FOR CYCLING FATALITIES?
Much is being made of the impaired driving charge against the
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer in the death of a young Kanata,
Ontario cyclist, and rightly so. However this issue overshadows less
obvious but more important issues which have bothered cyclists ever
since motorist seized the roads from cyclists, and horse and buggies.
It is doubtful whether the government of Ontario will ever
understand the interaction of cyclists and motorists on our roads and
take long overdue measures to improve coexistence among all road users.
The latest tragic example begs the question - when a cyclist
is positioned properly on the road and is hit from behind, why is
the motorist not automatically charged with dangerous or reckless
driving regardless of the role played by alcohol? Would the OPP
officer involved have been charged if he had not been impaired? Likely
not, but why not? It is not good enough to say Shane's cycle lighting
did not meet the requirements of the Highway Traffic Act. Motorists are
supposed to drive safely and, at all times, be able to stop within the
limits of their sight in accordance with prevailing conditions. The
latter would include darkness, snow, ice, fog, and glare. We should not
fool ourselves by calling the result of unsafe driving practices
In 1992, we lost the great Canadian artist and cyclist, Greg Curnoe
after he and other cyclists were rear ended by a truck driver. The
truck driver claimed he was blinded by the reflection of the sun
off a lake. He was charged only after a public outcry from
cyclists. Subsequently, the truck driver was found not guilty. In
a similar crash late last year, an elderly Arnprior cyclist died
after a motorist ran him down from behind just outside of Ottawa. The
motorist also claimed he was blinded by the sun. The OPP did not lay charges.
In a callous act, the Attorney General of Ontario, Marion Boyd personally
endorsed this decision. Just before Christmas 1994, Michael Barry, a
member of Canada's Cycling team, and a colleague were hospitalized
after being rear-ended by a car on a Toronto street. The Toronto Metro Police
has refused to lay charges, citing that the cyclists were riding two abreast,
even though this is a legal practice in Ontario.
Motorists kill more people in Canada than criminals do with guns.
A motor car is a loaded gun. There are over 5 million of them in Ontario. The
attitude of the police and their Queens Park political bosses seems to be that
cyclists are to blame for getting in the line of fire of these four wheeled loaded
guns. Ontario Premier Bob Rae even decreed his own bullet-proof protection
for cyclists - mandatory helmet legislation - just to make it clear who is
responsible for cyclist injuries when hit from behind by a car. Apart from the
absurdity of his logic which transfers responsibility to the victim, it seems to
have escaped Ontario Premier Bob that a helmet is absolutely useless if you
are hit by a car at 80 km/h.
It's very convenient for us to blame drunk drivers for the deaths
of cyclists or to call the deaths "accidents" to free everyone of
guilt, but perhaps the ones who should really be held accountable
are those sitting in the ivory towers of Queens Park and whose
opinions on road safety are gained through the tinted-windows of a