Friday, 10 July 2015

City Councillors - What is my brain actually worth to you?

Dear, Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona), Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Coun. Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) and Coun. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan), 

Five weeks ago, a car hit me as I rode my bike in an unprotected bike lane on Garry Street. I was left with a serious concussion, a large cut on my nose and various bruises. The doctors and nurses at the Misericordia Health Centre told me, I was lucky — they've seen much worse vehicle and cyclist accidents. 

I consider myself lucky, too. However, since this accident, my quality of life has drastically changed. I can't play sports, I can't read for extended periods of time, I have trouble focusing and remembering things. I get pounding headaches that start mid-way through the day and continue into the evening.

Yet, one of the worst outcomes from this accident is that I am unable to ride my bike. 

For the past five years, I commuted to and from university, college and my job on my bicycle during the summer months. At 26 years old, I never owned my own vehicle up until a few weeks ago. 

When I bike, I always use caution — never trusting drivers to understand unprotected bike lanes. I feel drivers and cyclists have always struggled to share the road in Winnipeg. And at the scene of my accident, a number of cyclists stopped to help me with one cyclist revealing a car had already hit her this year. I was taken aback by her frankness, and the conscious resignation she and I now understand that as cyclists, our commute is a risk we take — a risk that could cost us our lives.

Councillors, I know I am a stranger to you, but what if I was a cyclist you knew and cared about deeply — would you still argue against the Pedestrian and Cycling Strategy? Would my brain still not be worth more than 0.4 per cent of the capital budget to you? 

I want you to understand that the five minutes I spend riding in the protected lanes on Assiniboine Avenue are the only time I feel safe during my 25-minute ride to and from work.  

I know that I am just one person, but during the months of May and June, there are an estimated 13,789 daily cyclists commuting to and from the downtown area. Collectively, our limbs, brains and lives are worth $330 million over the next 20 years. I sincerely hope most of us will be around to see this plan come to fruition; because, as I recently learned, it is a very real possibility that some of us won't be.

Please reconsider your stance on the Pedestrian and Cycling Strategy, and on your commute home tonight, please watch out for cyclists. 

Josie Loeppky