Archives for the month of: August, 2014

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Early Sunday morning some fellow cyclists and I took to the streets for a nice long ride. As we travelled along quiet rural roads and through sleepy little towns we may have rolled through a few stop signs and may even have run a red light. It was 8, maybe 9 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday of a long weekend on roads that we were able to see for miles on in all directions. As cyclists most of us have, at one point, rolled up to a stop sign or red light quickly glanced left then right and continued on through, justifying our actions with any number of reasons. What we sometimes forget though is regardless of our reasoning, we are breaking the law.
Many in the cycling community have issue with drivers and pedestrians disobeying the rules of the road and putting those who travel by bike in danger. These same cyclists don’t see any problem with rolling through stop signs, turning without signaling, riding between lanes of traffic, flying down one-way streets in the wrong direction and committing a variety of other Ontario Highway Traffic Act offenses. We can’t have it both ways, expecting everyone else on the road to follow the rules while we pick and choose those that suit us at the time. We can easily justify rolling through a stop yet very quickly become enraged when we witness a motor vehicle do the same thing.
Just as a canoe is subject to the same laws as a motor boat, a bicycle is subject to the same laws as a motor vehicle. Choosing to disobey the law can result in consequences that may affect your driver’s license and insurance. Whether you agree with this or not, until the laws are changed, this is the risk you are taking. On top of monetary punishment, there is always the risk of injury. Accidents occur when cyclists are at their most defensive on the road, that risk increases significantly when we willingly choose to disobey the law.
What I find most interesting about those who will argue the need to follow the rules of the road is that I have yet to meet a dedicated cyclist that will ride a bike without a helmet. According to Ontario law, every cyclist under the age of 18 must wear a helmet. Rarely am out for rides with people under the age of 18, but I have never come across a cyclist who will ride without a helmet despite it not being a law. We recognize that riding without a helmet could lead to potential life threatening injuries if we were to fall yet not only are we willing to sail through a stop sign despite the obvious risks, we try to validate our actions as well.
I started this post with a thinly veiled confession of rolling through a few stop signs and a possible red light. I am the first to admit I am not always the perfect law abiding cyclist nor am I the perfect law abiding runner or driver for that matter. Despite the Highway Traffic Act stating that I must have a bell (HTA 75(5)) I do not. But, I’m not self-righteous enough to thing my reasoning should exclude me from the $85 fine I am susceptible to if an officer chooses to ticket me. I make my choices, aware of the consequence I may face. Do I agree with the laws that are in place right now? Not all of them. But until they are changed I do my best to follow them and understand that despite what I may think is a justified action, I am still a vehicle on the road and fall under the jurisdiction of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. As cyclists we are not above the law and if we are looking for respect from others who share the road with us, we need to start giving that respect back.

http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling-guide/section5.0.shtml