I’m writing in response to the June 15 article “Bicyclist struck by pickup truck” and the subsequent June 17 Telegram online poll: “Do you think St. John’s is a safe place to ride a bicycle?”
There is always a risk every time you go out on the streets, whether as a pedestrian or in a vehicle, but is cycling safe enough to be a responsible and healthy choice for transportation? Absolutely it is. I’ve been cycling daily and year-round in St. John’s to school, work, grocery shopping, etc. for the past six years. In that time I have had a few close calls, some of them my fault and some of them a motorist’s fault, but it doesn’t happen any more often than when driving a car.
Cyclists learn to be defensive riders if they don’t want to be in an accident, just as motorists learn to drive defensively. Many people who have never cycled on the streets imagine it to be a terrifying and dangerous activity, but I believe that anyone can learn to ride in traffic safely. Most young drivers practise for months before driving on the road by themselves. Similarly, cyclists should study hand signals and road rules before going out in traffic, and they should start out on low-traffic sidestreets before cycling on busier, multi-lane roads.
It takes time to build the confidence and skills necessary to navigate in heavy traffic.
In St. John’s, cyclists are becoming more common, drivers are becoming more accommodating of cyclists, and we have the first bike lanes in the city. The separated lane running along Columbus and Prince Philip has definitely made cycling in this city safer. Last year, the city and Bicycle Newfoundland and Labrador offered CAN-BIKE safe cycling courses, which are a national standard in cycling education. The city’s new cycling website, www.bikestjohns.ca, has great information for both cyclists and drivers, as well as full road cycling handbooks for adults and kids.
It’s natural to be frightened of cycling on the roads at first, as I was, but like any other activity with the potential for injury you gain the confidence and skills to lower the risk as you practise.
Cycling is a great way to get around in St. John’s, even with our potholes, hills, and narrow streets. For me, the health, convenience and financial benefits of cycling far outweigh any risk of injury by accident.