To the editor:
I am writing this letter in response to Coun. Hebert’s and Coun. Boschoff’s plans to propose removing our city’s bike lanes. Let’s call this what it is: a knee-jerk reaction to curry favour with voters who are unhappy with the existing confusing traffic controls and lost parking.
This proposal is wasteful, ill-advised and foolish. Eliminating bike lanes is a step in the wrong direction. So why does our city need bike lanes? Having a designated space on the road provides both cyclists and motorists with a consistent, predictable travel way. Motorists know where to look for cyclists, and it reinforces to cyclists the need to stay to the right and to travel in the direction of traffic.
When constructed properly these bike lanes are essential as they can provide safe and direct routes. Indirectly they also create a culture of sharing the road that can be transferred to any other roadway. This awareness increases safety for cyclists everywhere.
While our city’s Engineering Department has struggled with incorporating Thunder Bay’s bike lanes into existing infrastructure, the bike lanes themselves should not be abolished. I recommend that further review and adjustments be made to the existing bike lanes and that new bike lanes should be incorporated into the initial roadway design. Existing streets that are not suitable need to be deleted from the plan or widened to accommodate the additional users.
Furthermore, the city needs to clean and maintain paved shoulders and roadsides to encourage cyclists to stay to the right.
Accessible, safe cycling routes are an important part of our city’s infrastructure. As citizens we need to be patient with this evolutionary change. Coun.Hebert’s suggestion to create a city by-law to allow bicycles on sidewalks is not only misguided, but truly unsafe.
By mixing bicycles travelling at speeds of up to 40 kilometres-per-hour with the unpredictable and random behavior of pedestrians, rollerbladers, strollers and dogs on leashes we create an accident waiting to happen. (For this reason multi-use trails can be just as unsafe.)
Then when you throw in the numerous uncontrolled intersections at every driveway and a random direction of travel you create an additional hazard with motorists.
Riding on sidewalks is not only dangerous for the cyclist, but for all other users. It is clearly not an intelligent option. Coun. Boschoff has also suggested that more education be provided. He should know that the City of Thunder Bay and Eco-Superior have developed pamphlets, advertisements and websites as well as provided numerous public forums to discuss bike lanes and bike safety.
Additionally, through a collaboration of community stakeholders (including the City of Thunder Bay) Safe Cycling Thunder Bay offers certified CAN-Bike programs to educate cyclists. These courses are specifically designed to educate riders how safely navigate public roadways.
So while Coun. Boshcoff may not be aware of this, the educational tools are there. To me this indicates that further public promotion of these resources needs to occur. Finally, I’d like to remind everyone that cyclists come from every demographic of our population. From the time we are little kids to when we hit the grave, virtually everyone can ride a bike – and most of us probably have at some point in our lives.
Cyclists are our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbours, friends and co-workers. As our world evolves towards more healthy lifestyles and green modes of transportation, creating a safe environment for cyclists becomes paramount. Therefore, I implore you to keep our city’s bike lanes and to keep cyclists off our city’s sidewalks.