● Cycling makes it into the top news stories of 2016 in Ottawa, but it’s not all good news.

Cycling issues made it into the top stories of the year in Ottawa at both CBC and the Ottawa Citizen. This can be taken as an indication of the growing popularity of cycling and an increased recognition of its role in the region.

Unfortunately, the stories highlighted by CBC and the Citizen put a negative spin on cycling, however subliminally.

For example, the CBC story isn’t about the benefits of the new rule requiring vehicles to leave one metre of room when passing a cyclist. Instead, it’s about how some motorists were incensed that the police would actually try to enforce the rule. When motorists see this highlighted as a top story of 2016, it will only serve to validate their point of view.

The Ottawa Citizen story was about the “carnage” on the O’Connor Street bike lane. It points out that three cyclists were hit by vehicles since the bike lane opened. Needless to say, this will reinforce the attitudes of people and businesses (and there are many) who oppose bike lanes. I can just hear the rallying cry against any future bike lane projects: ‘Lets not repeat the carnage of O’Connor Street.’

I also find it interesting that when making reference to collisions involving the O’Connor Street bike lane, the media often includes the “one captured in a hair-raising video”. One only has to watch the video to see that this collision could have happened with, or without the bike lane. It’s a variation of the classic ‘right hook’ collision (when a vehicle turns immediately in front of a cyclist), and it is not dependent on the existence of a bike lane.

The media does have a penchant of focusing on negative news, which could explain why CBC and the Citizen highlighted these cycling issues as top news makers in 2016. Whatever the case, there can be no denying that this will help harden old attitudes against new rules and infrastructure to make cycling safer.


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