Friday, September 26, 2008

Twofer!

Eh...what the heck? I'm on a roll.

Ok, rant time, boys and girls. So kick back, grab a drink and relax. I've been working on this one for a week or so and I figure it's something I just gotta get off the chest. This one's going to take a bit.

Seeing how Summer has fled before Autumn’s onslaught I thought I’d wrap things up this season with a look at one area of aggravation that I have wrestled with ever since I became a father. I’m talking, of course, about cyclists.

Now, overall I have no problem with cyclists. I can remember long summers watching the flocks of wild cyclists hurtling past my driveway on their weekly round trips to Kingston and I’ll admit I was impressed by their dedication to their cause and perhaps a little jealous of people who could afford the mindset that there was nothing better for them to do on any given weekend than spend a 48 hr period peddling across Eastern Ontario over and over again.

But over the years as I became more urbanized I found my patience beginning to wane with the two-wheeled set. For instance, although I had no problem with young cyclists riding on the sidewalk too often I would watch as full grown adults would ignore the rules of the road, blowing through red lights, going the wrong way on one-way streets and, my favourite, leaping their bikes up onto the sidewalk to dodge through pedestrian traffic. A few times I have even witnessed the unfortunate collision between these cyclists and pedestrians including children, strollers and the elderly. Still, I remembered the inter-city cyclists of yesteryear and I thought, at least, they might have had the right idea and did my best to chalk up the inner city cyclists as simply less evolved when it came to the breed.

However, this last shred of innocence was taken from me a couple of weeks back when I witnessed a pair of the highway variety of cyclists peddling merrily through the rolling hills towing one of the ever so trendily popular child trailers. As I approached I looked on as several motorists did their best to slam on their brakes and either slow down to well below the posted speed limit (thus becoming a road hazard themselves) or manoeuvring their vehicle into the oncoming lane to get around them.

Now, I understand the economic, environmental and sheer for-the-joy-of-it aspects of cycling. However, I do have to question the mindset of an individual who would strap their child into a thin nylon covered aluminium frame to tow them along a highway well below the speed limit and even below bumper level for most vehicles.

As an occasional motorist when I place my child on the highway I strap them into a vehicle that meets highway safety requirements including seatbelts, crumple zones, anti-lock brakes, signals and airbags. I place him into his booster seat installed to meet all safety and insurance standards and I make sure that he and my vehicle are equipped for all contingencies: weather, breakdown, temperature change, first aid, etc.

Thus I wonder at the mentality of someone who would willingly place their child in a situation where not only are they not protected from other vehicles but that they would then proceed to expose that child under conditions where those vehicles are moving at high speed, with only a limited chance of even seeing the trailer before literally and perhaps tragically being right on top of it. A cycling helmet may stop a spill. It will do nothing to reduce the impact of the front bumper of an SUV moving at 80 km/hour.

Even if a cyclist is obeying the rules of the road (a coin toss these days) the laws of physics tend to pick up where the laws of the road leave off. A multi-ton tractor trailer not only requires more distance to slow down than your average vehicle it also creates a great deal of drag on those it passes. Every year children on bicycles are accidentally “sucked” beneath these behemoths to predictable and tragic results. If it can happen to kids on bicycles, is it so far fetched that a child in a trailer is equally vulnerable?

Sadly, for me, the magic of cyclists as a charming phenomena of our environment has well and truly fled. Where once I believed them to be at least somewhat progressive in their choice of locomotion I am starting to find them to simply be yet one more branch of this beloved species of ours that seems incapable of either thinking through their actions or taking responsibility for them when tragedy does strike. For the sake of the next generation, if you’re going to endanger yourself that’s a risk you can take but by all that’s holy, think before exposing your kids to potential tragedy.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

They drive the motor scooters, motor Cycles and mopeds far too often on the sidewalks for my taste here. and I get a talking too by friends if I want to ride my bike on the sidewalk to speed things up. They are motorcycles I have to pull my kids out of the way of. MOTORCYCLES!

Here on most main roads they have a bike lane. Even on the highways (not the one of MacDonald-Cartier type though). I think we should think about that. While I would still be nervous becuase you never know when some idiot is going to swerve into a bike lane i think it is better to actually have room for the cars and the bikes.

Although on the roads in the mountain passes they don't have room for bike lanes and cyclists love the mountain roads...Even going up!...And you can often see a huge line of cars that can't get past the cyclist on the narrow curvy roads. It is funny as long as you are going the other way!