Steve Wallace: Readers weigh in on cyclists, bike lanes

Talk about kicking a hornet’s nest. Last week’s column about alternate forms of transportation generated an avalanche of responses. Here is a sample of the feedback.

Yvonne sent the whole column to members of Victoria city council. (No need. They would have received it in any press briefing package — that is, if the staff is on the ball, which I suspect is the case.)

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Mayor Lisa Helps replied to Yvonne, with a query as to the likelihood of ICBC licensing and requiring insurance for selected cyclists. Agree or disagree, kudos for a timely response.

Derry sent me a piece by CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition host Michael Enright that referenced the increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths in Toronto. Enright wants speed limits reduced and enforcement increased.

He calls it a health crisis, arguing there have been more pedestrian and bike deaths in the same period as were recorded during the SARS epidemic. Something to ponder? The fact that most of the fatalities happened in Scarborough, my old home town, is sobering indeed.

Dennis reports that traffic deaths in our province were at 300, plus or minus, each of the last few years, while drug-overdose deaths have gone from 200 in 2015 to a whopping 1,600 in 2018. Where are our priorities?

Brian recommends that an identification decal be displayed on bike helmets as proof the rider has passed an elementary rules-of-the-road theory test. Failure to comply would result in a fine equal to what a driver would be penalized for failure to produce a licence.

He thinks cyclists should have to be insured. People with a driver’s licence would be issued a helmet decal. He claims the new separated bike lanes in Victoria have encouraged the marginally competent and inadequately skilled riders on our streets. His final quote is more a challenge than a barb. “For the cycling community to be taken seriously, it should first take itself seriously.”

Sheila had a frightening experience when a bike rider came up behind her on the sidewalk and nearly pushed her onto the road, where a gravel truck was passing by. She would most certainly have been killed, if not for her instinctive response of self-preservation.

Do we really have to be like Toronto and wait for a record number of people to be killed before we get the damn bikes off the sidewalk?

Enright had a further disturbing point — Canada was one of only seven industrialized countries to see an increase in pedestrian deaths in the month of January 2019. Time will tell if this is a fluke or a foreboding sign.

Further concerns expressed by Yvonne include being kicked in the head by a cyclist dismounting at an intersection, on the sidewalk. She has also been hit by a cyclist running a red light.

Some might think she is simply unlucky. My casual observations from the safety of my driving-school vehicle more than gives credence to her plight. It is the wild west of two-wheeled wackos in certain sections of every Island city’s downtown.

Here are some reader suggestions:

• Increase the fines for cyclists. Make them equal to motor-vehicle infractions.

• Impound the bikes, in the same fashion as for motor-vehicle drivers suspected of impaired driving.

• Make offending cyclists take the safe bike-riding course offered by non-profit agencies in every community in our province.

And that’s just for starters!

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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