It’s been a banner year in the clash of motor vehicles vs. pedestrians in Halifax. From January to this week of this year, there were 229 reported collisions involving pedestrians. Add bicycles to the equation and everyone has an opinion. (note: that number has increased since I wrote this…)
It has resulted in a divide between those who choose to cycle, those who drive, and pedestrians. Whether it’s about drivers sharing the road with cyclists, or pedestrians being solely responsible for their own well-being when using crosswalks, the response always seems to be the same.
Those who are pro-driving hate sharing the road and believe it’s the responsibility of the pedestrian to ensure all clear before venturing into a crosswalk.
Those who are pro-cycling believe that increasing ridership and more dedicated bike lanes would bring less traffic, less pollution and increased health benefits.
Those who are pro-walking say drivers should be more attentive of pedestrians and whenever there’s an accident, it’s almost always the fault of bad drivers.
It’s us vs. them.
Nothing gets accomplished by being on the defensive and pointing out the flaws of everyone else. With the current discussion in Halifax now on requiring cyclists to have a licence, the mentality of finger-pointing is sinking deeper. Cyclists having a licence to ride on the road may be held more accountable – that’s even if the laws get enforced – but will it prevent accidents? Likely, but only because it will lessen the number of people who choose to cycle, which in turn could put them into the driver’s seat adding to the already existing traffic issue.
For most of the last three months, I’ve been behind the wheel relying almost exclusively on driving to get me where I need to go. In the past, most of my transportation had been via my own two feet or the two wheels of my bike. So for the first time, I have the perspective of someone who cycles, walks and drives and I can confidently say that the problems between them aren’t exclusive to any one group.
In my time of driving daily to work each way for an hour
uphill both ways I’ve seen my share of bad drivers. My pet peeve as a driver isn’t being cut off or tailgated, it’s unused signal lights. The most simplest of actions and so many people seem unaware of their purpose and use them incorrectly, or not at all.
I’ve also had some close calls as a driver, several of which are due to faults of my own, which I am thankful didn’t actual result in anything and have helped me in being more aware and better attentive.
Most importantly, I’ve learned the challenges that come with being a driver. For example, not all intersections are alike. When accounting for the possibility of the presence of pedestrians and cyclists, some can really be challenging. Also challenging is driving at night in the rain. As alert and focused as I try to be when approaching crosswalks, sometimes my view does get restricted with oncoming headlights and glare.
My experience driving will influence my actions as a pedestrian and a cyclist, should I ever decide to get over my anxiety of riding in traffic. I now have a greater appreciation for the challenges of driving and my perspective has shifted as a result.
No, I don’t think the blame lies squarely on the any particular group. I think all people need to accept responsibility for their placement in the mix of transportation methods. While I regularly see driving infractions, I do see inattentive people crossing streets, crosswalk or no, and I do see cyclists running red lights and dangerously swerving through traffic. People from all groups are guilty.
Restricting any of the groups will solve nothing. Blaming any particular group will solve nothing. It’s about being aware of your actions and taking responsibility and it’s something that applies to everyone.