I read in the news recently about a truck driver who hit and killed a cyclist on Lonsdale Avenue. I was deeply saddened and also full of rage.
According to ICBC, three cyclists have lost their lives in North Vancouver in the last five years. One of them was my colleague, Mike McIntosh. A driver opening his door caused a collision, knocking Mike into traffic while he was riding in a marked bike lane.
It is absolutely infuriating, in a way I can barely express, to know that there is an acceptable level of mortality, below which one’s life and safety is ranked a lower priority than street parking and lower taxes. Cyclists die because governments and residents prioritize the convenience of drivers. How many cyclist deaths would be too many to ignore?
Mike’s death sent ripples through our workplace that affected everyone. I wasn’t a close colleague, but I am a regular cyclist and bike commuter. His death continues to remind me that every time I get on my bike, all it takes is one moment of inattention and I could be killed. I could be killed while obeying the rules of the road, while in a bike lane, while wearing a helmet.
It is not a mystery how to protect cyclists. It is not complicated. All it takes are bike lanes, physically separated from motor vehicles. After Mike’s death, community cycling groups demanded street improvements and a separated bike lane was put into West Esplanade. Why must it take a cyclist’s death to spur action?
I think about the woman who was killed on March 6th. There is now another family who has lost a loved one, another workplace that is reeling after one of their colleagues is suddenly gone. And a whole community of cyclists in Metro Vancouver who hear the message again and again: Your safety is less important. These streets were not built for you. We do not want you here.
But that message is wrong. I have a right to these streets. So did Mike and Agustín Beltran, who was killed in Vancouver last year, and the unnamed cyclist from March 6th. I have a right to a form of transportation that is good for my health and for the planet. Cyclists take up less road space and kill and injure fewer pedestrians than motor vehicle drivers. We too pay taxes and we too wish to travel safely and conveniently. These are our streets as well.
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