VIEWPOINT - Making Our Streets Safer at Low Cost

SoapboxFirst and foremost, I am a cyclist of 50+ years, and a driver for the past 38 years. With well over a million kilometres driven, I have had significant experience and try very hard to do what the motor vehicle act, common sense, and reduced risk of injury dictate. I regularly review "Bike Sense" and ICBC's publications. In my opinion, our roadways are becoming less safe for both motorist and cyclists.

First, there is an attitude from many drivers that cyclists should not be on the roads, but rather, on a sidewalk (illegal unless specified) or trail (not always an option). Secondly, at least in my area, cyclists have no clue about the motor vehicle act and seem wholly unconcerned with helmet laws, which direction they are travelling (with or against the flow of traffic), and proper road etiquette (zig, zagging through lanes, passing cars on the right, driving up the middle of two lanes of stopped traffic at a set of lights, etc.

The key here is that there seems to be zero enforcement of bicycle laws, and precious little for drivers. If people are doing things incorrectly, and no one points out the error of their ways, always more potent when the pocketbook is lightened, they will simply continue with their current practices, feeling they are in the right. Whether I am driving on the highway, or in Vancouver on my bike, or near home in Maple Ridge, it is all the same. A majority of drivers and cyclists flaunt the rules continuously.

For vehicles, daily occurrences include speeding, rolling stops, failure to signal turns or lane changes, not yielding to pedestrians, crossing solid white lines, driving through painted meridians, and a failure to give cyclist a full metre clearance (I get brushed by mirrors about one per month), as well as other annoyances. Cyclists (I speak here to adults only), on the other hand, ignore the helmet law, ride on the sidewalk and crosswalks, where headphones while driving, text or chat on cell phones while driving, drive against traffic, etc.

In my opinion, cyclists should be licensed, have their bikes registered, and the police, who don't feel it is their job to enforce cycle laws, should be far more vigilant with cyclist and drivers. Last week, slowing for a red light and the line of traffic already waiting, a driver passed me, hitting my left hand as I signalled my stop, the cut right to the curb before completing his pass. I yelled at him, but, got no reaction, and after getting going again, got his license number. I can live with an apology, or some acknowledgement of wrongdoing, but, pretending I am not there incenses me. The officer who handled my complaint got a hold of the driver who claimed no knowledge of this incident and gave him a warning. However, she really felt that while he needed to be more careful, it was not a ticketable offence (although if he did not see me in full yellow regalia it speaks to me of distracted driving, or without due care and caution) as I was not injured and had no witnesses. I guess it is time for a Go-Pro.

What can be done to increase enforcement of the motor vehicle act, for both drivers and cyclists. A cop on busier streets, could stop cyclists on the sidewalks and ticket them, with or without a helmet or headphone violation. Cops in vehicles could also stop these cyclists plus those operating on the wrong side of the road, not signalling, passing on the right, etc. If cyclists en-masse were to behave better and more consistently, drivers attitudes might improve substantially about bikes. Likewise, if drivers were hit with fines for failing to give way, rolling stops, speeding, etc. it would make the roads much safer for all. Less road rage, less poor behaviour, less incidents, and less stress.

When the provincial government elected to give 100% of ticket revenues to municipalities, I expected there to significant movements by the municipalities to take advantage of this added revenue stream while making their municipalities safer for their citizens. If a dedicated traffic officer was added along with an additional vehicle (cost of say $125,000.00/annum) it would take an additional 3.425 tickets per day at a $100.00/ticket average to pay for this individual. I think that would account for 15 to 20 minutes of his day. Add a second officer (at say $85,000/annum) and it would require another 2.329 tickets to pay for themselves. For less than 6 tickets of revenue, you could have 24 hour traffic presence, and the additional revenue could be used to offset funding deficits, reduce property taxes, or tackle projects that simply cannot be funded today.

But, this not how most municipalities think. If it was they would have bylaw officers working evenings (say a cost of $65,000/annum) and watching for people abusing the watering laws, not shovelling sidewalks in winter, park within 3m of a driveway, parking on the wrong side of the road or too far from the curb, parking nose in a cul-de-sac, unattached trailers, blocking paths, etc. it would take an additional 3.562 tickets per day at a $50.00/ticket average to pay for this officer. And when a fine of $250.00 for deposit, throw, or leave any earth, refuse, debris or any other thing on a highway" which would include cigarettes, is a bylaw, there are huge opportunities to earn extra revenue and enhance public safety. On my street alone, I could meet a 5 ticket/day quota every evening.

In today's world with the sophistication of tools available, the revenue stream untapped by lack of effort and enthusiasm, and the costs associated with abuse of current laws, why is there no support for enforcing the law. By using photo radar, HD video, and creating more employment, everyone but those flaunting the laws benefits, while inappropriate behaviours are modified. Today we have too many laws that are not understood or enforced despite the good intentions they were enacted for. However, without enforcement, they will never be adhered to and the benefits they were meant to deliver will never be attained.

I believe, that our present driving culture, has been created, and validated, by lack of enforcement.

The drivers who operate outside the confines of the law, are either flaunting the law, or rolling the dice on the odds they won't be caught. I know a couple people who drive like complete idiots, and have been told "they gotta catch you first"! And she means a high speed chase, not "in the act".

i couldn't tell you what the inside of her car looks like, I've never been in it. (Probably Timmys cups and ho-ho wrappers)

I am certain, that many people drive like they do, because the odds are so incredibly slim, that they will be caught.