active transportation

This is a presentation I am giving to Sackville Town Council.

Thank you for allowing me to address council this evening. I would like to discuss active transportation in our town. I am not an expert in this field but I have cycled over 125,000 kilometres since moving here in 1998 and much of that distance has been within town limits. I know our roadways — intimately.

Bicycles are not the only form of active transportation. Town council has recently allowed skateboards on our streets. In addition, there has been a significant increase in the use of electric bikes, often by older adults. This trend will likely continue given what we are seeing elsewhere.

As you know, Sackville recently won the ParticipAction active community challenge for New Brunswick. As the town has claimed, Sackville is a different kind of small town. We have a continuing history of unique road users — horses, hay wagons, logging trucks — and we usually use the roads in harmony. Vulnerable road users — walkers, runners, cyclists, skateboarders — are fellow citizens using our public thoroughfares.

As more people engage in active transportation, there are more possibilities for conflicts with the predominant road users — motorists. We have an opportunity to be proactive in this shift. Education programs and public service communications could help everyone, including motorists, in better understanding how best we can share our roads.

I would also encourage council to consider active transportation in all of its public infrastructure projects. For example when Lorne Street was renovated, the sidewalk remained the same width and no bike path was established, though dozens of parking spots now line the entire street.

My objective this evening is not to provide a list of how best to support active transportation in small towns and make them safer. There are professionals who can advise Council and they should be engaged.

I would like to focus on one factor that can save lives, and make active transportation more accessible — SPEED.

In my 23 years in this town, I have been hit four times by motorists, while on my bicycle — each time on Bridge Street. Luckily I was not seriously injured, as the collisions occurred at low speeds. But the speed limit on Bridge Street is 50 km/hr and many drivers exceed the speed limit on our roads, as evidenced by the recent data from Pond Shore Drive.

Did you know that a human hit by a car at 30 km/hr has a 90% chance of survival?

A person, hit by a car at 40 km/hr has a 60% chance of survival.

Your neighbour, hit by a car at 50 km/hr has a 20% chance of survival.

Your friend, hit by a car at 60 km/hr has no chance of survival.

These are the statistics for cars. Being struck by an SUV or pickup truck doubles the risk of death.

Given that most roads in Sackville have a 50 km/hr speed limit, our vulnerable road users have an 80% or higher risk of death if struck. These are not great odds and we should do better to protect our fellow citizens.

Ellen Watters — a professional cyclist — returned home to New Brunswick for the holidays in late 2016. While on a bicycle ride in Sussex, Ellen was hit from behind by a motorist. No charges were laid because the only living witness was the driver. Ellen died from her injuries on December 27th, 2016.

On July 1st 2017, ‘Ellen’s Law’ came into effect. It was the result of a community lobbying effort to require that motorists give 1 metre clearance when passing cyclists. To date — over 4 years later — no convictions have been made under this law.

I decided to mark the day of Ellen’s Law coming into effect by riding around town with a pool noodle strapped to my bike, extending almost 1 metre to my left. Several people stopped and asked what I was doing. Many were surprised at how long 1 metre is. While cycling on Bridge Street, an oncoming motorist made a left turn across my lane and then drove into me, pinning me against the curb. Even with bright clothes and an orange pool noodle, he did not see me in the middle of the day. Luckily, once again, his slow speed kept me from being injured — story on CBC.

pool noodle attached to bike

This is how long one metre is.

I would like to cycle another 125,000 km in this community, but as the population grows and vehicles keep getting bigger, safety is a critical concern. Could this council make our community safer for all vulnerable road users by starting to reduce speed limits? Ask residents on each of our streets if they want speed limits reduced. If the majority want this, then let’s do it.

This town already has a mandatory bicycle helmet bylaw. The four times I was hit, my helmet was never damaged. Reducing speed limits — and enforcing them — would be much more effective in making our roads safer.

The city of Paris, population 2.1 million, has reduced speed limits on almost all of its streets to 30 km/hr. This measure is in line with an appeal issued by the World Health Organization. I am sure Sackville can do this as well.

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