The SCU sent an email today to City Council and to our new MPPs about an incident that happened over the weekend where an ore truck forced one of our members off the road on MR 35. See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KBoQAt3kSA. (Please excuse the language – the cyclist who was following the woman who was forced off the road was obviously upset).
Luckily, this cyclist had the skills to swerve onto the dirt shoulder. She could easily have been hit, or dragged under the truck.
There have been numerous reports from our members about similar incidents that happen all over the city, not just with ore trucks, but also with other types of trucks and automobiles. These incidents happen on regional highways as well as on city core streets, in particular on truck routes or City streets that are busy at rush hour.
It seems that many drivers just don’t know the rules of the road – that a bicycle is considered a vehicle under the Highway Traffic Act, that we need to ride on the road as it’s illegal (and in many cases unsafe) to ride on sidewalks, that cyclists need to follow the same rules as do vehicles, and that motorized traffic needs to pass them safely.
Passing too closely, cutting a cyclist off once the motorist has passed, and cutting off a cyclist while turning are the most common incidents that we see in Sudbury.
It’s not every driver that behaves this way. In fact, we have noticed that more drivers seem to be sharing our roads responsibly. There’s less honking at cyclists, less yelling at them to get off the road, and more safe passing. Perhaps because there are more people cycling these days.
But the holdouts are still a big problem. So many of our drivers cut corners – they want to race to red lights only to stop there waiting for a signal, they do rolling stops at stop signs, they don’t signal, they weave in and out of traffic because they want to speed to their destination. Most of all, they are impatient – they see a cyclist as an impediment to their getting quickly to their intended location. If we read some of the online newspaper blog responses, you can see the attitude – “You’re in my way! Get off the road!” We also see lots of speeding, especially on roads that were built for speed standards higher than the posted speed limit. Our City’s current design standards are to build roads that way.
Big trucks that haul slurry or ore are particularly dangerous to cyclists. The attitude of some of the drivers and some of the companies is that cyclists don’t belong on the road. That cyclists need to give way to trucks because they can’t stop easily. They are focused on getting to their destination as fast as they can – because it’s money for them if they don’t meet their targets. We need to get the message across that they need to treat cyclists just like any other slower moving vehicle on our roads, like buses and tractors, and other slower moving equipment. Because it’s the law to pass a slower moving vehicle safely.
We need driver and cyclist education in Sudbury. Some cyclists do behave quite irresponsibly – driving on the sidewalk on the wrong side of the street, not driving with lights at night, driving fast on sidewalks, weaving in and out of traffic. There’s fault on both sides. But people in automobiles have the protection of thousands of pounds of metal. Cyclists don’t, and bikes don’t have airbags.
It doesn’t help that we lack safe and dedicated alternatives to on-road riding. We’re very behind in building safe cycling infrastructure in the City, especially on the roads that are particularly dangerous. The SCU has been advocating for the City to start building complete, safe routes to our outlying neighbourhoods as well as on the more dangerous core roads like Lasalle, Notre Dame, Paris, etc.. But we haven’t seen much progress to date.
Sudbury needs two things: more targeted cycling education for motorists and cyclists, and more off-road or separated cycling infrastructure. Remember that when you’re talking to the municipal election candidates. Don’t hesitate to ask them if they cycle, where they cycle, and how they will support cycling in Sudbury if they are elected. Remind them that cyclists are taxpayers too, that most of us own cars, and that our roads need to be able to accommodate all road users, be they pedestrians, cyclists, transit users or automobile drivers.
It’s all about everyone arriving home safely.
Here’s the letter we sent:
To the City of Greater Sudbury Council and our Provincial MPPs:
I would like to bring to your attention the video in the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KBoQAt3kSA (Please excuse the language – the cyclist who was following the woman who was forced off the road was obviously upset). This video was taken this weekend on MR 35 between Azilda and Chelmsford.
The behaviour of the truck driver notwithstanding, one of the big problems is that there is no paved shoulder on this stretch of road. There is only a 4-6” strip of rough and cracked pavement on the road. Cyclists therefore have no other safe alternative but to use the road. Like this road, many of our roads that connect our neighbourhoods (Azilda, Chelmsford, Valley East, Garson, Falconbridge, Coniston, Lively and more) do not have safe ways for cyclists to travel to and from those neighbourhoods.
Cyclists have been asking the City for a number of years to retrofit these major roads so they are safe for cyclist travel. The current City process is to wait until a portion of a road is due for reconstruction, and then we (maybe) retrofit it. Case in point, there is construction happening on MR 80 this year, with no provision for cycling infrastructure. The Lasalle/Notre Dame reconstruction also did not include safe cycling options.
In 2010, we asked that 3% of the roads budget be dedicated to building these safe cycling routes. When this did not happen, we modified our request and brought that down to 1% (approx. $380,000) in the hopes that we would at least have some movement forward. Just lately, the City suggested that $400,000 out of the proposed development fee increases would go to an item it called “Active Transportation”. With those fees being frozen, cyclists do not know what will happen.
We can’t look at the development of cycling infrastructure as an “add-on” to our budget. It needs to be part of the budget, and we need to clearly identify targets and goals for the completion of whole routes that link our neighbourhoods. These targets need to be part of our short-term and long-range roads capital infrastructure projects – for example, we should see a line item there called “Connect Valley East to the Sudbury core” as a distinct cycling infrastructure project with approved costs that would retrofit the whole stretch of MR 80 from Lasalle Boulevard to Hanmer.
The City’s current proposed Active Transportation Network (ATN) shows that we need major improvements, but the target date on completion is 2031. We have also missed two years now of budget allocations for priority cycling development because most requests for cycling infrastructure have been met with the comments “the Master Transportation Plan will take care of this.” However, the Transportation Study has now been delayed for more than a year and half.
We need to do better. We need to plan on retrofitting all of our major connector roads so we have safe alternatives for cycling. We need to provide safe cycling options for major city core roads like Lasalle, Paris, etc. where large trucks and other vehicles pass too closely or cut cyclists off.
My understanding is that there will be another public input session on the Transportation Study sometime during the summer. To those of you may be re-elected to Council, I would ask that you seriously consider the recommendations that have previously been submitted by many cycling groups about the priority infrastructure required for cycling. We will no doubt submit them again when the final report is released.
We can’t wait until a cyclist is killed before we do something.
Chair, Sudbury Cyclists Union