ICBC should develop a cycling safety program
Now that the Vancouver City Council has approved the Hornby Bike Lane pilot project, it is time to develop a Share the Road: Cycling Safety, Education, and Awareness program in our city. The promotion and expansion of cycling is a key element of the Vancouver greenest city and transportation strategy. In order to grow and expand cycling as a transportation option, children, adults, motorists, and law enforcement officials need to be supported with a safety, education, and awareness program.
Many members of our society are discovering the benefits of cycling. Unfortunately, many new cyclists in the Vancouver area lack the basic skills or knowledge to safely ride a bicycle in traffic. Many people are, quite simply, afraid of bicycling on streets. The purpose of a cycling safety education and awareness program is to increase cycling safety by improving the ability to ride with traffic as well as to heighten motorist awareness. One of the major challenges in helping people develop those skills and knowledge stems from the wide range of age groups that require this training along with the necessity to tailor the programs to target groups.
Cycling, education, and awareness programs should be directed at the following groups:
- Child cyclists (basic rules of the road in conjunction with hands-on cycling instruction)
- Adult cyclists (the responsibilities of cycling, safety tips for sharing the road with motor vehicle traffic, and tips on the benefits and methods of cycle commuting)
- Motorists (the responsibilities of motorists/cyclists, safety tips for sharing the road; this education could be included in driver education programs, courses, and remedial programs)
- Law enforcement officials (familiarity with traffic and enforcement regulations for both children and adult cyclists, and motorists)
I believe that ICBC has the responsibility to take the lead role in bringing together appropriate organizations such as the Vancouver Police Department, cycling organizations, educational institutions, community and civic organizations, employers, local businesses and other interested agencies to develop and implement a Share the Road program. I also believe that the program should be funded through the education and safety division of ICBC.
The benefits of developing a Share the Road program far outweigh the challenges. The program will require funding and resources and will need to be implemented in a way that considers public interest and all the daily distractions of school, work, and family life. In BC, ICBC is well positioned to allocate resources from its safety and education budget to fund the design and implementation of the Share the Road program and to prioritize which programs are the most important. All the agencies noted above should be invited to participate in the development and implementation of the program. Our experience tells us that most successful education and awareness programs are the result of coalitions of public agencies and private groups working together towards a common goal.
I am sure that the elements of a cycling education and awareness program already exist in Vancouver, and through networks and technology it would be easy to access information about similar programs in other jurisdictions.
Now is the time for ICBC to take a leadership role in our community by developing a Share the Road: Cycling Safety, Education, and Awareness program that will support the growth and expansion of cycling as an important green transportation strategy in Vancouver. Once developed, the program could also be expanded to other areas of the province.