While the municipality plans to spend $25 million dollars in bicycle infrastructure1, other Vancouverites are concerned with the behaviour of cyclists and how to change their unsafe habits2. According to the Vancouver Sun1, many cyclists don’t know the laws, believe they don’t apply to them, or simply flout them intentionally. For instance, Statistics Canada reports that only 60% of B.C. cyclists wear helmets3.
As an avid cyclist myself, I can attest that the offences go beyond head protection: frequently, I see cyclists missing stop signs and riding after sunset without proper lighting. “We have a compliance issue”, admits Constable Jana McGuinness, spokeswoman for the Vancouver Police Department (VDP)4.
In response to this situation, the Vancouver city council recently approved a motion o create educational programs and safer bicycle connections between municipalities2. Here, I present two considerations on how to educate cyclists in Vancouver:
- Adopt a multicultural perspective. This is an international metropolis with dwellers from all over the world; many of them come from countries where bicycle helmets are not mandatory (see video at the bottom)3. They grew up thinking that head protection is not necessary and don’t realize that cycling in North America is more dangerous than in their countries of origin2.
- Use social control to change behaviours. VPD should not be solely responsible for enforcing compliance. Cyclists and motorist can help. Successful experiences in other countries show that peers can discourage undesirable behaviours by disapproving misdemeanours in non-confrontational ways6. Conversely, people are more likely to exhibit desirable behaviours if they are reminded that other individuals just like them are doing it7.
- The Vancouver Sun (2010). Memo to cyclists: Obey the law. In The Vancouver Sun. July 2.
- Johnson, G. (2010). Cyclists get serious about safety and risk. In The Georgia Straight, June 24 – July 1.
- Fayerman, P. (2010). Police not enforcing the laws, doctor says. Cycling head injuries down, but 40% in B.C. don’t wear helmets: ‘The skull is only the thickness of three pennies’. In The Vancouver Sun, June 29.
- Luk, V. (2010). Many cyclists still refuse to wear helmets, Vancouver police say. In The Vancouver Sun, June 10.
- Constant, A., Salmi, L.R. , Lafont, S., Chiron, M. & Lagarde, E. (2008). The recent dramatic decline in road mortality in France: how drivers’ attitudes towards road traffic safety changed between 2001 and 2004 in the GAZEL cohort. Health Education Research, 23, 5, 848–858.
- Singhal, A. & Greiner, K. (2008). Performance Activism and Civic Engagement Through Symbolic and Playful Actions. Journal of Development Communication, 19, 2, 43-53.
- Goldstein, N.J., Caldini, R.B., Griskevicius, R.B. (2008). A room with a view point: using social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels. Journal of consumer research, 35 (no pages).