Jenna Morrison died on her way to pick up her 5 year-old son. His spiderman helmet was hanging from the handlebars of their tandem-bike that they were to ride away on together…
Instead, this vision of sustainable urban life and personal transportation turned to an instantly horrific tragedy – when the bike-for-two was crushed by the truck that took the life of a mother and her unborn child instead.
Yet life goes on, as some of us search for ways to bring meaning from such tragedy. Hopefully we can learn to see things abit more clearly on the road, before the impact of this moment subsides and we all return to our daily scramble through busy life in the city and the incident becomes just another fading memory.
So what are the crucial points that we can take from this, so that we can move forward with it all – with a renewed sense of safety and self-preservation?
As someone who has ridden one of those tandem (trail-a) bikes, I’ve also added my theory on a possible cause of this accident further below…Which anyone who rides these articulated/hinged bikes should take passing note of.
If you think about it, you couldn’t blame Cyclists for hoping that at least a few intriguing new technological developments might come out of a geek-powered event named the Sustainable Mobility Summit. Thankfully that’s exactly what happened this past week at the 2010 Summit held in Ottawa Ontario, where Google Maps announced that its new Bike Directions service, which had already launched in the United States this past March, is now also coming to eight Canadian cities as well. Conference-goers were the first to learn that Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton Calgary, Winnipeg, Gatineau, and Waterloo, and Vancouver, will all be getting mapped out with Google’s Bike Directions. Furthermore, as the host city for the Summit, Ottawa will have the distinct honour of being the first bike-friendly urban center to boast GoogleMap’s new Bike Directions features here in Canada!
What’s interesting though, isn’t just what this service offers us here in the Present, but what it can evolve into in the very near Future…
In a Perfect World ?!?
From the very outset, let’s be perfectly clear… Pedestrians on our city streets are assured the inalienable and basic human right to safe and secure access to our public spaces…Except when this access encroaches upon the open roadways, and contrary to traffic laws of course. The key issue here is the assurance of the Personal Responsibility required from all road users in assuring the protection of each other and ourselves. So if everyone is keeping public safety first in mind, then many other issues can more easily fall into place by default…Especially if we could evolve some of our traffic flow protocols along the way, once we can assure that the basics are being properly respected!
So what we’d like to consider here are not ways to limit the free reign that Pedestrians enjoy at Green lights (and sometimes abuse, just like any others on the road), but rather how Pedestrians can be more aware and participative in contributing to the smooth flow of traffic when things get abit tricky. Thus making our streets safer for everyone.
Of course we’ll be looking at this from the Cyclists point of view, and focusing on the one tool that we have to communicate danger to Pedestrians by learning to use our bike bells in a way that Pedestrians can appreciate, and respond more positively to…Perhaps from there maybe even considering a few basic signals as well
Personally, I quite like the sound of those tinkly little bell’s on kids bikes, but if we’re talking about cycling through urban road traffic, bike bells are pretty damned-well near useless when it comes to getting the attention of a hermetically sealed Motorist. They do however serve a (somewhat flawed) purpose with other Cyclists and Pedestrians, but since the results and reactions are so unpredictable, perhaps we could all benefit from a better shared understanding of what we can realistically expect from the use of bike bells, and how they can still serve to raise awareness, despite the risks of just adding to the overall confusion…
Go Transit is a name that’s been synonymous with ‘commuting’ since it was first established by the Government of Ontario in 1967. Most Commuters in Southern Ontario are already quite familiar with the essential services provided through GO Transit to nearly 55 million passengers a year via a transport network that spans over 10,000 square kilometers. Yet many might still be surprised to learn just how progressively expansive the reach of the entire organization really is, just by peering behind the scenes to see what’s being projected (and already underway!) within Metrolinx – The overseeing and organizing agency for GO Transit, which provisions us all with an enormous operating network of trusted GO trains and buses!
Even good Drivers (Motorists and Cyclists alike) know that there are times when they lapse into bad behavior, and anyone with a sense off conscience will usually correct themselves, and probably thank the stars that nothing worse than a good scare came of their foolishness. Bad drivers, on the other hand, seem to be in their own little world, which I suspect is the main reason that they’re a menace to begin with. Being unable to even consider others around them, let alone communicate non-verbally from inside their metallic glass bubbles, Bad Drivers not only create road hazards, they also drag the average down for all those around them by creating the frustrations and anxiety that can take hold and spread further down the road to corrupt other interactions, and ultimately even act as the tipping point for disaster. Unfortunately, since bad Drivers are likely accustomed to getting nasty looks from others, these types of Drivers aren’t likely to actually respond to negative visual feedback, much less actually correct their bad habits. So…Short of installing hood-mounted paintball guns to clearly mark the cars of these bad drivers, how do we get their attention, and get them to cooperate with us in making the roads safer for everyone?
Obviously Darcy Sheppard’s aggressive approach to getting a drivers attention stemmed from his vulnerable position as a naked Cyclists, and exasperated by mounting frustrations with Bad Drivers, but his dangerous behavior was apparently exasperated by other personal circumstances, and those unhealthy responses to perceived threats from bad drivers on the road were clearly allowed to escalate to the point where his own fate was sealed – by one driver who was clearly willing to use his car as a weapon, oblivious as he may have been to Sheppard’s past, or any future legal consequences to his own actions.
People who endanger others by riding on sidewalks should take heed of the many reasons why they will get nailed eventually. Even though it’s easy to presume that other people already share a sense of self-preservation when traveling on public roads, this isn’t the case on sidewalks.
On the road, we subconsciously trust in everyone else’s basic instincts to avoid damages and personal harm, with cyclists being especially vulnerable and acutely aware of this implicit agreement to avoid catastrophe. This basic and unspoken agreement leaves us feeling optimistic enough to venture about in traffic on 2-wheels, knowing that only the most careless of people (or the rare sociopath) might willingly endanger us while we’re on our merry way. Never thinking for a moment that it would be better to risk harming others, in exchange for a false sense of added-security on the sidewalk.
Yet deep down, most of us will admit that chaos still reigns supreme. So we’re left to trust in each others best intentions, while keeping an eye out for the effects of ignorance, accidents, or most of the time, just self-absorbed carelessness…And that’s out on the open roadways! Where we all expect stupid things to happen sooner or later!
What’s entirely unexpected are people who’re willing to take such selfish liberties with their vehicle on busy downtown walkways, where NOBODY but pedestrians hold rights to travel freely. Where the only wheeled vehicles you should EVER come across should be ridden by children, infants, or the disabled. Obviously, there’s still a gap between what is, and what should be…and it takes an especially self-absorbed person not to see the differences around them.