The editorial of Dec. 20, “Walking into danger,” aptly captures the plight of pedestrians on the roads and streets of our province. You make the point that although pedestrians have the right of way, it means very little. It is a sad commentary when you write that “There are drivers who are actively hostile to pedestrian traffic in this city, viewing anyone walking as an annoyance or worse.”
The bicycling community has similar concerns for those who ride their bicycles for pleasure or necessity on the streets and roads in the province. Far too many people do not know or disregard the fact that a bicycle rider has the right to be on the road. Bicycle Newfoundland & Labrador is currently lobbying the provincial government for the introduction of the “One Metre Rule” into the Highway Traffic Act. This new law would prohibit drivers from passing anyone travelling on their bicycle in the same direction unless there is at least one metre of open space between the vehicle and the bicycle.
Although safety is a major concern among bicycle riders, the new legislation would increase safety for all road users because it provides a legal definition of safe passing clearance between bicycles and vehicles. In passing this law, Newfoundland and Labrador would join other provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) which have already introduced similar legislation.
Introduction of this law has many potential wins for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It would encourage cycling on the road which would mean less vehicular traffic and, in turn, would have positive outcomes for the environment and health. The increased physical activity would promote active lifestyles, thereby helping to reduce health-care costs. Lastly, the legislation would create a more welcoming environment for anyone interested in cycling for tourism.
More people than ever are cycling in this province either for daily commuting or for recreational purposes. Membership in Bicycle Newfoundland & Labrador is up over the past years and numbers are expected to grow even more in the future. The fact is that only a fraction of people who are presently riding bikes do so on the road, even in the winter. Bicycling isn’t a seasonally restricted practice as fat bikes have made it perfectly accessible during the winter snowier months.
As you expressed in the editorial, safety for everyone using our province’s roads is most important. Wherever possible, we should be lowering car congestion and encouraging safe, active and accessible transportation.
Kevin Flynn, president
Bicycle Newfoundland and Labrador