Headlines·Point of View

Hamilton Road Safety: We deserve safer options in 2016

Benita van Miltenburg argues the death of Jay Keddy should be a wake-up call for the city to making its streets safer as it devises a new master plan for Hamilton's transportation network
Friends of Jay Keddy and members of the cycling community gathered at the site where Keddy was killed in December (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The author is a McMaster University graduate student and a member of Cycle Hamilton.

As both a Hamiltonian and a cyclist, I was deeply troubled by the recent death of Jay Keddy.

Benita van Miltenburg argues Hamilton needs to embrace policies that work for all road users. (Benita van Miltenburg)

Keddy was a well-prepared and thoroughly practiced cyclist, equipped with bicycle lights and a helmet, obeying the rules of the road.

Despite his diligence, he was struck by a car and left lifeless on his commute home this past December.

No one emerged from the horror of Keddy's death unscathed.

Not his friends, family and acquaintances, not the kindergarten students he taught, and not the members of the wider community.

What kind of city do we desire?- Benita van Miltenburg

As it stands, the rules of the road mandate that a bicycle and a three thousand pound vehicle occupy shared road space.

The logic behind these rules is deeply flawed.

When accidents happen, the ones who suffer most are almost always the more vulnerable road users.

This is not a system that is safe for people on bikes, and it is likewise not a system that works well for automobiles.

Many residents of this city regularly make use of multiple means of transport, and nearly all road users understand the difficulties inherent to this outdated system.

We, as citizens of this city, as shared users of the road, must demand more. 

  We should ask ourselves: what kind of city do we desire?

What sort of community  are we presently fostering for our children, for ourselves and for our seniors?

Higher risks

  In Hamilton, pedestrians have a 42% higher risk for injury than the provincial average. Hop on a bike and that figure doubles to 81%. Those statistics speak for themselves,  but if I may contribute my personal opinion: they're wholly unacceptable. 

Hamilton is blessed with abundant potential.

Situated between Lake Ontario and the beautiful Niagara Escarpment, Hamilton is home to fantastic post-secondary institutions; vibrant art, music and culinary communities; outstanding social programs and just enough character to keep things interesting.

But the city is currently doing itself a terrible injustice by consistently catering to one road user over others, sometimes at the expense of residents' lives. We are bypassing the opportunity to create a complete, socially inclusive and safely navigable community. 

Status quo not safe

  Walking and bicycle riding allow the individual to move at a leisurely pace, stop and start with ease, and engage with their environment in a way that is simply not possible from the oftentimes isolated box of  the automobile.

I say this not to demonize car ownership, as it is  helpful, even required in some instances.

Rather, I wish to encourage planning that supports multiple forms of transportation as opposed to just one. 

We, as citizens of this city, as shared users of the road, must demand more.- Benita van Miltenburg

With the City-Wide Transportation Master Plan in review and a motion put forth to adopt Vision Zero, Hamiltonians have some crucial decisions to make.

Are we to accept this subpar status quo? Are we to remain Ontario's second most dangerous city to walk in? Can we risk any more unnecessary tragedies? 

Or will all road users: pedestrians, cyclists, car drivers and transit goers alike come together and support positive change that caters to all forms of transportation equally and protects all residents from risk of injury.

Let's come together and insist on safer active transport options in 2016.

We all have the right to enjoy our city out of harms way.

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