The following letter to the editor was submitted to the Sudbury Star for publication on Thursday, May 26, 2011. At the time of posting, the letter has not been published.
ATV's on streets will create conflict for cyclists
Later this year, our municipal council will be considering the creation of a by-law which may permit all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) on a significant number of our city’s streets. Council should carefully consider how this by-law will impact pedestrians and bicyclists before agreeing to allow ATV’s on our streets, and whether such a by-law is in keeping with building a healthy and sustainable community.
As the price of gasoline continues to rise, we can expect more people to opt for alternative methods of transportation. Along with being environmentally sustainable, walking and cycling are healthy transportation choices for residents. For some residents, walking and cycling may be the only transportation option available, due to cost factors.
Recently, the City adopted the Sustainable Mobility Plan, which identifies the need for more cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in order to better encourage a culture of conservation in our community. The goals of this plan are worthy ones for a community looking ahead towards its future needs. Like it or not, the days of inexpensive energy have come to an end, and we must begin planning for the inevitable low-carbon future.
Under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, bicycles are considered vehicles. As such, cyclists of all ages must share our streets with motorized vehicles. Cycling on sidewalks creates an unsafe environment for pedestrians, and is illegal. Cyclists are often faced with an unappealing choice: ride on the sidewalk and break the law, or risk life and limb amongst motorized traffic which does not always respect the legal requirement to share the road. Adding ATV’s to the mix on our city’s streets could lead to further circumstances which compromise the safety of cyclists.
The proposed by-law will direct ATV’s to use the right-hand side of streets, which is the same location typically occupied by cyclists. Faster-moving ATV’s on the right hand side of streets will create additional obstacles for cyclists, and could lead to dangerous situations, especially where ATV’s may be overtaking cyclists. Further, sand and debris which collect along the outer margins of streets could create hazards for cyclists if kicked up by passing ATV’s.
On many of the streets contemplated for ATV use, there are no sidewalks for pedestrians. As a result, pedestrians walking along roadsides could come into conflict with motorized ATV’s.
Council must consider how allowing ATV’s significant access to our streets is in keeping with the shared goals of building sustainable and healthy communities for the real needs of residents. Council should respect that for many in Greater Sudbury, the only means of personal transportation may be a bicycle or their own two feet.
(Opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and should not be interpreted as being consistent with those of the Green Party of Canada)
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