AS THIS WEEK’S anti-vaccine-mandate truckers’ protest in Ottawa drags on, some I know have said to me they no longer think there will be support for protests of any type. The negative behaviors at the Ottawa protest including fascist symbols, racist behaviour, and desecration of the National War Memorial, has put the people I spoke to off public protests.
But there is a long history of protests and demonstrations leading to positive changes for the public good. Walks for women’s vote. Sit-ins to end wars. Demonstrations for racial justice. Vigils for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Protests can lead to positive change.
One protest by a small fringe group should not put a stop to future events. If anything, hopefully the protest in Ottawa may help solidify support for the current public health measures that are safeguarding the most vulnerable in society. The frail and elderly. The immune compromised. Those unable to be vaccinated including infants.
One protest that I think is long overdue, is a protest for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. In B.C., after the drivers of vehicles, the individuals most likely to be killed in a vehicle incident are pedestrians and cyclists.
On average in B.C., 52 pedestrians and eight cyclists are killed each year in a vehicle incident. Of people killed each year in B.C., 22 per cent are pedestrian and cyclists. They are killed most frequently at intersections.
Pedestrians and cyclists are vulnerable. A crash of a vehicle can dent the bumper of a car but can maim or kill a pedestrian of a cyclist. Again and again, throughout Kamloops, pedestrians and cyclists are injured and killed by vehicles. We all know someone who has been hit while walking or cycling.
There are places in the world where pedestrians and cyclists are safer. The Netherlands is near the top of the list. Dutch people cycle more than anywhere else in the world. And their infrastructure is second to none. Small children up to seniors can safely walk or cycle anywhere on separated paths and calmed streets.
Dutch streets are safe for vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists. The Dutch did not always have safe streets. At one point, cars ruled the roads of their towns and cities too. Plans were in the works to fill in Amsterdam’s famous canals to build even more roads for even more cars.
Vehicle traffic grew, and with it thousands of Dutch cyclists and pedestrians were being killed in vehicle incidents yearly. But then one death too many happened, and enough was enough. First one small protest happened, then another. Eventually, in 1978, 15,000 people came out to demand safer cycling and walking infrastructure.
Only then did Dutch politicians stop making transportation plans centered on vehicles, and switch to focusing on providing safer streets for people.
Here in Kamloops, the City is ostensibly working to make transportation better for everyone. They even have a committee named the Transportation Advisory Commission to give guidance to City council and planners. It has representatives from ICBC, CP Rail, CN Rail, Ministry of Transportation, School District #73, and RCMP plus City staff.
But even though pedestrians and cyclists are the second highest victims of vehicle accidents, there are no representatives from these groups on this committee.
In The Netherlands, Amsterdam was close to losing its canals to freeways because their politicians were listening to planning committees making vehicle-focused decisions with little concern for cyclists and pedestrians. It was only after many protests that the voices of cyclists and pedestrians were heard, and a different direction was taken.
Without the voices of pedestrians and cyclists on the City of Kamloops’ Transportation Advisory Commission, I’m skeptical that their voices will be heard by the City of Kamloops either.
Until such time as the City of Kamloops Transportation Advisory Commission has pedestrians and cyclists at the table, I fear Kamloops will continue to be focused on the needs of vehicles instead of the safety all road users.
So just like the Dutch, it may be time for vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists to start protesting for better safety. Protests are some of the best ways that vulnerable people can be heard. And, unlike the protest in Ottawa, that would be one protest I would be supporting.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.