Simcoe County cyclists laud proposed ‘move-over’ law
Barrie cyclist Robb Meier, president of the Barrie/Simcoe Cycling Club, rides down Dunlop Street East in Barrie’s downtown. Meier said the Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act reinforces the right of cyclists to travel on roadways.
The proposed Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act requires drivers to remain stopped at school crossing and pedestrian crossovers until pedestrians have completely crossed the road.
“We always encourage students to walk and families to walk with students, if necessary. It’s welcome news that this will take place, but its also one that we know is only as good as the ability of drivers to follow the rules,” Dance said.
Dance noted there are rules motorists must obey while driving around school buses that are not always followed.
“Education is the most important part,” he said.
The SCDSB has not heard complaints about motorists driving off before a pedestrian has crossed the road, Dance said.
“It’s been high-profile because a lot of times whenever something does happen, whether it happens in Toronto, or wherever, it seems to heighten the fear of people of how safe it is to walk to school,” he said.
The Ministry of Transportation states pedestrians represent about one in six motor vehicle-related fatalities on Ontario roads — 41 per cent of which occurred at intersections.
“If passed, our legislation will help keep pedestrians, drivers and cyclists safe on Ontario’s roads. Thanks to our legacy of tough laws, strong enforcement and partnerships with many dedicated road safety partners, Ontario’s roads are among the safest in North America and these new measures are intended to keep it that way,” Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said in a media release.
Dance asks motorists to be patient while young people are crossing intersections and crosswalks.
“If it’s a three-year-old, or a four-year-old walking across in-hand with an adult, sometimes that’s a pretty painstaking process. It calls for a lot of patience. Sometimes people driving aren’t patient,” he said.
Health-wise, Dance said students have more energy if they walk to school.
“People say school should be more fitness-oriented. Well, they could be getting walks on the way to school that could be part of their fitness too,” Dance said.
Casey Witteman used to ride his bike everywhere he went.
That is, until the Severn Township man was killed after being hit in the back of his helmeted head by a roof truss hanging off a truck while bicycling on Highway 11 near Washago July 11, 2009.
Witteman’s close friend, Gene Wood, hopes the province’s proposed Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act, which increases fines and creates new rules to protect cyclists, saves others from Witteman’s fate.
“You don’t want anybody to go that way, but (maybe) he can help other people,” Wood said Tuesday. “That’s the only way to look at it because I can’t bring Casey back.”
“It’s going to help give motorists the message that bicycles are vehicles, that we’re people. And we’re deserving of the respect they give another car when they pass a car.” - Robb Meier
The act, at second reading in legislature, raises the maximum fine for knocking down a cyclist with an open car door to $1,000 and three demerit points. While passing cyclists, drivers will be required to maintain a one-metre distance between them, where practical.
“I’m very pleased. There’s been too many people killed of late. It’s very often because people are driving too close,” Wood said. “It will really help in the crowded city environment. On the highways, people need to learn to back off.”
Wood is not certain the legislation would have protected Witteman if it were released earlier. The truss was sticking out the side of a tractor-trailer travelling north in the highway’s right-hand lane. Witteman, 56, was biking northbound at the side of the lane. The wide load did have an orange marker but the driver said he did not see Witteman biking along the highway.
“In vehicles where you cannot see the cyclist, you should have a spotter in the right-hand side,” Wood said.
Barrie cyclist Robb Meier, president of the Barrie/Simcoe Cycling Club, hopes the proposed changes mean cyclists will be respected on the roadways.
“It’s going to help give motorists the message that bicycles are vehicles, that we’re people. And we’re deserving of the respect they give another car when they pass a car,” Meier said.
The club has 210 members from Barrie, Orillia, and the townships of Innisfil, Springwater and Oro-Medonte.
While most Simcoe County drivers give cyclists plenty of room, there are always those who do not, Meier said.
“It’s terrifying,” he said. “Especially if you’re on a road that’s like an 80 km/h an hour speed limit and a car goes flying by you with like six inches to spare.”
Meier has been struck by vehicle mirrors eight times.
“Once, I ended up riding into the ditch and another time the shorts I was wearing were torn from pocket to knee,” he said.
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An experienced rider, Meier has been able to keep himself upright when struck by mirrors. Less experienced riders, or those who carry less weight could end up falling off their bikes, he said.
“Some female cyclists, who are lighter and smaller, have been blown right off the road when a vehicle goes by them too quickly,” Meier said.
On May 27, 2003, Dylan Schulman died while bicycling in Barrie. He was clipped by a garbage truck’s mirror and thrown under the vehicle’s rear tires.
Setting a one-metre buffer zone rule means these types of deaths should not happen again, Meier said.
“If we had a passing law back then, it probably would have saved his life. It would have prevented the accident from even happening,” Meier said.
The existing maximum fine for hitting a cyclist with a vehicle door is $500 and two demerit points.
“We don’t hear about it so much in Barrie because there are not a lot of people riding bikes. But as more people ride, it’s definitely an issue,” Meier said, adding cyclists have suffered broken bones by riding into an open car door.
He recommends drivers look behind them before opening a door to ensure a cyclist is not riding by. Cyclists, meanwhile, are advised to take a wide path around parked vehicles.
The proposed bill allows municipalities to construct bike lanes on one-way streets going in the opposite direction of traffic. Today, cyclists are charged $85 for travelling against traffic on one-way streets.
“It helps create efficiencies and more direct routes. Especially for people who are using their bicycle as transportation to get from one point to another,” Meier said.
Cyclists will be allowed to have a flashing red light on the back of their bicycle. Currently, only solid red lights are permitted.
The Ontario Highway Traffic Act defines bicycles as vehicles that belong on the road. Cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic and should ride one meter from the curb, or close to the right hand edge, when there is no curb, states the act.
“If the road is narrow and there isn’t enough room to comfortably ride to the right of a car, the cyclist is entitled to occupy the full lane,” states the Ministry of Transportation website. “However, when the road widens and traffic speeds up, cyclists are expected to let motor vehicles squeeze past.”
Many drivers are not aware that cyclists are entitled to an entire lane of traffic, Meier said.
When there is no shoulder on the roadway, Meier rides close to the middle of the lane to encourage motorists to think twice before passing.
“If you’re taking up more of the roadway, (drivers) have to actually consider the implications of going around you,” he said. “They’re going to have to go into the opposite lane of traffic and put themselves at-risk, which causes them to make better decisions.”
With its paved roads and hilly terrain, Oro-Medonte Township is becoming a popular destination with cyclists. Mayor Harry Hughes said the township has been doing its own work to educate cyclists and drivers on sharing the road.
The township has mapped out areas for cyclists to ride that are less-travelled by vehicular traffic.
“Separating them is a good idea,” Hughes said.
Hughes said the proposed changes are a step in the right direction.
“The more focus and attention we give to this, the more likely people are to pay attention and co-operate,” he said.
In rural communities, most motorists are already giving cyclists a wide berth while passing, Hughes said.
He sees a problem with the one-metre rule in rural communities. Bicycle lanes are not wide enough to provide a one-metre buffer because there is no separation between the bicycle lane and the roadway, he said.
“In those kinds of cases, (drivers) would believe that cyclists should stay in those and they can continue the road like they normally would. That would put them certainly closer than a metre,” Hughes said.
Hughes is supportive of the proposed safety changes for cyclists, but he added it is a two-way street.
“Cyclists have to have respect for vehicles and vehicles have to do the same for cyclists,” he said.
Hughes noted, motorists are nervous when driving around cyclists because they are anticipating erratic movements.
“If a cyclist sees a bump in the road, very often they will suddenly change course because they really don’t know who is behind them,” Hughes said.
There needs to be more education on whether cyclists in groups should ride in single file or in three to four abreast, he said.
The Barrie/Simcoe Cycling Club has been working on public awareness campaigns to educate cyclists and drivers on how to properly share the road and how to pass safely.
“Cyclists need some direction on when they should be riding single file and when it’s OK to be riding two abreast,” Meier noted.