Car crash carnage – Photo courtesy of Atomic Hot Links
Yesterday we discussed how bicyclists are encouraged to break the law because of bad road design. Coincidentally, on the same day the Toronto Star wrote an article entitled “Lawbreaking cyclists putting everyone in danger”.
The author cites a middle age woman who was riding the wrong way on a one-way street as an example of bicycling that puts everyone in danger (again, bad infrastructure design).
As far as we know, nobody has been killed by a bicyclist’s bad behaviour recently. But we do know that more than 8,000 drivers were charged over the July 1st long weekend in Ontario, including some 98 charges for impaired driving, with several people being killed.
Instead of attempting to get to the root of the problem, the Star has blatantly ignored the fact that motor vehicles are the true source of danger, death and carnage on our streets.
As if to highlight their ignorance, the Star followed up with another article yesterday which discusses a news story about a driver who “performed an illegal manoeuvre” that injured 10 people, including 6 pedestrians who were run down as a result of the collision.
The article then proceeds to discuss pedestrian behaviour that has nothing to do with the pedestrians who were run down by a dangerous driver making an illegal manoeuvre.
Here are a few points made against pedestrian behaviour in the article:
Pedestrians are unable to interpret their walk signals (nothing to do with the collision):
“How pedestrians interpret the newer countdown-type pedestrian signals is becoming a major concern for police, said Const. Hugh Smith of traffic services. Many don’t really understand what the timer means.”
“What we’re finding down there is people aren’t paying attention to the countdown timers,” he said. “A lot of people take it for granted.”
Pedestrians cause traffic congestion (nothing to do with the collision):
“People think it’s a warning and they have that time to cross.”
Coupled with the ongoing repairs to the underside of the Gardiner Expressway and the large concrete pillars along the edge of the roadway and near crosswalks, this can be a contributing factor to congestion on Lake Shore, Smith added.
Pedestrians forcing unsuspecting drivers to actually have to pay attention (nothing to do with the collision):
“People are coming out in the blind areas and the drivers think there is no pedestrian there, they’re starting manoeuvres,” he said. “The amount of construction … it disrupts driver’s sightlines and they have to pay more attention to the traffic signals and be more aware of what’s going on.”
Pedestrians need to improve safety for themselves and for drivers (nothing to do with the collision):
It is important people know their surroundings, said Const. Tony Vella. Using the traffic lights properly to cross, and avoiding crossing in midblock or walking between cars can improve safety for both drivers and pedestrians.
“It’s important for pedestrians to take their time,” he said. “Sometimes they’re in a rush and they’re not paying attention.”
It should be noted that the article doesn’t discuss bad driver behaviour at all, except to mention matter-of-factly, that the driver performed an illegal manoeuvre.
Toronto Star reader Mike Mikus reminds us about the true danger on our streets:
“I drive a motorcycle. I also drive a car. I find cyclists to be a minor irritation on occasion. I find cars and especially cabs to be a lethal threat.
Quit stirring the pot and keep in mind cars kill so many people it staggers the imagination.”
James D. Schwartz is the Editor of The Urban Country and is based in Toronto, Canada. You can contact James at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.
More Articles Like This:
- Bad Design Leads To Bad (Scofflaw) Behaviour (July 2013)
- Grandmother Writes Apology Letter After Driving Like “Idiot” (June 2013)
- Responsibility & Accountability On Our Streets (Apr 2011)
- No Cars. No Traffic Signals. No Deaths (June 2011)
- Baby On Board: A Desperate Plea (Feb 2012)
- Our Backwards Approach to Road Safety (July 2011)
- The World Has Changed. So Can You. (April 2011)
Hi James. Thanks for criticizing both of these articles. I just have to ask: in what way is a one-way street “bad infrastructure design”? One way streets are great design, they are really good at allowing people to move along in the appropriate direction. If you want to go the other way, you should go to the next block where there is usually a street going your way. I really wish that Toronto cyclists would stop riding the wrong way, especially at night. I love your blog.
Hi Barney, there is nothing wrong with one way streets per say. The issue in Toronto with one way streets specifically in residential neighborhoods is that they were designed to keep motor vehicles from using residential streets as thoroughfares, so one way streets in residential areas make it inconvenient to get anywhere (by design). Thus, many bicyclists go the wrong way in residential neighborhoods in order to get to their destination without having to do circles first. That is why bicycle friendly cities provide direct routes for bicyclists using contra flow lanes on residential one way streets. Some cities in Europe (Brussels comes to mind) are one way for motor vehicles only – bicycles are exempted. Good design would eliminate the temptation for bicyclists to ride the wrong way by providing contra flow lanes in residential areas (and Toronto is in fact doing just that as we speak)
Barney, in The Netherlands a one way street usually applies to motorists only, and it works, because most motorists take their responsibility and pay attention to the rest of traffic. Riding a bike every now and then helps a lot. In general, a one way street means that it’s too narrow for the volume of traffic we have today, meaning the infra-structure can’t handle the cars.
A note on 1 way streets: There is one street in my town (Tacoma, WA) that is one way for car traffic, but they have installed a bike lane that allows bikes to go in the other direction. Since this is one of the only roads that goes uptown at a diagonal angle (instead of most of the roads that go straight UP the large hill), it is very important for cyclists to be able to go in both directions on this road. It is one example of something our town has done to reduce the “scofflaw behavior” of bicyclists, but simply giving us what we need to go where we need to go!
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