Share the road…It’s the law

There is a whole section in the driver’s handbook written on “sharing the road with other road users” (Section 2.3.2), and yet, I am keenly aware that it isn’t going so well out there. So far in July I’ve noticed two collisions reported in the paper between bicycles and automobiles.

In the first incident reported on July 5 by the Sault Star, a man was charged under the Highway Traffic Act for “fail to turn out to left to avoid collision.” In plain English that means that the driver is being charged for not giving the 28-year-old cyclist the room that she is allowed under the law.

From that article: ” Bicyclists are entitled to use half the curb lane, said the head of traffic services with Sault Ste. Marie Police Service. Other vehicles have to wait for them or change lanes. Motorists must go around leaving enough room for the rider. “You can’t scrunch that cyclist into the curb,” said Sgt. Ray Magnan. The cyclist was taken to hospital with major injuries.

In the second reported incident from this past week, a teenage girl was struck at the Wellington and Lake intersection by a black car. The motorist did not report the incident.

From that article: ” Drivers involved in collisions with cyclists have to report the incidents. “When a bicycle is on the roadway it’s considered a motor vehicle for all intents and purposes under the Highway Traffic Act,” said Const. Rodney Burrows. “It needs to be reported.” The motorist and collision witnesses are asked to call police at 705-949-6300.”

As a cyclist and motorcyclist, these collisions really concern me. I’m not saying that all cyclists are angels, but it’s been my experience that cars don’t play well with others on the road. While on my bicycle or motorbike I have often felt like I am unseen or mistreated on the roads, simply because I am not travelling in a behemoth of a vehicle. Just because you have a bigger and faster vehicle does not mean you get some priority status in the lane.

Motorists just can’t be checking their mirrors regularly, nor can they be scanning ahead and around them for possible hazards.

Only a few motorists, when passing, begrudgingly give cyclists sufficient space. According to the driver’s handbook: “When passing a cyclist, allow at least one metre between your car and the cyclist. Whenever possible, you should change lanes to pass.”

Drivers seem unaware that cyclists are “expected to ride one meter from the curb or parked cars…however, they can use any part of the lane if necessary for safety.” Furthermore, cyclists are not required to ride close to the right edge of the road when they are travelling at or faster than the normal speed of traffic … or when they are getting in a position to turn left or turning left.”

I’ve seen drivers of parked vehicles also open up their doors without checking if they are going to open said door right into the path of a cyclist. The handbook contains a warning against this, and has another important rule for road safety: “When turning right, signal and check your mirrors and the blind spot to your right to make sure you do not cut off a cyclist.”

Reading the driver’s handbook can also make motorists aware of changes to the rules of the road or changes in fines, in addition to the reminder of how to share the road. Unfortunately I don’t think people go back to this document after they have their license, and as such, may put other motorists and pedestrians at risk.

Some rule changes are well publicized, such as the ban on cell phones while driving. Others, less so.

Did you know that the fines for not stopping for an emergency vehicles, for failing to remain at the scene of a collision, and for running red lights all increased in 2009?

Perhaps it is time for motorists to add the driver’s handbook to their summer reading list? It can be purchased from licensing bureaus and it is available online for free at: .

Since our government is also always looking for ways to keep us safe (or should I say collect more revenues) why don’t they consider requiring all drivers to take an online refresher test every five to ten years to show that they have stayed up to date with rules of the road (not just the new ones). It could be something similar to the boat licensing test online and it could be tied to license plate renewals. That said, I’d rather people just shared the road, but if cyclists keep getting struck, it may be time for some forced “education.”

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