Saskatoon

Cyclist calls for more education, empathy after wife injured in bicycle-vehicle confrontation

An avid cyclist says if motorists in Saskatoon were more empathetic toward cyclists, his wife wouldn't have been sent to the emergency room last week.

Woman fell off bike after being tailgated and honked at by motorist near Kinsmen Park

A cyclist rides in a protected bicycle lane in Saskatoon. Jared Stephenson says more bike lanes and better laws will help keep cyclists safer in the long-term, but a little empathy toward them by motorists will make things safer right now for everyone. (CBC)

An avid cyclist says if motorists in Saskatoon were more empathetic toward cyclists, his wife wouldn't have been sent to the emergency room last week.

Jared Stephenson's wife, Leticia Stephenson, cycles to work and had a crash last week after a close call with a vehicle. 

"She works at City Hospital and she was just entering the southwest entrance of Kinsman Park there by the YWCA," Stephenson told Saskatoon Morning's Leisha Grebinski. 

He said she was in her proper lane when a motorist came up behind her and started honking.

'A pretty bad spill'

"She went to the shoulder check [to] see what the issue was and saw the motorist kind of waving from behind the wheel and stuff like that. And as a result of being startled and some poor road conditions and loose material, she took a pretty bad spill on her face," Stephenson said.

"She had her sunglasses embedded in her brow and has some stitches," he said, adding she will likely have permanent scarring.

After his wife fell, Stephenson said the driver initially didn't stop.

But a police cruiser happened to be nearby and stopped to help.

Not surprised

Stephenson came and took his wife to the hospital. "It was sometime after that that the driver did eventually come back and identified himself to the police and did indeed indicate that he saw her fall."

Stephenson, who has commuted to work for years, said he's not surprised by the incident.

"I've been clipped by motor vehicles. Had people follow far too close. I haven't had a direct collision, but following too close and just witnessing people not signalling, cutting you off...." 

Stephenson would like to see changes to the traffic laws so that bikes aren't lumped into the same category as motorized vehicles. ((CBC))

"Some is malicious, there's no question. But I think a lot of it is just ignorance. And I don't mean that in a bad way. It's just I don't think that there's a good understanding of other users on the road.

"I think a lot of it really comes down to a lack of understanding and empathy." 

Honking your horn at a cyclist who is doing nothing wrong creates a dangerous situation, he said.

"It's very startling and it leads to bad outcomes," he said. "Also, it could be interpreted as a sign of hostility."

Like many other people, Stephenson said, cycling is a financial and health decision for his family.

"It is the quickest, cheapest, simplest, best way to get from home to work," he said.

New laws needed, Stephenson says

Stephenson would like to see changes to the traffic laws so that bikes aren't lumped into the same category as motorized vehicles.

"We make rules based on the infrastructure that they're using, not necessarily the nature of the vehicle itself," he said. "So you have somebody on a 25-pound bike with kind of no protection. It's powered on human leg power versus a 4,000-pound car or truck with an internal combustion engine and hundreds of horsepower at their disposal. And then you force them to share the same space."

He said traffic laws need to be designed not only from the viewpoint of someone behind the wheel of a vehicle, but also from the viewpoint of cyclists.

Changing laws and bringing in bike lanes are long-term solutions, but a little more empathy can create safer roads right now, he said.

"That's something that doesn't cost any money," Stephenson said.

With files from Saskatoon Morning

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