Safer cycling rests with big picture 0
It isn’t about just one thing when it comes to improving the safety of cyclists.
This was the prevailing theme in the Chief Coroner’s Office report, which listed 14 recommendations in light of 129 cyclists’ deaths between 2006 to 2010.
Sue Shikaze, Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit health promoter, said there is a bigger picture to consider than just mandatory helmet laws (a focus of the media lately) when it comes to safer cycling.
“From a public health perspective, one of our priorities is definitely injury prevention. Starting from the point of an incident (e.g. car-bike collision), certainly a helmet is one important mode of injury prevention, and one that we promote. However, there are other important strategies for injury prevention, which look at how the incident itself could be prevented (what, in public health, we call looking “upstream”), she said. “What is encouraging about the coroner’s report is that most of his recommendations are upstream approaches, looking at how to prevent collisions in the first place, like improving infrastructure to make it safer for cycling (e.g. bike lanes, paved shoulder, etc); better education for drivers about how to share the road (e.g. changes to driver’s handbook and driver education curriculum); and one metre passing legislation.”
Wearing a helmet, she said, prevents head injuries (or the seriousness of a head injury) if a cyclist is in a crash. However it does not make cycling itself safer, she said.
“Most of the other recommendations, however, do make cycling safer, by creating a safer environment, and encouraging safer motorist/cyclist interactions. So in the long run that is what will encourage more people to cycle (which in turn makes cycling safer),” she said.
The Haliburton Real Easy Ryders cycling club started with eight riders in 1997 and now represents 120 riders from 50 to 85 years old. They go on regular bicycle tour rides of the area, covering paved and loose gravel roads in Haliburton County.
Ryders vice-president Gary Stoner said he supports all the recommendations, particularly the paved shoulders recommendation, but said his club has already taken a pro-active approach encouraging safe riding practices (single-file, signaling intentions, communication between riders about road conditions and vehicle presence and riding far to the right of the road), offering a pre-season clinic, mandatory helmet wearing for all its members on club rides, and regular safety bike checks.
Upwards of 50 riders participate in a weekly ride on Tuesday. Stoner said the club sends its seasons chedule of rides and routes to the OPP, who alert its officers on duty. The Haliburton Highlands OPP were contacted, but did not respond.
From a legislative standpoint things need to work from a basis of courtesy and awareness between cyclists and motorists. Stoner points to Share the Road program and other education attempts (in school and in the public) as effective means towards creating a better atmosphere between cyclists and motorists.
“There seems to be an awareness now of the benefits of cycling and in the fact the cyclists have every bit of a right to be on that road as a licensed vehicle … We have not had any issue with discourteous drivers,” he said. Those who get a “little bit too close” have their license recorded and reported to the OPP.
Shikaze said it now rests with the government to act on the recommendations.
“Those of us who do cycling advocacy are hopeful that they will look at all aspects of injury prevention to make cycling safer, not just mandatory helmet legislation,” she said.