Five years ago in Copenhagen I went cycling with my friend Olle for the first time and when I remarked at his (and everyone else’s) religious adherence to traffic safety issues – cyclists, pedestrians, motorists, all seemingly working in harmony – he said, to paraphrase, “everybody has to follow the rules or the system falls apart.”
Here in Charlottetown, the system has fallen apart. Especially as regards cyclists.
I’ve had my bicycle back on the road for just over a week now, and here are just a few of the things I’ve witnessed from other cyclists in the city:
- riding the wrong way up a one-way street,
- riding behind parked cars on the wrong side of the street,
- riding on the sidewalk (by far and away the most prevalent misdeed),
- blowing through stop signs and traffic lights.
I’m not going to even mention the lack of helmets (especially important given all of the above and the attendant certainly of eventual death), the almost total absence of hand signals, and cyclists riding at night without lights.
I’m not being a effete cycling purist here: irresponsible cycling in Charlottetown is all over the place, all the time; just sit on a park bench at any downtown intersection for 5 minutes and you’ll be almost certain to see one or more death-defying moves.
Now the libertarian in me says “cycle however you want – it’s your life,” but the problem with that is that the bad cycling behaviour of others has a direct impact on my life: it motorists and pedestrians lose respect for cyclists (and I can’t imagine how they haven’t at this point), then, like Olle says, the system falls apart. Motorists and pedestrians stop looking for cyclists in expected places because “expected” places could mean anywhere. Kids see cyclists riding up and down sidewalks and think it’s okay; parents, afraid to let their kids on the road (where they would learn to be responsible), let them ride on the sidewalk. And so on and so on.
Somebody is going to be seriously injured or killed soon if this keeps up.