Yesterday morning, when looking through the news, I came across an article about a mother of two young kids that got reported to the child services for bringing her kids to the daycare on a cargo bike (I linked the article but it is in French) in the city of Granby which is about an hour away from Montreal. Apparently, the person who reported her claimed that she is using dangerous transportation for her kids.
Wait what? I know Dutch people are having heart attacks right now and I myself am positively outraged about this. Firstly, how is the bike less safe than the car? There are about 100k injuries from car accidents in Canada yearly! Secondly, is it better for your child to sit in the car or enjoy the nature outside in the fresh air as they are being transported to school?
I do see where the sentiment is coming from and I blame the complete lack of infrastructure in most North American cities to make biking a safe mode of transportation. Most people consider it as a leisure activity rather than a healthy and secure way to get from point A to point B because the roads are completely not adapted for bikes. I found the video from Not Just Bikes YouTube channel to be a really interesting exploration of how safely you can cycle in the Netherlands vs. in Canada:
When I was studying for my BA in the Czech Republic, my bike was my best friend. I was earning money tutoring folks in English and German around town and could easily get wherever I needed without having to wait or figure out the public transport math. When I moved to Canada for my MA, I did not live in a big city that had a good infrastructure – I was in a relatively small town and did not live close to the university. I remember my surprise when I first arrived at the university to do my registration and saw huge parking lots around the campus. In Europe, the parking lot probably had space for 20 cars maximum. I did not quite grasp it at that time but later it dawned on me that there is no infrastructure for anything but cars in smaller North American towns. The way I figured out is by commuting by two buses for 1 hour one way to get my groceries on the weekend – this could have easily taken 15 mins by bike if there were roads for it. I had to choose between being hit by the car and losing a bunch of time for the commute. I prefer to be alive.
I also never really thought about why there were no groceries in the residential areas and why it is so hard to access them in North America by anything but a car. I found another video from Not Just Bikes on urban planning and it is really enlightening. If you never heard about Euclidean zoning and how most Canadian towns don’t allow commercial building in the residential areas, you will find the video below fascinating:
I do think the situation started improving in the past few years. Regardless, I was almost killed on my bike about two weeks ago. To spare the details, the fault was neither mine nor the drivers who were crossing the street – it was the lack of infrastructure and missing traffic lights for the safe crossing of cyclists.
We are really lucky to be a few hundred meters away from a relatively safe biking path and we often take my daughter to bike with us – Nicolas cycles to his grandparents (which is about 40k back and forth) almost every weekend. I think it is important to teach your kids healthy modes of transportation from the start and if someone was ever to report me for anything like that, I am going to tell them to **** off.