Cyclists union launches make-nice campaign

Toronto cycling advocates launched a new campaign to focus on the positive interactions between cyclists and motorists.

The Toronto Cyclists Union recently launched the “Cyclists Paving the Way” campaign to acknowledge drivers who are thoughtful and courteous towards people on bicycles.

The campaign involves handing out a thank-you note to any motorists who watch out for cyclists and allow them safe space on the roads.

Yvonne Bambrick, executive director of the TCU, says it’s much easier to focus on negative confrontations between cyclists and motorists, so the campaign is a chance to emphasize the positive.

“Nobody likes being told they’re doing something wrong,” Bambrick said. We’re flipping what is the regular dynamic and reminding people that there are a lot of really good drivers out there who do take care and watch out for cyclists.”

According to Bambrick, this means anything from a driver looking over his shoulder before opening a car door into traffic, to not creeping up on a red light to make a right turn and allowing the cyclist room to move.

The campaign was sparked following the Michael Bryant-Darcy Sheppard incident this summer. Sheppard, a bike courier, died after confrontation with Bryant, the former Attorney General for Ontario, who was driving his car downtown.

Following a wild confrontation on Bloor Street that reportedly had Sheppard clinging on to Bryant’s speeding car before smashing in to a mailbox, police charged Bryant with criminal negligence. His trial is scheduled to begin in November.

Some of the Cyclist Union volunteers who work in advertising came to Bambrick with an idea to make tangible the positive statements  the union had been making about promoting understanding between those who use the road. Bambrick said the campaign has another aim of making cyclists more aware of their road habits.

“By highlighting positive driver behaviour, it also allows people to reflect on their own behaviour as cyclists,” she said.

Sgt. Jack West is the senior traffic officer at Toronto Police Department 54 Division. He says that the campaign is a positive step towards better understanding between cyclists and motorists.

“There is more education (about sharing the roads) required for both sides,” West said. “But as long as (cyclists) are cautious as to how they approach a driver, I think it’s a fabulous (campaign.”

West recently completed a cycling blitz where police issued 134 tickets for unsafe or improper behaviour. Most of the tickets, he said, were from cyclists not having a bell or a light and from biking on the sidewalk.

Police also issued tickets to four motorists who made unsafe lane changes that could harm a cyclist. West said it’s important to recognize that both cyclists and motorists have a right to their space on the roads and it would be a good idea to put something in the drivers’ handbook about safety around cyclists.

Bambrick hopes the campaign brings some awareness to the ways cyclists and motorists can coexist. She said it was important to launch the campaign in the fall as statistically there are more collisions between the two groups .

(For the drivers,) it’s a chance to highlight and reinforce the fact that cyclists are there year-round,” Bambrick said. ”

Over the colder months, there are statistically more collisions because of fewer daylight hours.  For cyclists, (the campaign) allows them to think about their own behavior and reminds them of the importance of visibility.”