The Time Has Come - Shawn Loughlin Editorial
As Central Huron Mayor Jim Ginn said at last week’s Huron County Council meeting, it’s time for everyone to share the road in Huron County.
It is, of course, absurd to suggest that now is the time for that to happen. Whenever someone says something like that – that now is the time for something – it usually means that it’s become so obvious that the world has reached a point that it can no longer go without something. It, in fact, means that the time actually came a long, long time ago.
On Monday morning I spoke with both Julie and Theo Sawchuk, whose lives have been, as Theo says in my story, irrevocably changed by a lack of sharing the road. And as Julie said to me and as Bluewater Mayor and avid cyclist Tyler Hessel said to council that day, sharing the road isn’t telling one motorist to move over a little. Sharing the road is a concept. It’s a movement that needs attention paid to it. It’s a mutual respect that says one person is no better than another, simply because one is behind the wheel of a machine that could kill the other.
Generally speaking, the man in the car, as dictated by law, has no more right to the road than the woman on the bike. And yet even still, the laws seem light and undeterring.
In Julie’s case, she was hit by a motorist travelling behind her. If that same motorist does the same thing to a car, trying to pass without enough room, hitting the car, the charges are no doubt more severe, and the injuries, if there are any, are minor.
So while the law has done some to recognize a cyclist as the vehicle it is on the road, it has not done enough, although the new one-metre rule is a start. And, the cycling community has the tragedies to prove it.
Admittedly, I didn’t always feel this way. Before I knew the fear of cycling on the open road, I sat upon my perceived car throne, looking down at the cyclists wondering what they were doing on my road. But I have changed and I understand more from both sides of the bike, and sharing the road is a 50/50 concept, with learning to be done on both sides as well.
In Huron County, we don’t have a vast network of bike trails (even the Goderich-to-Guelph Rail Trail, when open, will not serve the needs of many cyclists, who ride road bikes that require pavement) like many major cities, we don’t have bike lanes that at least create a reasonable buffer between car and bike traffic and we don’t have large (geographically speaking) cities that one can travel end to end without getting bored. So here, if you want to ride, you ride the highway and you assume all the risk that comes with it.
And while there are no shortage of methods by which you can make yourself more visible, there is only so much you can do.
Go into any cycling store and you will find bright helmets, clothing racks that look like a pack of Hi-Liters, lights that flash, lights that don’t flash, bells, horns and everything in between, but really it’s not about visibility, it’s about mutual respect and care.
In the end, if a driver doesn’t see a 6’3” man (me), atop a bike wearing a white helmet, then I’m not sure any combination of the aforementioned gadgets is going to help much.
Since I began cycling, I downplayed risk to family and friends, assuring them I’d be fine out there. I have since been given pause.
Out on the road, cyclists don’t need to be viewed as Hi-Liters by motorists, we need to be viewed as human beings – and treated as such.
Share the road.