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WHEEL ACTION

- Proposed Changes to Highway Traffic Act Serve as Excellent Road Map to Improve Safety for Cyclists on Area Roadways -

Local cycling advocates are applauding proposed changes to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act that they say will make the roads safer for those on two wheels.

A proposed bill currently before the Ontario Legislature would revise provincial traffic laws to better address distracted driving, impaired driving and cycling safety. From a cycling safety perspective, the proposed changes include:

  • Increasing penalties for ‘dooring’, including demerit points for motorists who open their vehicle door in the path of an oncoming cyclist.
  • Allowing cyclists to use the paved shoulders on unrestricted provincial highways to promote safer opportunities to bike.
  • Requiring all drivers to maintain a safe distance of one-metre when passing cyclists.
  • Supporting cycling in urban areas by allowing municipalities to create ‘contra-flow’ bike lanes. These are lanes that would provide direct routes and better connections for cyclists.
  • Increasing fines for cyclists who do not have required lights and other reflectors/reflective material on their bikes.

The provincial government is also considering a $25 million investment over three years to improve cycling infrastructure in Ontario.

Staff members with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit say the proposed legislative changes and potential investment in cycling infrastructure will not only better protect people on bikes, but will help to promote the benefits of cycling.

“Cycling is a great way to stay physically active, and is an environmentally-friendly form of transportation,” says Sue Shikaze, a Health Promoter with the HKPR District Health Unit. “The proposed changes to the Highway Traffic Act will help to make cyclists and motorists more aware of each other’s rights and responsibilities to share the road.”

Shikaze, who is an avid cyclist, is also the chairperson of the Communities in Action Committee in Haliburton County, which promotes and advocates for active transportation, including the county’s annual Share the Road campaign. Share the Road messages encourage cyclists and motorists to respect each other’s rights to be on the road by noting: “same road, same rules, same rights.”

In the City of Kawartha Lakes, Lisa Kaldeway also likes what she sees coming down the road from Queen’s Park. Like Shikaze, Kaldeway is a Health Promoter with the HKPR District Health Unit who works extensively to promote cycling in her community. Last year, Kaldeway helped to launch a Share the Road campaign in Kawartha Lakes with a number of other community partners, including the OPP and Kawartha Cycling Club. “More people want to get on a bike more often, but don’t because there are a lack of places to ride where they feel safe,” Kaldeway notes. “Legislative changes that support safer cycling, and an investment in better infrastructure, are important steps to encourage more cycling in Ontario.”

Kaldeway is urging all political parties to get behind the proposals to improve cycling safety in Ontario. Even in the event of an early election this spring, the need to enact these changes some time down the road is vital for public health, she says. “Many of the changes being proposed to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act were recommended in a 2012 report from Ontario’s Chief Coroner,” Kaldeway says. “These are non-partisan issues that cross over party lines because they stand to benefit everyone in Ontario.”

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For more information, contact:

In Haliburton County: Sue Shikaze, Health Promoter, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 457-1391, ext. 3249.

In City of Kawartha Lakes: Lisa Kaldeway, Health Promoter, HKPR District Health Unit, (705) 324-3569, ext. 2207.

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