Not another article about bike lanes

Corporate Knights shared CoLab Executive Director Mike Morrice’s reflections following a recent encounter with police while commuting by bike to work.

Last week, while riding my bike to work, I was pulled over. The experience was, of course, jarring. I was riding in the right lane, looking to the left at the police car slowly driving alongside me, lights flashing, when I saw the stern look on the officer’s face as he pointed towards the side of the road. My heart raced. My head filled with questions. “What did I do wrong?”

It turns out, the officer pulled me over for obstructing traffic. I had been riding in the middle of the right lane on a four-lane road. The officer recommended that if I don’t feel safe riding next to the curb, I should instead ride on the sidewalk. As a cyclist, he said, he does the same. We had a 20-minute conversation, and by the end, the officer decided not to charge or warn me with anything.  I’ll spare you the details, but I later found out that the legitimacy of the officer’s concern rests on clause 147.1 of the Highway Traffic Act, which determines whether someone is riding with “practicable” space.

But this is not an article about the innards of the Highway Traffic Act. The officer and I agreed that roads should be designed for a more diverse set of users. And while the majority of urban planners would agree – and are already designing more complete streets – there is an underlying point that is rarely discussed: building a bike lane is not just about creating space for a particular road user, it is about improving the experience of all road users. When a bike lane is built, cyclists no longer slow down cars and, as a result, traffic flows better and more safely for all.

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