 to 8 by the following August, four of whom were in London. According to multiple articles on cycling safety, road rules are ignored in approximately 1 in 3 collisions. Spoke & Sprocket had almost 20 customers come in who were hit by cars or trucks this year alone. Other shops have had similar numbers, if not higher.
We need more protected bike lanes like the ones on Colborne and Dundas that allow cyclists the freedom of riding without worrying that someone is going to run them down. It will also allow drivers to share the road without worrying that they’re too close to someone. Why do bike lanes need to be protected? As it said in an article I read recently: Road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility. That means vehicles that have 4 or more wheels are highest on the road user hierarchy because they can do the most damage. Then cyclists, scooter users, skateboard users, and people on their feet – like pedestrians, construction workers or road workers.
One of the reasons we have so many collisions, if you’ll pardon my excluding those who maliciously run down a cyclist, a number that is climbing, is that there is next to no information for drivers and cyclists about the things that keep everyone safe – whether they’re bike lanes, sharrows, or protected lanes; what bike lanes you can cross over as a driver; who has the right of way at an intersection; and more. Combine this lack of knowledge with the lack of proper infrastructure and we have a pile of collisions and fatalities.
The infrastructure here does not encourage people using their bicycles for running errands or going to work. Not only are the bike lanes not connected, and unsafe in some spots, there is very little safe parking for bikes. This needs to change so we can encourage more people to ride instead of drive. Cycling is green, cycling is healthy, cycling creates none of the pollution that combustion engines do. I believe cycling will become the main method of inner-city travel for those reasons. With the proper infrastructure, people would choose to ride more. They would see that London is a beautiful city to work, go to school and play in. Thank you for your time.
What do you think? The statistics about the fatalities is awful. Just horrible. Eight people die in collisions with motor vehicles in 2022, four of whom were Londoners. Here's another horrible statistic we heard last night: 22 pedestrians were killed last year in motor vehicle- pedestrian scuffles. Oh, and Paratransit users are having to make hundreds of calls at a time to book one spot, three days from the phone call. There is not enough staff with the Paratransit companies. Don't even get me started on the LTC drivers who drive their wheelchair-accessible buses past wheelchair users.
There is a lot that the Councilors have to consider when setting up these strategy plans. I just hope they remember their goal of a better cycling infrastructure. Let's face it, scooter users should be in the bike lane as well, especially the electric ones that can take you a long way fairly quickly.
Well, we have lots to do here and I must be off. We got slammed with bikes in the last couple of weeks and now we have to catch up. We thank you in advance for your patience!
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” — Arthur Conan Doyle, British author