Zen and the Art of Cycling in Halifax

The idea that cycling is a very dangerous endeavor is a very common perception around Halifax, and to be honest it if you’ve cycled around town lately, you would concur with vigor.

If you could imagine just for a second, what it would be like to transverse a high wire made of dental floss with the threat of falling on shards of razor blades below, that pretty well sums up some of the stress and dangers associated with pedaling around the municipality’s main arteries.

Some of this fear stems from our own fears of driving cars in traffic among aggressive drivers.

Unlike our progressive European counterparts we are a car crazy society, our roads, infrastructure and mentality is built to accommodate our right to drive and burn fossil fuels.

This begs the question: Are roads made for people or for cars?

This is where the problem arises, it seems that some drivers are unwittingly unaware of their surroundings, when it comes to anything other than vehicles or  pedestrians in a cross walk (this can also be an issue), they are not conditioned to share the road with anyone else.

Case in point: A young cyclist was hit by a motorist the other day, just 20 feet from my front door, her bike was mangled from the impact, she was stabilized and put on a back board and taken to the hospital. There wasn’t a noticeable scratch or a dent on the motorist’s vehicle.

Here’s the insanity…The driver was overheard complaining to the police that cyclists shouldn’t be permitted to drive on the road…Say What!

This young girl might have been coming from school or work and heading home, and within an instant her world changed forever, all due to an aggressive, inattentive driver, who had an innate belief, that the road should be only for cars.

It’s unfortunate that the accident happened, but sometimes in our society, it takes a tragedy to bring about awareness and change.

The dangers to cyclists are very real, and when they become a reality the consequences can be traumatic and fatal.

I do not – for a moment – intend to engage in scaremongering about the dangers of cycling. Having quite consciously chosen the net benefits of cycling as a means of transportation, I’m not only comfortable with the risks of it, but encourage others to make the same analysis and choice.

At the same time, it’s important for me – and everyone else who makes the same choice – to respect the fact that the daily dangers cyclists face can quickly rise to the level of life-threatening.

In the end – and regardless of the errors of motorists, failures of road design or inattention of other people – cyclists can really only trust themselves to provide for their own safety.

It is essential that  those of us who head out onto the street to be sure that our bikes are in good working order, that we’re capable of controlling them, and that we are paying attention to everything around us,  If we don’t?  The consequences can be tragic and permanent.  And the matter of fault will be a distant concern of secondary importance.

Halifax is making baby steps in improving the cycling infrastructure and is adopting new laws to help protect cyclists, but we still have a long way to go in making Halifax a bike friendly sustainable city for the future.

I just hope that no other cyclists are maimed or injured before that day comes.

Please share the road.

By: Master Tim Bell

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