Who’s at fault: drivers or cyclists for crashes?

Who’s at fault: drivers or cyclists for crashes?

Provincial Court Judge Peter Doherty handed down a fair decision in the case of Timothy Prad of Bowser, the motorist who struck and killed a bicyclist, Paul Bally of Fanny Bay, on the Old Island Highway about a year ago.

The judge found the motorist honestly thought he had hit a deer and had not left the scene to avoid arrest.

But in the court of public opinion, deciding whether cyclists or motorists generally bear more responsibility when the two collide would more likely result in a hung jury.

People who regularly ride bicycles believe motorists have the greater responsibility because they’re driving multi-ton vehicles at higher rates of speed. And there will be an equal number of motorists who blame cyclists who often act as if the rules of the road don’t apply to them.

Either side could count multiple research studies to support their point of view, which is why I like the 2012 report on cycling deaths in Ontario by the province’s chief coroner. The study reviewed the circumstances of 129 deaths resulting from collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles.

The report states, “In 71 percent of deaths (91 of 129), some modifiable action on the part of the cyclist was identified which contributed to the fatal collision. The three most common contributory cyclist actions identified were inattention (30 cases; 23 percent), failure to yield right of way (24 cases; 19 percent) and disregarding traffic signals (10 cases; 8 percent).”

The report also states, “In 62 percent of cases (64 of 104) in which the cyclist collided with a vehicle (defined as a motor vehicle, streetcar or train), one or more modifiable actions on the part of the driver were identified which were felt to have contributed to the death … The three most common contributory driver actions were speeding (31; 30 percent), driver inattention (29; 28 percent) and failure to yield (20; 19 percent).”

Those percentages don’t appear to add up because the chief coroner found that in almost half of the cases both the cyclist and the driver contributed to the accident.

In other words, the chief coroner found that 100 percent of the fatalities were preventable if both drivers and cyclists had exhibited more due care and attention.

Every day that I travel around the Comox Valley, I see cyclists blow through stop signs, often without even slowing down. I see cyclists with ear buds. I encounter cyclists riding abreast of each other on rural roads (a violation of the rules for cyclists under Section 183.2(d) of the Motor Vehicle Act).

I have even seen a cyclist press the stop light button on Comox Avenue at the St. Joe’s General Hospital crosswalk and then ride across while cars piled up in both directions (183.2(b)).

But I’m also a cyclist, who, at the peak of my competitive period, often logged in excess of 150 miles a week on Comox Valley and Campbell River roadways.

A driver on Dove Creek Road once passed within inches of me, causing me to lose my balance and crash. And when I regrettably offered up a one-digit salute, he stopped and, in a fit of road rage, came back to assault me.

On another ride to Victoria, a large RV with super-wide side-view mirrors passed me through a construction zone in Nanaimo where the roadway narrowed. It was surreal. I felt a slap on my back and then I was airborne, out of my pedals, catapulted into a well-located patch of thick foliage.

In both cases there was no behavior I could have modified to avoid those accidents. They were 100 percent driver error, in my opinion.

Cycling is an important component of the Comox Valley lifestyle and a growing tourism attraction. It’s also important to encourage cycling as a physical activity that contributes to healthy lifestyles.

A regional task force comprising representatives from the cycling community, motorists, law enforcement, municipalities and the Ministry of Highways could make recommendations to mitigate the safety concerns of cycling and encourage more people to participate in a healthy and environmentally friendly activity.

Maybe it could also prevent another unnecessary and tragic loss of life.

Cowboy makes a bid at a local livestock auction

Cowboy makes a bid at a local livestock auction

I have a series of photographs taken at a livestock auction somewhere north of Courtenay in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I took this image of a man raising his hand to bid at that time. For some reason I think it took place at the Norwood Equestrian Center, but the auction involved all kinds of livestock.

Does someone know the exact location of this auction and whether it still occurs? And if anyone recognizes this man, please leave a comment on this website or on the Decafnation Facebook page.

Letters provide new revelations in the ongoing Mack Laing saga

Letters provide new revelations in the ongoing Mack Laing saga

Two documents have recently surfaced that indicate the Town of Comox had discussions with the Comox Valley Natural History Society about creating a natural history museum in the home of Hamilton Mack Laing. The letters also indicate the society’s interest to take on responsibility for developing a park on Laing’s property.

You can read the letters here, and here.

The letters, written in 1979 and 1981, provide proof that Laing participated in getting assurances that the Town of Comox would carry out his last wishes if he bequeathed them his house, the bulk of his work as a naturalist and a significant amount of money to finance the endeavors.

Laing was an honoured figure in the CV Natural History Society and his caretaker nurse was Alice Bullen, also a member of the society and a Town councillor at the time. The letters show that Laing knew of the society’s communication with the town and supported it.

Up until now, the Town of Comox has claimed that all records and accounts of its dealings with Laing and his representatives have disappeared.

Laing was prolific naturalist, photographer, writer, artist and noted ornithologist, whose work from the Comox waterfront since 1922 earned him worldwide recognition.

Laing lived a Walden Pond lifestyle on several waterfront acres along Comox Bay from 1922 until his death in 1982. Laing was lesser known than Campbell River’s Roderick Haig-Brown, but to serious ornithologists, his work was more important.

When Laing died, he left the bulk of his work to the Town of Comox, and also his waterfront property, his second home (named Shakesides), and the residue cash from his estate “for the improvement and development of my home as a natural history museum.

But 35 years later, the town has done nothing to satisfy his last wishes, and the money Laing left to finance his legacy would have been used for other purposes.

One of the important revelations from the documents unearthed from Laing’s papers preserved at the B.C. Archives is that the town may have competed for the trust, or at least convinced Laing that they were the best holders of his trust.

That may be cause for the B.C. Supreme Court to regard the town’s breach of Laing’s trust as something more serious.

The Town Council voted unanimously this week to try to break Laing’s trust with an application to the high court that argues the trust is “no longer … in the best interests of the town.” The council wants to use Laing’s money to tear down his house and build a viewing platform on the site.

The town’s councillors obviously have little regard for heritage or respect for one of the community’s most famous former residents. Laing’s work and his home have received more support from outside the town.

An independent and nationally recognized heritage consulting firm says that the former home of the naturalist — known as “Shakesides” — is of national importance and should be saved for its historic value and for the enjoyment of future generations.

The chairman of Heritage B.C., a provincial agency committed to “conservation and tourism, economic and environmental sustainability, community pride and an appreciation of our common history,” believes the heritage value of Shakesides demands that Laing’s former home should be “conserved for … future generations” and that the Town of Comox should “use the building in ways that will conserve its heritage value.”

Heritage B.C. has offered its assistance, at no charge, to the Town of Comox, for the duration of the process to repurpose Shakesides, and pretty much guaranteed the town a provincial grant through the Heritage Legacy Fund Heritage Conservation program.

The two letters were discovered by Kate Panyatoff, a former president of the Mack Laing Heritage Society. She was doing research for the Comox Valley Nature’s Cultural and Heritage Group, which plans to publish some of Laing’s work.

Note: This article has been updated from the original post.

On electoral reform, Trudeau disappoints us, once again

On electoral reform, Trudeau disappoints us, once again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau scuffed his once-shiny political image again yesterday by discarding yet another campaign promise.

In his first throne speech after the 2015 federal election, Trudeau boasted triumphantly that Canada had seen the last of its whoever-gets-the-most-votes-wins voting system. But he didn’t present a clearly defined alternative. He just promised to change the system before the 2019 election.

A few months ago, Trudeau surrendered the grandiose commitments he made to environmentalism during the campaign and at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris by approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline that promotes Alberta’s dirty tar sands oil and potentially fouls the Salish Sea.

So, was Trudeau nothing more than just another politician who will say anything to get elected? That’s how opposition parties will portray him now.

It’s more likely we’re seeing a naive young prime minister who may not have expected to win the election and now, faced with the reality of delivering on his campaign promise, has butted heads with the impracticality of reaching national consensus on altering a fundamental democratic right in less than four years.

Almost every candidate for elected office makes a promise they don’t or can’t keep. Some are outright liars, like Donald Drumpf, who will say or do anything to fool people in order to get their votes.

Consider the U.S. Republican Party, which campaigned for years to repeal Obamacare without any idea of what to do next. Now they’re scrambling to create a replacement health care plan that doesn’t implode on them.

But I prefer to believe Trudeau had honest intentions. He’s just learning that it’s easy to criticize something; it’s more difficult to devise an alternative that transcends criticism.

He made a foolish promise because there’s no clear-cut better alternative to the popular vote. Proportional representation encourages partisanship. Ranked-choice voting, sometimes called a preferential ballot, is prone to electing people nobody really wanted.

Had the popular vote decided the U.S. presidency, Americans would not have elected Donald Drumpf. So what’s not to like about that?

Perhaps the greater problem with Canadian governance lies within the political parties, and specifically the rule that requires block voting. Members who exercise independent thought and vote outside the party line are cast off into political limbo. That makes individual candidates a secondary consideration to party policy for voters in Canadian elections.

I’m with the millions of Canadians who are more concerned about Trudeau’s flip-flop on climate change and protecting the environment than cancelling a divisive national debate over electoral reform.

But there’s a lesson in this for voters. One we never seem to learn. Be wary of any candidate without detailed plans behind their promises. That candidate is bound to disappoint.

If we Vote-By-Google this spring, the Green Party would win

If we Vote-By-Google this spring, the Green Party would win

When people start suggesting that highly paid writers such as myself – rumored to be in the high single digits! – start writing about British Columbia’s spring provincial election campaign, we do what any other sane person would do: hide under our desks until those people go away.

Well, that’s what we used to do before they invented Google. Now, whenever I want to avoid writing by wasting a lot of valuable time, I call up Google. I Google recreationally, or casually, you might say. With No Strings Attached. In other words, I Google without any meaningful commitment.

I don’t know why, but suddenly, in an era when a U. S. president promotes his executive orders on Twitter, this seemed an appropriate method to research a piece about the upcoming election.

I discovered, for example, that there really is such a thing as a “good politician,” because Google (Canadian version) returned 50.9 million hits for that phrase. Unfortunately, this is the Year of Trump, so I got 51.8 million hits for “bad politician,” perhaps signaling a negative trend in governance.

However, the results for “straight shooter” (8.78 million hits) encouraged me by crushing those who speak with a “forked tongue” (572,000 hits). I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the fact that the phrase “we’re here from the government, and we’re here to help you” tallied a pitiful 94,600 hits.

But did you know that someone out there has already searched with almost every adjective you can think of in front of the word “politician?” … Someone who may be eligible to vote.

We apparently think our politicians are less “sleazy” (351,000 hits) than “silly” (614,000), and, even more surprising, “intelligent” (821,000 hits).

British Columbians might consider saving ourselves a lot of time and expense by dispensing with political campaigns altogether and just decide the spring provincial election by the number of Google hits each candidate receives. It would be kind of like online voting.

If we switched to Google-voting, local NDP candidate Ronna-Rae Leonard would crush her Liberal opponent, Jim Benninger, by a vote of 1,530 to 1,400.

But both the B.C. Liberal Party (497,000 hits) and the B.C. NDP Party (457,000) would lose to the B.C. Green Party, which tallied an astonishing 11 million hits.

Google-voting wouldn’t out well for NDP leader John Horgan, however. He would lose to Liberal Christy Clark by 14 million to 463,000. However, once again, the Green Party tops the polls. Green leader Andrew Weaver collected 18.8 million hits.

On a positive note, “Elect Justin Trudeau” snagged 26.6 million hits, more than doubling the vote for “Elect Kevin O’Leary.” Although, when you search for O’Leary’s self-imposed nickname, Mr. Wonderful, he turns in a respectable 13.3 million. But, thankfully, not enough to win.

I have no idea what this means, but there appear to be more “goofy” Liberals (354,000 hits) than “goofy” NDPers (127,000 hits).

In the end, however, this Google- voting system might not work.

While the concept of “voting” is encouragingly strong (178 million hits), it might come from a worrisome number of illiterates. If you misspell the word “vote” by adding an extra letter “o”, it takes an extra 62 “Os” until Google cannot find any more results.

Finally, in a triumph of man over ape, the phrase “Elect George” returns 69.9 million hits, while “elect Curious George” only swings 347,000. So there’s hope.

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