The strangest thing happened last week when I counted how many cyclists were wearing a helmet. It was Monday morning, and there were 37 helmeted cyclists in downtown Victoria. Not a single helmetless rider was to be seen.
How could this be occurring? Could it be a fluke? Another count was done the next day, and there were 28 cyclists doing the same.
My cycling buddies were not surprised. It was the morning ride in downtown, and of course the majority of commuters were government employees, who author many of the legislative initiatives and are far more likely to be law-abiding. Congrats to the civil service.
As the day progressed, the count was much less gratifying. Dumb cyclists riding on the sidewalk were in evidence throughout the residential core of Victoria. Bikes are meant to be on the road, not the sidewalk. Pedestrians are in peril when cyclists deviate from the norm. The guy who was riding his bike on the sidewalk, while at the same time trying to guide his leashed dog, was clearly dumber than most. The dumbest rider was the character riding against one-way traffic on the road portion of Pandora Avenue, where a separated bike lane has been recently constructed at great taxpayer expense.
Pedestrians fared about the same as cyclists. People going to work in the morning were very judicious about when to wait and when to walk. As the day wore on, things changed. When questioning a person walking across the street showing a DON’T WALK signal flashing, with the decreasing number count, it was obvious the pedestrian had no idea that walking was not permitted.
Dumb pedestrians think it is all right to proceed when the DON’T WALK signal is flashing. Dumber pedestrians had their heads buried in their phones, oblivious to the danger that surrounded them as they crossed the street. “Stop, look and listen” seems to be a lost habit when crossing the road. Pedestrians are vulnerable when they do not anticipate the right turn on a red light made by drivers. The dumbest pedestrians run across the street. This quick action does not allow drivers the time to properly react and perform a lateral evasive action or a quick stop.
Some drivers are not very good at letting others know of their intentions. Many of them look over their shoulder again and again without first signalling an intention. We are not mind readers. Island drivers are relatively polite compared with the rest of big-city Canada.
Dumb drivers do not warn others, with a signalled intention, before looking for a lane-change space. Dumber drivers hold traffic back in rather innocent ways. For instance, they do not turn right on a red light, or move to the middle of the intersection, while waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before making a left turn at an intersection. They refuse to make a left turn from a red light onto a one-way street where permitted, and instead retard other drivers wishing to perform the same manoeuvre. The dumbest drivers are self-centred. They are too busy getting from place to place to be concerned with the safety of others.
Pedestrians, no matter how foolish, are very susceptible to serious injury when they are not a driver’s highest priority. Cyclists are in the same boat, despite their relative skill and safety. Who do you think will pay, given a mishap? Only the driver is insured.
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.