Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How many planets do we live on?

Of course it's a silly sounding question and the answer is obviously 'one'...but you'd never know it in listening to some people.

I'm referring to the new segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue which just opened up this past Sunday and we decided to give it a try and see for ourselves what it's like. In a word, the bike lane is FANTASTIC! Time was, cyclists of all kind had to share the road with cars which isn't a problem in itself except for the fact that many automobile drivers don't like bikes on "their" road and many cyclists never bother to follow the rules of the road either. That often meant an uneasy relationship between cars and cyclists and any collisions of any kind were always much worse for the cyclist than the car driver - no matter who was to blame.

This segregated bike lane, all 1.3 kilometres of it, means that cyclists and motorized vehicle drivers can travel on the same road in relative safety. Car drivers need not worry about cyclists suddenly darting out in front (yes, many of them do) and cyclists need not worry about car drivers passing unsafely (yes, many of them do).

This plan to convert the parking lane on Laurier Avenue to a dedicated bike lane was revealed as far back as late last year. Yet, there are certain groups of people who, faced with the rapid approach of its grand opening, decided to complain bitterly about the changes they would face. People with disabilities who use wheelchairs were complaining that the new segregated bike lane would make it so much more difficult for them to get to work because the ParaTranspo bus would not be able to drop them off at the front of their destinations. Another person with a disability was worried that the existence of the tiny concrete barriers (which is not one long continuous thing, by the way) would increase her chances of tripping as she has a leg problem.


The installation of a segregated bike lane in this case has meant that one would be dropped off a short distance from one's usual place, not in a different city. The city has also removed some of the barriers to address this situation. As for the other complaint, what had been on Laurier Avenue previously was a long line of parked cars which would be just as hazardous as the existence of these shorter, fewer concrete curb-sized barriers.

The complaints are really without basis and I am speaking from the position of one who has a disability. I may not be in a wheelchair at the moment but I have been in a wheelchair and neither I nor the doctors knew whether I would get out of it or not. I have faced barriers to movement and may very well face those same ones in short order.


You have to look a little more closely at the effect that something like the installation of a segregated bike lane will have on the city overall. In other words, it's not about you. It's not about me either - it's about all of us. A segregated bike lane improves accessibility for cyclists, eases the worries of car drivers who are rightly afraid of the sudden appearance of a bicycle (it's happened) and helps to promote the city of Ottawa as a bicycle friendly city. We even made a small video showing just how open and unobtrusive this lane is. Change is inevitable and it is totally unreasonable to expect the entire world to stop evolving because someone (or a group of 'someones') doesn't personally like it. You have to look at the overall effect that something like segregated bike lanes has on society.

We live on one planet, not planet 'you' and a whole bunch of other planets. If you cannot or will not adapt to the reality of positive changes, even if you don't personally feel you will benefit outright, then please move aside and let the city evolve into something a little friendlier for those of us who don't drive.

It is not that I have no empathy for people with disabilities. Trust me, I have all the empathy in the world for us. What I have no empathy for is what I see as people with disabilities who play the 'disability card' and act as though any decision anyone makes for the betterment of us all is a personal affront to them and a sure sign of their repeated victimization.

Get over yourselves.

We live on one planet and we need to find a way so that everyone gets their needs met as much as possible...not just yours and not just mine either but everyone's. Okay? Everyone.



  1. Amen, sister. I wondered too why all the complaining if this was planned over a year ago? Surely the City consulted with Laurier Street residents and businesses first?

    Thanks for sharing the same planet :o)


  2. I like your common sense viewpoint on this. I also heard reports on the CBC about ambulance services not being able to get to people in need. This had me baffled...How does a 15cm curb block paramedics? Is it a magic force field? (If so why doesn't it work on 'regular' pedestrians- now THAT would be useful). Paramedics have a much more difficult time negotiating multiple flights of stairs with a 200kg patient than they do a small curb. Seems to me the media was grasping at straws in an attempt to create an opposing viewpoint.