Safety first on trail

7

by Councillor John Edwards

On Aug. 28thth, the Perth OPP detachment published the information that the vehicle driver involved in the death of a Perth cyclist two months ago was charged with careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act.

A life of a Lanark County citizen is lost and it is due (if proven) to careless driving.  Only the driver knows if it was an important text message he was reading or sending, or if he was reaching for a coffee or if he saw something interesting on a facebook post or if he was not familiar with his vehicle.  The point is:  all too often, minor actions can have disastrous results……for the victim.

The consequences of collisions between metal, glass and fibreglass with bone and soft flesh are all too frequently catastrophic for the cyclist and pedestrian.  Legal deterrents under the Highway Traffic Act are NOT the most effective tool at reducing accidents.  In fact, they may be the least effective tool.  One can only imagine how frustrating it must be for police officers to know that their actions to enforce the law are ‘too little and too late’ for victims who have lost their life.

Clearly and unequivocally, designing our streets and roads for safety first IS the most effective tool to reduce vehicle/cyclist/pedestrian accidents.  Poor design leads to conflicts and accidents.

When there is a clear one-time opportunity to physically separate cyclists or walkers from motorized traffic we ought to act upon it.  The Mississippi Mills Council recommendation for one safe route for summer-time cyclists (and walkers) on the OVRT between Almonte and Carleton Place without fear of meeting 290kg up to 775 kg ATV’s on the same path is simply safe design and common sense.

In addition, the use and design of a small safe section of the OVRT (1km out of at total distance of 67km in Lanark) in Almonte for members of our community with mobility challenges and/or hearing or sight impairments without fear of meeting ATV’s and snowmobiles is, again, simple common sense.

The majority of ATV and snowmobile users are responsible citizens and follow the rules, just as vehicle drivers do.  But accidents happen.  That’s why they’re called “accidents”.

When the inevitable happens and a collision occurs between a metal/glass/fibreglass ATV or snowmobile weighing up to 775kg and a senior or a child with mobility impairments or hearing or sight impairments, the police officers will be called in, an investigation will ensue and presumably the laws will be enforced. Will it really matter to the victim or the victim’s family?  On Wednesday June 28th, 2017 Christopher Smith of Perth was cycling to work just outside Perth when he was killed by a motorized vehicle. I imagine the driver will be full of remorse and the sad event may haunt him for the rest of his life.  However, for the victim and his family, justice or remorse are no longer relevant.

We have the unique chance to ‘get it right’ by designing the OVRT with a safety first perspective.  Proposing ONE non-motorized route between Almonte and Carleton Place will get cyclists off Cty Rd. 29 and 17.   Mississippi Mills is willing to work with ATV and snowmobile groups on reasonable bypass options.   What could possibly stand in the way of common sense?