Thursday, December 3, 2009

Blogging Bloggers: Philadelphia Council Considers Bike Registration

KYW Newsradio reports that after two pedestrian deaths in Philadelphia due to collisions with cyclists, Philadelphia City Council is considering bicycle registration.
“My [City councilman Frank DiCicco] bill would require everyone who operates a bicycle over the age of 12 to have his or her bicycle registered. Because we’ll at least have a tag, which we can identify in case there is an accident.”

Kenney [City councilman], meantime, will propose increasing the fines for riding bicycles on the sidewalks. The current fine is $10. Kenney wants it to be $300. He also wants the current $3 fine for wearing headphones while on a bicycle to also increase to $300.

Kenney will also propose penalties for bicyclists who remove brakes from their vehicles, a practice that he says is suddenly gaining in popularity. He suggests either a $1,000 fine for those operating bicycles without brakes, or a penalty of forfeiture of the bike.

Be sure to read the whole news report here. For a look at some of the arguments for and against bike licensing see Urban Velo #6’s advocacy feature, License to Ride.

From Here or Here

Bottom Line: What’s the real issue?

The continued threat of Global Warming combined with the economic downturn, and the epidemic of obesity has highlighted the importance of alternative transport to reduce the detrimental environmental and socio-economic impact of motorized transportation. Most recently, rising fuel costs and increased road congestion has generated new partnerships between grassroots and federal transport organizations. These joint initiatives are having a significant impact on the environment, and the behavior of Canadian citizens; increasing the number of youth, student and working adults commuting by bike (e.g., Bike To the Future Final Report 2006, Active Transport Study 2005). For example, the City of Winnipeg has hired an Active Transport Coordinator to implement, manage and promote a comprehensive citywide network of active transport facilities (e.g., renewal of infrastructure, dedicated bike paths, etc.) and programs (e.g., Bike To Work Day). The Winnipeg School Board, in partnership with Resource Conservation Manitoba, is promoting active transport amongst students. Physical Education teachers now are giving students academic credit for walking and cycling to school. This campaign aims to combat declining sports participation (Stats Canada Overweight and Obesity Among Canadian Children and Youth 2006), and school-based activity rates among obese Latchkey kids.

The reduction in vehicle pollution and health benefits from cycle commuting seems to be a success story in the making, but are we trading one problem for another? Despite these recent positive developments, neither the aging transport infrastructure (designed for motorized vehicles, not bikes), nor cycling proficiency training in Canada, has kept pace with the growing number of cycle enthusiasts.

Of greatest concern is the lack of parental supervision, and cycle proficiency training for novice cyclists. Beginner cyclists cannot perform traffic tasks while trying to control their bikes; the results of which are a serious threat of head injuries or death. From 1994 – 1997 ten thousand children suffered bicycle related injuries, with 35% being head injuries in Canada (Beaulne 1997). In Manitoba, bicycle accidents are the third leading cause of hospitalization for children 5-9 years of age and, on average, there are 2-4 cycling related deaths per year (WRHA Position Statement on Cycling Safety). Needless to say, a great deal of research has been devoted to decreasing this alarming statistic. A cursory examination of research databases indicated that the majority of evaluative studies investigated helmet usage patterns, various interventions for increasing helmet compliance, and the effects of improving cycling infrastructure. No research, however, scrutinized the influence of cycling proficiency training on rates of head injuries.

Considering that cycling accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children aged 1 -14 in Manitoba, it is surprising that bike safety is left to the discretion of the teacher and/or the parents, neither of whom are likely to be certified as cycling proficiency trainers. There are three sources of comprehensive cycling education available for those interested in improving road safety; Government, school and non-governmental organizations. The K-2 curriculum has General Learning Outcomes for cycling related activities. Manitoba Public Insurance provides a structured school-based Road Safety Education Campaign for Kindergarten – Grade 10 based on General Learning Outcomes. Finally, the Canadian Cycling Association administers three fee-for-service bicycle courses (CAN-BIKE, Kids of Mud, and Spoke Kids).

Local bicycle user groups have historically advocated for improving conditions for cyclists; encouraging local governments to improve facilities, and routes for commuters (e.g., Osborne Bridge Neighbourhood Advisory Committee 2009). They are also credited with the development of the cycling proficiency training program movement in both Canada and the US. The CAN-BIKE program administered by the Manitoba Cycling Association was introduced by the Canadian Cycling Association in 1985 ( web page). It is currently the only nationally recognized bike education program, and the primary source of cycle education for commuters and school-aged children. However, of the four provinces which are ‘listed’ as offering courses (Manitoba is not) none appear to ‘actually’ offer courses on a regular basis. Programs are primarily fee-for-service, and seem to reach very few school-aged children.

A number of possible approaches could be explored to address this growing concern. Banning children under the age of eight from traffic – who have limited ability to deal with emergencies – is the kneejerk response of parents and legislators that was applied to skateboarding. Urban centres, which had originally banned skateboarding from public places, streets and sidewalks, have now realized that this measure is ineffective and unnecessarily punitive. It is likely that the construction of skate parks has reduced skateboarder-vehicular interactions, and thereby addressed the concerns of parents and legislators. Likewise, (brakes or no brakes) prohibiting cycling is impossible to effectively police. Moreover, this does not address the primary issues – traffic skills education regardless of age, and parental supervision for those under fourteen. The idea of testing and licensing all riders has merits for adult cyclists, but is not concerned with issues of parental supervision, skills development or traffic skills. A highly structured educational program is very possibly the most effective way to address this growing concern. To significantly reduce cycling-related injury/mortality rates, however, this program would have to have the capacity to reach all Canadian children, their parents and riders in general.

Daycare is, for many children, the first contact with formalized education, and often when toddlers learn to ride. The Manitoba Public Insurance Traffic Clubs package provides all the information, activities and materials to teach daycare preschoolers, and children in aftercare facilities, about the basics of road safety. Physical Education teachers, who play a significant role in promoting an active lifestyle, could be certified as Cycling Proficiency Educators (e.g., CAN-BIKE program). Finally, like other core courses (English, Math) students should be required to complete cycling education programs as a regular part of the curriculum. The early bird catches the worm, or in this case learns how to ride a fixie.

Learning to ride a bike in traffic- a skill most often acquired during childhood - is a complex motor task that has been largely overlooked by non-governmental advocacy groups, federal health authorities and the Canadian public school system. The recent focus of community-government initiatives has been the development of cycling-friendly infrastructure, and the promotion of active transport. In spite of its importance, cycling proficiency training as a preventative safety measure has largely been disregarded. Non-governmental organizations do not have the capacity to reach an estimated four million cyclists who share the roads with vehicular traffic every year. Unless the Canadian Educational System, incorporates training as a compulsory component of the physical education curriculum K-10, bicycle education will not reach novice cyclists, and children will continue to die on the streets of Canada.

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