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Road reflection

After an accident happens, both the public and the policy makers take time to review what went wrong and how things can be changed for the better.

There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s human nature to reflect. After the death of cyclist Isaak Kornelsen on Whyte Avenue on August 27 the discussion has centred on whether this was a completely out-of-the-blue accident, or if there were other factors in place.

For starters, biking on such busy streets is pretty risky and many cyclists choose to bike on sidewalks where they feel safer. But in turn, this decision makes the sidewalks unsafe for walkers and runners—many who are plugged into headphones and can’t hear the sound of a bike bell behind them.

The city has some designated bike routes, but for the most part cyclists are at the mercy of drivers treating them with respect and neither tailing nor sideswiping them. Designated pathways that are separate from roads and that encompass the entire city should be more of an infrastructure priority. At least on Whyte Ave, where the trio of bicycles, pedestrians and vehicles constantly compete for space. The city has got a bikeway in the works for 83 Avenue over the next few years. However, in Isaak’s case it was a parked vehicle, not a driver, that factored into the accident. He was knocked off-balance when he tried to duck under the mirror of a pickup truck that was in his way. He fell off his bike and under the back of a cement truck.

Vehicles that jut too far into the street pose a problem for buses and regular vehicles who often have to veer from the right lane into the left to avoid scraping them. Taking up two lanes of traffic is never a safe option. In 2011, the second and third most common instances of collision in Edmonton were striking parked vehicles and improper lane changes.

The truck in question was within the required 50 cm of space from the curb. The problem was the extended side mirror. These supersized mirrors serve a great purpose for pickup and van drivers while on the road, but when parked they should have to be folded in. No exception. Our roadways are not wide enough to take any unnecessary risks.

As a green-minded city, the bike issue really needs to be put on the front burner. Edmontonians should not have to feel apprehensive about making the healthy decision to ride their bikes.

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