Don’t try to legislate common sense

A lot has been said lately about bike lanes in the city of Red Deer. This has raised a number of issues: wasteful spending by City Hall, some minority groups having undue influence, separate visions of urban planning, etc.

A lot has been said lately about bike lanes in the city of Red Deer. This has raised a number of issues: wasteful spending by City Hall, some minority groups having undue influence, separate visions of urban planning, etc.

I, for one, cannot believe what little you get for three-quarters of a million dollars these days. Is line painting and signage that costly? Or is it all of the consultation costs? In the old days, we would be looking for somebody lining their pockets at the public’s expense.

Red Deer became a great place to live based upon the fact that there were from time to time proactive councils and mayors who had the vision to build this city. Fred Moore and Bob McGhee spring to mind, followed by Gail Surkan and Ed Barrett. Infrastructure and planning were in place far ahead of growth. Four-lane roads were built — a lot of which are now choked down to two lanes by ‘traffic calming’ — which were intended to move people (traffic) through a city.

Subdivisions were designed to be neighbourhoods with quiet streets — safe for kids to play and people to walk around in. Point of note: This city has hundreds of miles of sidewalks in our suburban areas. Why is it so few people actually use them? Why is it that people don’t know the names of their neighbours three doors down?

Here is a new angle to look at: is this not at its most basic form an attempt to legislate common sense? Bicycles have always been a part of getting around Red Deer. Until recently, most kids rode a bike to school. Somewhere in junior high, or high school bicycle riding becomes ‘uncool’ — unless you found a way to be a ‘jock’ about it. Usually that involved getting a 10-speed racer, or later, a mountain bike.

Mountain bikes were actually preferable in an urban environment because they provided a less bone-jarring ride (think decaying infrastructure here), and the rider was able to ride in a more heads-up position, which is more conducive to collision avoidance. Note here that the City of Red Deer did have the foresight to create a system of bike paths — some even geared toward commuting to work.

What seems to be at the crux of this issue is education. Plain and simple. As kids, we were taught rules of bicycle safety: ride as far to the right of the road as possible, ride in single file, obey traffic laws. Most bicycle riders I see these days ride as feral children. I guess that if you always got a ride to school, or were bused, how would you know what the rules of the road are? And, nothing needs to be said about the moron drivers in Red Deer, right?

Oddly enough, I find myself in agreement with Evan Bedford — perhaps due to shared experience. I too used a bicycle to commute to the University of Alberta. I rode on Whyte Avenue on occasion. The vast majority of the time I used a quiet street one block to the north of Whyte Avenue. A pleasant, and relaxing ride. Perhaps the city ought to look into parallel routes such as roads or alley ways, or pave a bike path along side of an arterial road such as 40th Avenue. Then again, do cyclists need to be on these arterial roads, or should they simply find a better route to take? Again, this would be throwing money at a problem that can be cured with common sense and education.

By education, I am not talking about: see it our way, we are a liberal minority and we have the moral high ground. We need the public to learn, know, and practise the rules of the road much the same as when we had a new regime of fines for crosswalk violations a couple of years ago. The media must do its part to make everyone aware of this issue. I would suggest that the Advocate run a weekly column on road safety — something other than the observations of a traffic counter — pick an issue and run with it.

My pet peeve is those who use a narrow, paved rural road with no shoulders (Range Road 271) as their personal exercise track. I am sure it is a nice scenic road that feeds all kinds of fresh air and inspiration to those who use it as such. It is also narrow, used by large trucks and farm machinery and has a speed limit of 80 km/h. Whenever I see one of these lay-down or recumbent cycles using this stretch of road, I cannot help but visualize a human being and their machine as putty under the wheels of a large vehicle. I would not want to be the driver faced with the choice of a head-on collision, or running over a cyclist.

I will kick this out into the public arena. As a cyclist, you have the right to use this road. Does your ‘right’ to exercise as you please exceed the rights of other road users (vehicular traffic) to use this road without the hazard your road use creates?

Every year we see examples of really nice people who die as risk-taking idiots. Sometimes it costs our society tens of thousands of dollars just to recover the bodies. Then there is the emotional losses to those who were dear to these people. The potential loss to society of what these people might have achieved, two words: Grow up!

As a society we have thousands of laws and bylaws designed to protect us from ourselves. These would not be necessary if we all had or used common sense. Perhaps then, maybe 10 commandments, or even one rule would suffice.

J.M. (Jeff) Hanson

Red Deer

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