Waterloo City Councillor struck from beind on her Bicycle

A week ago Diane Freeman, a Waterloo city councillor was struck from behind on her bicycle by a motor vehicle. The motorist was fined $110 and charged with failing to share the road. Diane was traveling on Northfield, making a left on to Parkside.

You can find a record article with the details from October 5th’s paper. And sadly you can find Diane’s response to an email chastizing her for being in the left turn lane in a post entitled ‘Is being right wrong‘. (Check out Rob’s interview with Diane during a 2010 municipal election.)

It’s a travesty that almost killing a person, even if unintentional, is given a measly fine of $110. Don’t we value human life? Is driving that important? What would be a just consequence in this circumstance?

Let’s continue to work for safer forms of alternative transportation. Our roadways are for people, we need to design them to include people who ride bicycles.

18 thoughts on “Waterloo City Councillor struck from beind on her Bicycle

  1. Well, the driver who killed Barry Conrod only paid a $1000 fine.

    There is a disconnect between many motorists and cyclists. As soon as we throw a leg over our bikes we become something less than human. A recent study indicated that drivers act with more care around helmetless cyclists. Is that because a helmet increases the psychological distance and enables killing or at least injuring behaviours in drivers?

    Though the Highway Traffic Act treats cyclists as vehicles, it fails to consider vulnerability of road users. Perhaps that is the next place for lobbying the provincial government, after we get a safe passing rule, codify and permit riding abreast and so on.

    After all, cyclists aren’t impediments to traffic, they are traffic.

  2. With those new lights they put up on Northfield there are times it scares me to be in a car, let alone a bike.

    1. Hey Sean, Where are the new lights on Northfield? I can’t recall the last time I cycled across Northfield (Weber to Davenport). Usually I’ll turn at the beginning of Northfield onto Westmount Rd (north) and get out of the city on Benjamin Rd. Or I’ll take Lexington to Davenport to get to the Conestoga Mall area.

      1. The southbound off-ramp from the 85 now has a traffic light for those making left-turns (west onto Northfield). I believe these are the lights Sean is talking about.

  3. Insane. $110 fine for running into a cyclist who had the right of way? My last vehicle fine was the same amount for driving with an annual vehicle tax sticker that was one month overdue.

  4. The fine is a joke, no doubt, especially given how serious the accident could have been. However I don’t think bigger fines will actually deter reckless driving around bicycles. Recklessness is a product of our time-worshipping, entitlement culture, and changing moods towards bicyclists is going to be a slow, long-term effort that will only happen as more bikes appear on the road (which is inevitable as infrastructure slowly becomes more accommodating).

    I think what happened to Freeman is tragic. Sure a bigger fine would be nice (especially to help the seriousness of the issue sink in for that sucky driver), but bigger fines aren’t going to make any systemic changes. At this point I would recommend bicyclists on busy 4-lanes just avoid taking the left at a large intersection and instead cross with the green on the right side and then stop on the other side of the intersection, turn your bike, and wait for the lights to change (sorry poor explanation, I hope that makes sense). Any thoughts on this method?

    1. Myself, I’d rather be alive than right. In this city the better part of valour is to do what you suggest. Too many motorists just don’t see you.
      On the other side of the coin, I can’t tell you how many cyclists I’ve seen this season riding in poor light with dark clothing and poor or no lights and reflectors.

  5. I hope to see Northfield undergo a serious diet once the LRT gets introduced. I see cyclists on the road every day and I’m sad to say they are putting their lives at risk. It is a high speed road with very little space to share the lane. A driver not paying attention is very likely to run over a cyclist taking the lane, as Diane was doing. Combine that with the on/off ramps to the parkway, and you can see how circumstances are conspiring against cyclists.

    PS This is not an excuse for poor driving, it is an observation on reality. I would never cycle on that section of Northfield.

    1. I agree Octavian! There are a few roads in the region that I avoid. That section of Northfield is one; University near the expressway and Homer-Watson are a couple of my least favourites. It seems that most of the larger roads are particular bad near on-ramps and off-ramps. We are actually planning on moving to the west of the expressway L (okay, it’s a backwards L) to avoid needing to ride on these dangerous stretches.

  6. The truly sad thing is that all that happens to cyclists by the motoring public is nothing more than what happens to the motoring public by the motoring public. I just about got taken out twice in my car on the way home from work tonight. Both cases it was dangerous driving on the part of the other person.
    When I am on my bike – which is most of the time – I see people being truly horrible to each other behind the wheel of cars (I also see truly bad behaviour from cyclists as well). The only real difference, and it is a big one, is that a bike will always lose in a conflict with a car.
    The issue is not car drivers vs cyclists at all. The issue is that a large percentage of our population suck. Period. How they get around does not matter.

  7. To the question of whether the fine alone was just, we’d have to consider what the likely outcome would be if the same injuries were sustained by someone driving another car.

    What I can say without hesitation is that it’s a travesty to continue using our public tax dollars on an infrastructure for automotive traffic that’s inherently dangerous to people.

  8. A just fine would be to impound the motorist’s vehicle and give her/him a bicycle to use in its stead for a season. Cycle a mile on councillor Freeman’s treads, so to speak. Can’t put a price tag on empathy.

  9. I bike and drive and I don’t think drivers (or atleast myself and most people i know) treat cyclists any different that motorists. The issue probably is they just don’t see them, maybe they could perhaps try to pay attention better but humans are creatures of habit and I don’t see a lot of cyclists on the road so I am therefore not conditioned to be continually looking out for them. You could call it an excuse…but it true

  10. Walking along a sidewalk on King Street this afternoon in Uptown Waterloo two cyclists sped by, without warning. If I had turned to enter a store, or even had a misstep (I am 70) I would have been clobbered, perhaps killed.
    And the fine is: $110.

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