Bike Lane Advocate in Sudbury

SUDBURY  - MIDDLESEX

From The Sudbury Star:

Local cyclist a champion for new bike paths

Years ago in Toronto, Nathalie Gara-Boivin took the kind of spill that might force anyone to hang up their bike for good.

She was 17 and biking along the road when she went to turn into a local plaza. Taking the turn, she hit a difference in pavement heights and her bike skidded out from underneath her. In a split second, she landed hard and broken her jaw. She couldn’t speak for three months. Then her jaw had to be re-broken because it wasn’t done correctly the first time.

So Gara-Boivin totally gets it when people tell her they are scared to cycle. But as chair of the Sudbury Bicycle Advisory Committee, she isn’t letting fear and a near complete lack of cycling infrastructure stop her from promoting more cycling in Sudbury.

Her main focus now is to ensure the Bell Park Path is constructed properly as part of reconstruction of the Grace Hartman Amphitheatre. It would be a rare victory on the infrastructure side for a committee that has seen pathways disappear.

Cyclists ride past almost on cue during a recent interview with Gara-Boivin as she explains how the current makeshift pathway needs upgrading and extending through the park.

“This is a main connector. Right now it’s a makeshift path. It’s hazardous. The city needs to allocate dollars. I think people need to be more vocal. If they’re scared to ride their bikes they need to voice their opinion that we need to see more done,” she says.

The path is the BAC’s proposal as part of reconstruction of the amphitheatre. The path would run from the Sudbury Canoe Club, behind the hospital where the road needs reconstruction, and finally past the amphitheatre.

The path would likely pass where the washrooms are located so cyclists can commute while events are ongoing. Then it would be brought along to connect with the path on Paris Street. That path will link shortly with the Rainbow Routes Ramsey Lake Path, where construction is humming along, almost at frightening speed.

Oh, the potential, oh, the possibilities.

Yes, but cycling in Sudbury is like a fast food snack cake of creamy icing that looks tasty at first then leaves you feeling sick at the end. Lord, why did I eat that?

On one end of the spectrum is Sudbury’s proud cycling history. Three Sudburians made Canadian Olympic teams in 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2004. Eric Wohlberg rode on three Olympic teams and won gold at Pan American and Commonwealth Games. There’s Delki Dozzi cycling track. Imagine trying to build that today.

On the other end is the lack of cycling infrastructure. It’s especially troubling to BAC members who see what’s going on in (insert any city here). How come bike paths in Sudbury disappear?

Gara-Boivin knows the shortfall on infrastructure has been a challenge.

“I don’t know why. We need someone dedicated at the city, whether that’s in the transportation division, who is looking at bike infrastructure, bike lanes, bike racks. We don’t even have an inventory of where current bike racks are.”

Gara-Boivin worked once as a co-op student in Ottawa’s transportation division where several staff were dedicated exclusively to Ottawa’s bike infrastructure. Sudbury also lacks a cycling master plan, she adds.

Gara-Boivin takes heart with some of the BAC’s success stories, primarily on the education front. She remains a strong advocate for the proper wearing of bike helmets.

The BAC has achieved a rack-and- roll program where cyclists can put their bikes on racks at the front of city transit buses. There’s the annual Ramsey Lake cycle tour. BAC members have supported bike rides with different community groups. They’re working on furthering the Share-the-Road program and developing a cycling map.

Photo of a bike rack in Sudbury via Flickr

On the Dangers of Cars

smog free car

Aside from the sensational headlines, this article brings to light many of the dangers of private motor vehicles. Dangers that are so common we mostly ignore them until they affect us individually.

From StraightGoods.ca:

Cyclist’s death highlights auto hazards

Cars are death traps in many ways.

by Albert Koehl

Darcy Allan Sheppard accomplished this year what almost 3,000 other Canadians will fail to do: get more than fleeting public attention for his death on our roads. If Sheppard’s death had not occurred in downtown Toronto, in gruesome circumstances, and under the wheels of a car driven by Ontario’s former top law-maker, the public would already have forgotten his name.

While the tragedy on Toronto’s Bloor St. may have highlighted the frailty of the human body in conflicts with the car, the fact is occupants of cars are hardly safe from the danger on our roads.

Polluting emissions from car and truck traffic claim 440 lives in Toronto alone each year.

Although cyclists are over-represented in road fatalities, the most common victims of road accidents are drivers and their passengers, comprising three quarters of all deaths. Motor vehicle occupants also count heavily among the 20,000 Canadians wounded so seriously by motor vehicles each year that they require hospital care, often for long terms.

So routine are serious traffic accidents that we more often hear about them as obstacles in the morning traffic report than in news headlines.

Cars aren’t deadly just because of collisions.

Polluting emissions from car and truck traffic claim 440 lives in Toronto alone each year, according to the city’s public health authority. Climate change, which is caused in significant part by transportation emissions, will claim more lives still. Over 35 percent of Toronto’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are from motor vehicles.

The tragedy of these numbers is not that we accept them so willingly, but that we accept them despite the obvious alternatives.

First, buses and streetcars are many times safer than cars, while emitting a fraction of the air and climate poisons. A 30 percent reduction in traffic emissions would save 190 lives in Toronto each year and result in $900 million in health benefits, according to Toronto Public Health. Mass transit can be improved quickly with better and more frequent bus service.

Second, bicycles produce zero climate and air pollutants — while posing minimal risks to other road users. Cycling fatalities can be reduced. In certain European countries where bikes have been given dedicated space, cyclists (despite shunning helmets) are much safer.

“Good fences make good neighbours” wrote the poet Robert Frost. Painted lines for bikes make good relations on our streets.

Yes, cyclists must obey the rules of the road, although this doesn’t help cyclists injured by motorists in so-called “doorings” that are all too common. When I cycle, I fairly diligently obey every rule of the road but sometimes marvel at the irony of it all: complying with the rules of a society that has already carelessly passed through urgent warning signs of climate change and unnecessarily wasted so many innocent lives.

Third, cars are transportation products, not necessities. Other personal transportation products would make our cities safer and healthier. Power and speed, along with polluting emissions, are car design features, and consequences, that kill.

We may be able to justify the use of a car to carry groceries, take kids to soccer practice, or pick up grandparents — but do milk and eggs really need to leave the mall in a machine capable of achieving 0-60kmph in 6 seconds? Low cost, low emission, low speed vehicles, similar to the electric ZENN car, provide another logical alternative, especially since city traffic doesn’t average even 40kmph anyway.

Finally, when our roads are safer and more hospitable places, people will walk more.

The car may be part of our culture but this is no reason to stand in the way of safer and more efficient options. The facts support a war on traffic deaths and injuries, traffic pollution, and vehicle GHG emissions that have made us all —- motorists, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians —- victims.

Albert Koehl is a lawyer with Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal), a Canadian environmental law organization.

In November 2007, Ecojustice and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, a church-based social justice organization, demanded that Canada’s Auditor General investigate the government’s oil and gas subsidies and the cuts to programs for poor households.

Photo via Flickr

Driving the Lane: Toronto Prepares for Public Bicycling – Walrus

Toronto Ride For Heart bike-a-thon on the DVP 6

Dear Emily,
I’m just going to skip over the second paragraph where you place blame on a cyclist for his own death.
Our roads are the domain of everyone who uses them. Finger tapping motorists and scofflaw cyclists alike.
Driving the Lane: Toronto Prepares for Public Bicycling

by Emily Testa
What do Jack Layton and David Byrne have in common? Sure, Layton’s Twitter account tells us he’ll be busking on the Danforth this Saturday, but at press time, the range of his musical talent remains untested. No, it’s a shared interest in the future of cycling that unites the current NDP leader and former Talking Head, who will participate in an October 24 panel discussion at the International Festival of Authors. Along with Toronto Cyclists Union executive director Yvonne Bambrick and urban designer Ken Greenberg, Layton and Byrne will discuss the potential of urban planning — specifically, bike lanes — to improve the political climate of cycling in Toronto and around the world.
Next, I call Richard Poplak, who has written about bike culture for Toronto Life magazine and is currently at work on a graphic novel about bicycle hoarder Igor Kenk, the “Fagin of Queen Street.” As an authority on sharing the roadway, Poplak’s credentials certainly pass muster — he estimates that between commuting and training as a UCI–licensed racer, he spends twenty-five hours every week on a bicycle. Poplak is doubtful that the riders who use Toronto’s new public system will amount to a meaningful increase in the number of regular bike commuters, or a meaningful decrease in the number of cars downtown. In the meantime, he calls for improved road infrastructure (“so that bicycles can safely traverse the streets without having to dodge lake-sized potholes”) and a large-scale safety campaign targeting cyclists and drivers alike. I ask whether Toronto’s public bicycle system should underwrite an expanded network of bike lanes, and can almost hear him shaking his head from the other end of the telephone line. “What bike lanes don’t do is enshrine cycling as a right,” he says. “What they do do, is enshrine the primacy of the car.” Like Heaps, Poplak believes cyclists should simply obey the rules of the road: no more rolling through red lights as they see fit. As well, motorists should recognize cyclists’ right to share their roadways. “Cyclists have the right to be everywhere except the 401 [highway] and the Don Valley Parkway. End of story,” he says. “We have rules — all we need to do is enforce them.”
Whether enforcing the rules will neutralize the discord remains to be seen. What is certain, though, is that no one, whether they travel by car or by bicycle, has the prerogative to ignore where and how their fellow commuters take to the road. Just before he signed off, filmmaker Christopher Sumpton put it to me this way: “It’s like the weather. Everyone has to deal with transportation.” Poplak was more frank in the last email he sent me: “No matter how much you may loathe cyclists, you’d have to agree that something has to be done, and pretty quickly. Painting white lines on the road and/or handing out bikes isn’t the solution. Making sure we all understand the rules of the game, however, is.”
Photo of Toronto Ride for Heart via Flickr

A Pro Skateboarder’s Lesson for Cyclists and Bad Drivers

thumbs down

Are you on Twitter?

I am… and you can follow me here: @DuncansCityRide

Over the past few months I’ve started following cyclists, bike companies and a dozen or so interesting people on Twitter. While I try not to get sucked in to the 140 character messages and start following every account I find, I’ve come across some great new cycling products and ideas on Twitter.
A few days ago, pro skateboarder Tony Hawk sent this tweet:

@tonyhawk thumb down gesture @ bad driver more effective than a middle finger – a bad review instead of a hostile scream.

While I try to keep my cool when an over-caffeinated driver is honking at me from their SUV because I’ve chosen to take the lane on a dodgy strip of road, it’s possible for even the most zen of us to lose our cool.
I do find that eye contact often ends the honks, yet there are times when I feel more of a message must be sent to end the situation. That’s when a thumbs down could come in handy.
Of course, any gesture can be taken as an act of aggression, so use it wisely. No one likes to hear when they’re at fault and when those people are behind the wheel of a 2-ton beast, you don’t need to egg them on any further.
If you want to find more cycling-related Twitter accounts, then check out the people and companies I’m following @DuncansCityRide
Photo from Flickr account of DinahSaysNothing

In Chicago, We Share the Road

Excellent training video for Chicago Police Officers that could easily be converted for cyclist and driver education in any city… oh, and how about a 3 feet for passing law in Ontario???

Traffic Enforcement for Bicyclist Safety from Chicago Bicycle Program on Vimeo.

Via Streetsblog LA

Discuss this video in the Biking Toronto Forum