Instead of using this as a learning opportunity to treat cyclists the same way she would treat other vehicles on the road and give them clearance and headway, Ms. Pierson responded “ There is no room on the road when the snow isn’t cleared. That’s why it’s so foolish.“
Riding a bike that is not in a dedicated bike lane means you are accepting some element of risk but it also means that drivers must follow the Motor Vehicle Act and recognize that all active transportation users have the right to use the road. The Huffington Post reports on an unfortunate incident that has already garnered over three hundred comments by readers. An Ontario journalist named Alex Pierson was driving to work and took a photo of a cyclist arduously riding through slush ahead of her car. The journalist posted the photo on Facebook with the following admonishment~”You have to be a real knob to ride a bike on a day like this”.
Now when I first read this I could not understand what she meant, thinking that the cyclist was brave and prudently riding in winter Ontario conditions. But the Ottawa Police tweeted back, clearly showing that the journalist was, well, being a knob. Responding to Ms. Pierson the Ottawa Police tweeted: “Bicycles have every right to be on the road all year round. For many, it’s their only mode of transportation. Give them room. If you don’t have room to give them at least 1 metre of distance, wait until you do before you go around them.”
Kudos to the Ottawa Police for not taking any of this attitude and again reminding Ms. Pierson “There is room. You just have to wait for an opportunity to go around”.
It is pretty clear and the information is available on the Ottawa Police website that cyclists are to be given the same courtesy as any other vehicle, and that extra space should be given to them when there is slippery road conditions. They can also occupy any part of the lane. The surprise of this is that a journalist would leave these unfortunate tweets up and then challenge the Ottawa Police on what she believes is her rights as a motorist. But it again points out the need for increased education and enforcement for shared road space, and the desperate need for separated snow cleared bicycle facilities to stay away from such enfranchised motorists that purport to be right.