IS BEING RIGHT WRONG?

I was involved in a completely avoidable collision with a motor vehicle on Monday September 30, 2013. The story of the collision was covered by the local newspaper “The Record” and can be reviewed at the following link:

http://www.therecord.com/news-story/4141918-bike-accident-a-lesson-for-others-waterloo-councillor-says/

Late in the evening the night the article was put on the newsstand I received the following email. I have not corrected the grammar or spelling errors:

“I am happy to hear your injuryes were not more serious than they were and I wish you a speedy recovery. I must speak my mind. You are on a bike and not a car. Stay out of the turning lanes. Stick to the side of the roads. Yes it might be your right but you can be so right your are wrong. A car is a lot bigger and more visible than you. I guess you do get some publicity. Next time you might not be so luck.”

The following is my response to the individual:

“Thank you for your email and your regard for my health. I am on the mend. Your opinion regarding staying to the right-side of the road and out of left turn lanes is unfortunately not possible to abide by. Just a month ago another cycling friend of mine did as you suggested, they stayed to the right in a two lane roundabout. They stayed out of the traffic as you requested, but not only were they driven into by a car, but they were also charged by the Police for being in the wrong lane. It is illegal to ride a bike on a sidewalk. It is illegal to ride a bike through a crosswalk. It is illegal to ride a bike facing on-coming traffic.

Please learn from this article. Please understand that people ride their bicycles for a large number of reasons. All of us are only temporarily able bodied and there are many law abiding, tax paying citizens who have no other options related to commuting for work and business other than to ride a bike. Municipalities and their governors such as I are called to serve all of the citizens in our city regardless of ability. Cities such as the City of Waterloo seek to be age friendly and bicycle friendly communities. To be successful in building a community that supports at home living from infant to senior requires the willingness, on behalf of all road users, to share with pedestrians and cyclists. Sharing of the road cannot be accomplished through police enforcement. Sharing cannot be accomplished through reluctant tolerance. Sharing can only be achieved by enlightened road users who show care towards one another. His Excellency Governor General David Johnston is calling on Canadians to build a Strong and Caring Nation. I see sharing the road as a small step towards this lofty goal.

Best Regards, Diane Freeman”

I struggled with deciding how and if I should respond. I was truly hurt with the contents of the email. I felt victimized all over again. I felt like I did something wrong, when I knew I did not. In the end I prepared the above response with the hopes of educating one and maybe through this blog others on how we need to seek to care for one another.

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21 comments

  1. Marie · October 6, 2013

    I’ve had similar episodes in my life with people in cars actually telling me to do something illegal just because I’m in their way. It’s time that cycling rules were made part of the written driver’s tests that everyone has to take, and sharing the road with cyclists is made part of the driving exam.

    • dianelfreeman · October 6, 2013

      The Province of Ontario has recently released a new Driver Handbook with a tremdous focus on sharing the road with bicycles. Therefore I am hopeful that meaningful change is being made on this front. The wheels of change grind slowly and many drivers will not go back for retraining. As such, patience and continued positive dialogue will be important tools for cyclists in the near future.

      • Octavian · October 9, 2013

        Unfortunately, that only addresses new drivers, not the majority of current drivers. It’s nice to see that steps are being taken, but it’s really not enough. I’ve had way too many close calls cycling through KW to believe that drivers know how to operate their motor vehicles.

  2. Susan Koswan · October 6, 2013

    I am so sorry for your “accident” Diane and glad you are recovering. No one is safe until we separate cars from bikes. We cannot share the roads. I am both a driver and a bike-rider. Last week I rode my bike to pick up a few items and was luckier than you (this time) when I crossed Fischer-Hallman to get onto Greenbrook (near Hwy. 7) There are 2 right-turning lanes coming off Hwy. 7 and I was beside the curb. The green light (to go straight through) and the arrow for the 2 right-turning lanes came on and I was barely missed (because I slammed on my brakes) by a car turning right from the middle lane. Everyone who rides with any frequency has many stories to share. The ones who survive.

    Yesterday, for recreation and exercise, my husband and I rode from Forest Heights towards Laurel Creek, attempting to stay off-road all the way and it can’t be done. The trails, where they exist, are generally quite lovely, treed paths… just not connected. And don’t get me started on the truly insane roadside bikelanes that stop and start at whim. Where the (insert expletive) are you supposed to ride when your bike lane ends for a block or so and then starts again! I mean,,, really.

    • dianelfreeman · October 6, 2013

      I appreciate your comments and for posting them. There is certainly a place for bike separated lanes within the tool kit of infrasture changes that can be implemented. However, the majority of conflicts on the roads happen at intersections. Separated bike lanes will not resolve these intersection conflicts. It is only through a concentrated effort by all road users to share the road that collisions can be prevented. I have hope that we can learn to care about each other enough to want to change.

  3. Mike Boos · October 6, 2013

    Great response, Diane, and keep up the good work!

    Respect and sharing the road are one vital piece of the puzzle that also includes meaningful consequences for unsafe operation of vehicles and better engineered infrastructure.

    I have also been on a bicycle at Northfield and Parkside, and it can be a harrowing experience, especially trying to turn left onto Parkside. I’m glad the Region is planning eventually on introducing bicycle lanes to that stretch of road. It will mean a better connection to the Laurel Trail from that end of town.

    As the crosswalk on the north side is set back from the intersection, it looks to me like an ideal candidate for a two-stage left turn bicycle box: https://twitter.com/mikeboos/status/386583869882769408/photo/1 This particular road treatment is described in the new Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18, which provides guidance to municipalities in developing cycling infrastructure. The City of Waterloo also has similar features on Davenport Road at T-intersections (http://goo.gl/maps/6eiio) where bicycle users can cross an intersection in two stages to turn left, waiting in a designated space between each crossing. I would very much like to see the City and the Region working together to implement the very best our new provincial standards have to offer.

    • dianelfreeman · October 7, 2013

      I must admit I did think a two stage bike box might have actually prevented the collision. Thank you for providing information on it.

  4. Markian Chorostil · October 7, 2013

    Glad to hear you are mending. A tactful and educational response. You should not have to feel like the victim. Once again, general ignorance of the public is exposed. As they say, “ignorance is not an excuse”. It is time ignorant motorists be charged by police and that court sentencing includes a mandatory bicycle course and community service on a bicycle. If a cyclist is at fault, then they should face the same sentencing, course and community service. One must really put the shoe on the other foot to understand.

    • dianelfreeman · October 7, 2013

      Thank you for contributing to the conversation my friend.

  5. Graham Roe · October 7, 2013

    Glad to hear you are doing better. Thanks for having the courage to share your story and respond so positively to an ignorant email. We need more people in public office willing to regularly cycle.

  6. Pingback: Waterloo City Councillor struck from beind on her Bicycle | Waterloo Bikes
  7. kitchenr jon · October 7, 2013

    Good response to that bizarre email. I’m so glad to live in a town that is much better for biking in than the last one I lived in (Atlanta) but there’s still a long way to go in making things truly safe it seems.

  8. Patrick Lam · October 7, 2013

    Thanks for posting this response! The writer was totally inappropriate. We need the infrastructure to support bicycles in this community. Thank you for your work towards this goal!

    I noticed the article in the Record as I was biking to Conestoga College yesterday. (Biking home at night, I also almost got hit by a car doing a U-turn on King Street, even though I had a front light. Could happen to anyone.)

    What I found was “funny” was the placement of your story above a Jeff Outhit column about how driving was much more convenient than GRT for his son. GRT’s been getting much better and I hope that City Council will continue to support the Region in improving GRT.

    • dianelfreeman · October 7, 2013

      Thank you for your comments. My husband noted the interesting placement in the print addition with the column by Mr. Outhit too.

  9. Colin Dellow · October 7, 2013

    First, let me say that I hope your recovery is speeding along.

    Second, I owe you an apology.

    When I saw the headline of your collision in The Record my initial instinct was “Uh oh, another fatality.” After seeing that you came through it in OK shape, my next reaction was rather ghoulish. I thought to myself, “Of all the people to have been hit, at least it was a helmet-wearing, reflective vest-wearing, female, mother, city councillor.”

    There’s no way this can be spun against the victim, I thought.

    I was wrong.

    I hope you will continue to react positively when confronted with negativity–showing that we do possess common sense and interacting with politeness are two of our best tools to change perception and create more vibrant communities that accommodate a wider range of people.

    Best of luck in your recuperation, and I hope you find yourself back in the saddle before long!

    • dianelfreeman · October 7, 2013

      Thank you for your kind comments on this posting.

  10. Giles Malet · October 9, 2013

    Diane, I cycle with the Waterloo Cycling Club, and like many other members, commute on a bicycle, so your experience strikes a chord with many of us. I just wanted to wish you well, and let you know we’re all rooting for you! I know going through something like this is not pleasant, but your positive attitude, and using the opportunity to attempt to educate others, will help make something positive come of this.

    All the best, I hope your recover goes well, and above all, keep cycling, and spreading the good word!

    g

    • dianelfreeman · October 11, 2013

      Thank you. I think my bike will be ready to ride by tomorrow. Can’t wait.

  11. Octavian · October 9, 2013

    Diane, I’m a little late finding your blog.
    I read the Record article and various other takes on the collision.
    I hope you are doing better and are mending, both physically and psychologically.
    I also hope that this collision will not keep you from riding your bike on the Region’s roads.
    Lastly, I hope the collision serves as a lesson to operators of motor vehicles that we need to be aware of our surroundings while driving.

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