Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for August 2nd, 2009

“Rules are like kryptonite to cyclists”

with 17 comments

Wayne Moriarty, the Editor in Chief of the Province decided this week to have a go at the regular Critcal Mass ride in downtown Vancouver. The coverage was extensive and wildly biased – and topped off with an extra-ordinary piece of vilification of cyclists in general.  That’s his opening shot I have used as the headline. You probably don’t need to read further since it has all been heard before. Of course I responded – though I doubt it will be printed. But that is why I have a blog. Here is what I sent him.

What an astonishingly stupid piece of writing.

I can only assume that you have chosen to ignore the evidence of your own eyes. Every day you will see the law broken with impunity. Indeed, the very instruments of law enforcement in this province have been adapted to meet the demands of the law breakers. All day, every day on every roadway motorists break the law and very few are ever required to give an account of themselves. The most frequent offence is speeding – and almost without exception you will be told by the law breakers that it is the law that is wrong, not the driver. That the posted speed limits should be raised everywhere – and that roads must be “improved”  to allow faster travel. Indeed this government abetted such attitudes by removing photo-radar, and spending a fortune on the Sea to Sky Highway which was not a dangerous road at all – but one infested with drivers determined to show they could drive faster that the rest – no matter how dire the consequences.

The death toll on our roads is horrendous – and perhaps we need to have ramp ceremonies for the victims. These people die because of the dangerous use of motor vehicles – not bicycles. The only reason a helmet is needed here is the risk of injury when hit by a motor vehicle: when a car or truck is not involved, going over the handlebars usually resulting in no more than a broken wrist. In civilised countries with better cycling facilites helmets are simply not needed.

You also see every day drivers who are aggressive, who weave in and out of traffic, who make sudden lane changes without signalling, who cut into line at the last moment. Vehicles are illegally adapted to increase performance – not just for illegal street races but for the daily commute. Have you checked how many people with their vehicles registered in BC who have decided that the requirement for a front number plate does not apply to them?

Every time there is a sudden spot check of trucks or taxis at least half the vehicles stopped are prevented from moving further until essential adjustments and repairs to safety critical devices are made.

AND I have not even started on the behaviour of pedestrians – or dog owners.

This nothing to do with any regular monthly celebration for a few hours in approximately a similar area, fairly easy to avoid with a little forethought. This is a daily, continuous occurrence. And incidents of road rage are usually responses by drivers to appallingly bad behaviour by other drivers.

You will have to accept, as the rest of us have, that compliance with the law is in many respects deficient, and that somehow we manage to cope with that. That enforcement of the law occurs by exception – and that very many bad deeds go unpunished. That absolute adherence to every regulation and rule is not only unlikely but completely impractical, and only a tyrant would demand absolute obedience. If you had to get a sick child to hospital at 3am on an empty road I bet you would run red lights. I will even go so far as to suggest that you may well have exceeded the speed limit on a freeway – for example the 60kph limit from the south end of the Oak Street bridge to a point well past the No 4 Road intersection. I know the RCMP find that a very useful place when they need to get some easy tickets issued.

Your recent campaign against Critical Mass may have helped you sell a few more papers in a slow month, but it does you as a journalist absolutely no credit at all.

Why don’t you get on your bike? Visit some other cities where cycling is common. Think about how we are going to get around now that the days of cheap gasoline are certainly numbered, and the future of humankind on this planet uncertain at best. A little perspective in your opinion columns might be a welcome reprieve too.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 2, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Posted in bicycles