Canadian Cyclist


September 20/10 19:25 pm - Majority of Ontarians Believe "Sharing the Road" is a Shared Responsibility

Posted by Editor on 09/20/10

A poll commissioned by the Share the Road Cycling Coalition (, an Ontario-based non-profit organization which promotes bicycling as a mode of transportation, recreation and fitness through provincial advocacy reveals that Ontarians believe that "Sharing the Road" is a shared responsibility with 89% agreeing (57% strongly) that 'Cyclists and motorists are equally responsible for making roads dangerous and causing accidents involving bikes and cars. Both groups need to take more responsibility for sharing the road'.

The results come from the Ontario Monitor Online, a survey of 1000 Ontarians conducted from August 7th to 9th by opinion research firm Strategic Communications, Inc. (Stratcom). The data was statistically weighted to ensure that the sample's regional, gender and age composition reflects that of the actual Ontario population according to the 2006 census.

Further, a large majority of Ontarians (81%) are aware that: 'Cyclists are recognized as vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act. This means they have the same rights as cars and trucks to use the roads, and the same responsibilities for riding in a safe manner.' Finally the poll highlights the fact that Ontarians express support for collective action to improve cycling safety for all:

• 71% agree (28% strongly) that 'Schools should teach cycling as part of physical education'
• 70% agree (29% strongly) that 'Safety for drivers and cyclists is not just a matter for individuals - governments need to step up and invest in cycling infrastructure '
• 70% agree (25% strongly) that 'Investing in bike lanes and traffic signals to make cyclist safer does not have to cost very much money because these measures can be implemented by city governments during road construction that is already happening anyway'
• 70% agree (33% strongly) that amongst measures to enhance safety, enacting a 3' or one meter safe passing law to require that drivers give at least on-metre (three feet) of clearance for cyclists when passing is a useful measure. Support for the law is strongest among women and rural Ontarians.

A Private Member's Bill requiring calling for an amendment to the Highway Traffic Act to this effect, was tabled in the Ontario Legislature in May 2010. "To find out the level of public support for this measure we asked if respondents agree or disagree with it. Given that the data demonstrates the importance of sharing the road as a shared responsibility, both cyclists and motorists agree that this law is an important tool for enhancing safety for cyclists and we are pleased to see such wide support for this measure which we called for in our 2010 Green Paper on Bicycling in Ontario – When Ontario Bikes, Ontario Benefits," said Share the Road Cycling Coalition (SRCC) CEO and Founder, Eleanor McMahon.

In terms of a snapshot of cycling in Ontario, about 1-in-20 (5%) of Ontarians say they ride a bicycle daily or almost daily while a sizeable minority of 25% of Ontarians ride a bicycle either weekly (11%) and 14% that ride monthly. Meanwhile, 70 % ride only rarely or do not have regular access to a bicycle. About half of Ontarians (51%) report driving a car every day, and a further one-fifth (22%) drives several times each week. Among drivers, cycling is just as common as among the total population.

"This points to an important fact behind the so-called 'war' between drivers and cyclists – 80% of regular cyclists drive a car at least weekly or more often. More than half – 54% - of regular cyclists drive every day. The poll also demonstrates that there is deep and wide interest in making cycling safer – among drivers and cyclists alike. Despite some perceptions of a divide between them, drivers and cyclists overwhelmingly endorse the need to 'share the road' and find solutions for safety," said McMahon.

The poll results were released on the eve of the 2nd Annual Ontario Bike Summit in Burlington September 20th – 21st. The Summit will bring international experts, policy makers, politicians, law enforcement, transportation specialists and cycling advocates together for a two day dialogue that organizers hope will help build on the Coalition's ongoing work to establish provincial standards for cycling including an enhanced role for the provincial government. This year's Summit, which takes place during province-wide civic elections, will include an increased focus on the role of municipalities in encouraging cycling and will feature the release of the "Active Communities Pledge" – a tool to increase the visibility of active transportation issues in the 2010 civic elections.

"We conducted a similar piece of research in advance of the 2009 Ontario Bike Summit as a means of identify gaps in provincial policy and as a mechanism for identifying what measures would be required to encourage Ontarians who do not currently cycle regularly, to do so. This year's survey builds on this research and explores attitudes of both motorized and non-motorized road users as an instrument to address myths related to "conflicts" between motorists and cyclists as part of our ongoing work to improve safety by identifying gaps and possible solutions," McMahon noted.

Encouraging more Ontarians to cycle more often as a means of active transportation and recreation is central to the mission of the SRCC. "An important area of focus for our organization, as identified through our outreach and research is education and awareness. Exploring priorities within this area includes focusing on Ontarians of all ages particularly children. Research from other countries where cycling is an important part of the culture (The Netherlands and Denmark) and a mainstream mode of transportation demonstrates that these jurisdictions have achieved societal acceptance and have created healthy habits for life by focusing on incorporating cycling education into the curriculum and into community-based programming. Our aim is to return bicycling education to its prior prominence when the majority (85% in 1971) of children rode their bikes regularly and rode or walked to school," McMahon noted.

For children (as reported by parents who completed the survey), the picture is encouraging, with more than half of Ontario children (52%) riding daily or weekly. As for encouraging more cycling among children, safety (safer roads and drivers 82%)and more/better infrastructure (77%) are key and instruction on safe cycling for children as part of the school curriculum was cited by 72% of respondents. There is also a prominent social dimension in the minds of parents – more opportunities to ride with other children (83%), more opportunities to ride with family (77%), were highlighted. "We are encouraged by the numbers of children cycling now – getting them to cycle more often should be an easier objective than we realized," McMahon noted.
As in the 2009 study, safer roads are at the top of the agenda when it comes to helping and encouraging Ontarians to cycle more. The build out of infrastructure at the local level remains a key focus of concern.

Measures that encourage cycling among adults demonstrate that enhancing safety (safer roads and drivers 75%) investing in more and better infrastructure (70%) and encouraging tourism/recreational opportunities closer to home (70%) would get more Ontarians cycling. For Ontarians who do not cycle now, (two thirds of the population) the number one encouragement by far at 42% is safer roads/drivers while 36% of weekly riders say that receiving instruction on safe cycling would encourage them to cycle more.

Finally, the poll underscored some evidence of polarization between cyclists and motorists with 71% of respondents agreeing that "people driving cars generally obey the rules of the road more often than people riding bicycles while 61% agree that there are unnecessary accidents involving cyclists because "motorists don't show cyclists enough consideration."

McMahon agreed that there is much work yet to do, but noted that identifying the gaps will serve to help address them: "This data confirms that "sharing the road" involves addressing a specific set of priorities including enhanced investments in infrastructure, education and awareness programs for motorists and cyclists (children and adults) and passing legislation to enhance safety – the 3' passing law. We look forward to working with our partners and stakeholders across Ontario and at the Ontario Bike Summit in particular, as we seek to find solutions to getting more Ontarians cycling, more often."

About the Share the Road Cycling Coalition
The Share the Road Cycling Coalition is a provincial cycling advocacy organization. Our mission is to make Ontario bicycle friendly for everyone by enhancing access for bicyclists on roads and trails, improving safety for all bicyclists and educating citizens on the value and importance of safe bicycling for healthy lifestyles and communities. In doing so the Coalition represents all cyclists - children, tourists, commuters, recreational riders, mountain bikers and racers.


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