On Tuesday, I came across an incident on the multi-use path along the western side of the canal. A woman was hurt. She was on a stretcher about to be loaded into an ambulance. She was sitting upright and it looked like an injury to her arm. (I did not stick around to watch; no one needs or deserves the rubbernecking.)
There was a young man standing on the grass, watching, a bike lying on the grass at his feet. I don’t know what happened and I doubt there will be any coverage of this event, but, naturally, I wonder what happened. The MUP was quite busy, lots of people walking, biking, jogging and rollerblading. It’s easy to guess that there was a collision, possible a bike hitting a pedestrian.
I’ll admit it; I have a selfish reason for not wanting to see a bicyclist hit a pedestrian. The city and much of our community likes to pit bicycles against pedestrians. Incidents between a pedestrian and cyclist tend to gets a disproportionate amount coverage, often with bikes painted as some kind of menace.
(Meanwhile, drivers keep injuring and killing people with alarming frequency, and we give a communal shrug.)
However, I am not going to go out of my way to defend someone on a bike who hits a pedestrian. There are very few accidents on our roads, sidewalks or MUPs (though considering the shape the MUPs are in, it’s certainly possible this was an accident). Negligence isn’t an accident; it’s recklessness.
I don’t actually know who was at fault but I know who is responsible. We are.
It’s the same refrain, over and over again. We do not build safe infrastructure. We do not provide sufficient safe space for all road, sidewalk and path users. We create these situations. We as a city. We as a community.
The MUPs are the NCC’s responsibility. They’re multi-use, but bikes must yield to pedestrians (they also aren’t supposed to go more than 20 km/hr…for all those bikes with speedometers). These paths get a lot of use. A lot. The NCC has not devoted enough space for bikes and pedestrians. They have, however, built a freeway along a national heritage site. They need to realize they are intentionally putting people in harm’s way.
The city shares blame here, too. The city relies on the NCC’s paths as our bike network. These paths are often referred to as bike paths, but they’re not. The city encourages bikes to use them, but they shouldn’t. Congestion and irritation ensues.
Bikes could, of course, hop onto the road. The driveway is right there. I sometimes choose that over the MUP. But it’s dangerous, too. It’s built for speed and its a commuting artery. Drivers don’t seem happy about bikes on the road.
The city has another option; they could build proper bike infrastructure. They’ve promised to do that, but, of course, the city is, as a corporate entity, liars. They proposed a bike route along O’Connor. This is one block over from Colonel By and the MUP. This could help to get bikes off the MUP (especially if they could connect it to Pretoria Bridge).
But the city is in the process of cancelling these plans. The bikelanes will be built, but they’ll Glebe. There will be no bike infrastructure from Glebe to Fifth or to Holmwood. It was right around Glebe (or where Glebe would connect with the MUP) that this incident happened.
Again, I don’t know if it was a bike that caused the injury. However, it is quite easy to see how the city–by not providing proper bike infrastructure in a bike-heavy area–is asking for collisions.
But the city doesn’t care about pedestrian or bike safety. They care about parking and driving really fast.