Demand Safer Roads for Cycling!

On March 20th, Erik Anonby contacted C.U. Cycling asking for some help: he had been hit by a snow plow. He was looking for some suggestions on who to contact. He had a few ideas already, so we suggested some more folks to talk to.

Unfortunately, cyclists are well-used to situations where they feel as though their lives have been threatened or their safety has been compromised, but can’t forward this information to anyone. No license plate, couldn’t see the driver, the list goes on. Without enough information, the police can’t pursue an investigation.

We hope that the City takes this incident seriously and reviews best practices with their plow operators and all city staff operating vehicles. We need to normalize safe driving behaviour to ensure that these sorts of incidents don’t happen again.

Below is the text from “Let’s push for safer city cycling,” originally posted in the Ottawa Citizen on March 30, 2013:

I have lived in Ottawa for three years. I am Canadian, but lived in the Netherlands before moving here to teach at Carleton University. One of the main reasons my family moved here is because this city is known for its quality of life.

On the morning of March 21, I was hit by a snowplow while cycling to work along Baseline Road. The driver didn’t stop, and I was unable to identify the licence plate, as it was obscured by the salt dispenser on the back of the truck. I filed a report with the police, who are unable to pursue further action because I did not have the licence plate number or any witnesses (no one stopped).

It is the second time I have been hit on Baseline this winter. The first time, the driver – coming out of a Tim Hortons drive-thru – did not stop, either.

I cycle to work as our family relies on one car, which my wife needs. I take the National Capital Commission bike paths to work the rest of the year, but in winter they’re not cleared. I use winter tires for safety, wear a helmet, a reflective vest and I have flashing lights on the front and back of my bike. Still, having been hit twice, I am shaken up. I hope that the City of Ottawa can implement steps to better this situation, including: Informing city-contracted snowplow operators of the danger that they pose to cyclists, and making sure licence plates remain visible; adding a painted bike lane to Baseline and other dangerous roads; clearing the edge of the road by snow-plows to provide more space between cars and cyclists; making sure potholes are not too big in spots where cyclists ride (thankfully, this winter they have been filled more quickly on Baseline than last winter).

Also, signs should be placed strategically to remind drivers to respect cyclists – not just “share the road,” but ones that actually state the fact that cyclists’ lives are being placed in danger by drivers. Signs should also mark where cyclists have been hit which say “automobile/bicycle collision location.”

I also encourage the NCC to keep bike paths cleared in winter. I have contacted them with this request, and they said the main reason they don’t do it is because “it is not a priority for them at this time.”

When Krista Johnson was killed while cycling on Bronson Avenue this past year, it really shook all of us up at Carleton. I hope that the City of Ottawa will take steps to reduce the likelihood of another cycling death in our community. Cycling is an important part of my life, by necessity and by choice. I am also a father of four kids. I want to be there for them.

Erik Anonby, Ottawa, Assistant Professor, French Linguistics, Department of French, Carleton University

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