What Really Happened on Hillside Trail?

The emails and on-line feedback on the recent record article are fascinating to me. For those who have deemed me to be a reckless, speeding cyclist they can rest assured that I was going very slowly, saw the fence, had complete control over my bike, could come to a complete stop if required for pedestrian or other trail users and approached the bend in the trail with caution. The small make-shift trail to the left of the fence was the option provided to trail users to get around the trail closure. I took the make-shift trail, likely too slowly, my wheels became stuck in mud I could not see under the weeds, and I fell over injuring myself.  I don’t care about my injuries and I don’t blame the Region for my fall.  As an aside I was not furious, but it makes for a good headline.  I do think it is of value to prevent injuries to others that may make the same choice as I did and a simple sign along with a true trail would have achieved that outcome. What prompted the Record article was Tweet I sent out to the region asking them to sign the trail and formalize the alternative route so no one else has the potential to get hurt.  The Record decided that was news worthy.  I didn’t think it newsworthy, but given the conversation on-line and the emails I have received about the whole thing it is clear that the Record reporter knows how to write a great article.

I don’t know if you pay Regional taxes, but I do and I think they are too high.  Annually 1,000’s of people routinely sue municipalities for injuries similar to what I incurred.  The laws of the Province in virtually every case side on the side of the injured person.  Why?  The laws believe that appropriate notice, such as a sign, would have completely prevented the injury.  Further, that had there been a sign, and I chose to disregard it than I am liable for my choice to ignore it and the resulting injuries.  

The City of Waterloo has a policy that when we are undertaking construction and we will be interrupting a trail connection we place a sign to indicate to users that the way is blocked by doing so, we limit our liability in the event of injury.  I believe the Region should have a similar policy to limit their liability.  During the road construction on University Avenue the Region has continuously shown a lack of regard to trail users and cyclists in particular. 

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BIKES BELONG…

While driving with my 85 year old father a while back we got to talking about cycling. Dad commented that there is always that “age old debate” on whether you should cycle on the road or on the sidewalk. I replied that there is no debate and that the Ontario Highway Traffic Act is clear. Bicycles are vehicles and are required to ride on the road. I went on to say that they are also required to ride with traffic or in other words in the same direction as a car.

I find myself wondering when it was that it was ever deemed to be ok to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk such that people think that is where bikes belong. In addition, the majority of all vehicle collisions occur at intersections, therefore riding on a sidewalk does nothing to prevent this conflict. In many cases, cyclists riding on a sidewalk often ride facing traffic resulting in a collision because they did not stop for a pedestrian cross-walk.

People also believe that bikes belong on the right hand side of the road and nowhere else. In times past where the majority of urban roadways were single traffic lanes in each direction, it was easy to ride on the right hand side and nowhere else. However, with urban roads now containing dedicated left turn lanes and dedicated right turn lanes cyclists are required to ride “in traffic”. Some motor vehicle operators chose not to understand that this is where bikes belong. I say chose because that is exactly what it is. They are making a choice to not “share the road”.

We can spend a ton of time arguing about the rights of the road, but to what end? For those who require the language, it is an offense to fail to share the road with a bicycle. More importantly, I believe we need to want to live in community with others. We need to want to share the road.