14 May 2010

Cycling Disclaimer Obsessions

Thanks to Bojana for the link to a strange waiver on the website of the town of Perth, Ontario, Canada. It's not as ridiculous as the waiver required for a quiet bike ride in Chicago, as mentioned in the Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Die post, but what makes it odd is that you have to sign it before downloading... cycling maps.

Cycling maps. I just had to repeat that. In order to download the pdfs of the Perth & District Cycling Route maps, you first need to read this disclaimer text:

This cycling map has been developed to assist in planning bicycle trips throughout the County of Lanark. Users of this cycling map are responsible for their own safety and use these routes at their own risk. Users should consider not only route conditions but also their level of experience, comfort level riding in traffic, traffic conditions and traffic volume, weather, time of day, and any obstacles, such as construction or potholes, when cycling on any route within the County of Lanark. Certain of the roads and highways on this cycling map, including Highway #511, have high traffic volume and are used regularly by transport trucks. Cyclists should exercise the same level of caution whether riding on a route designated by this map or any non-designated route.

The County of Lanark, Town of Perth, Perth & District Chamber of Commerce and others involved in the design and publication of this map and the cycling routes are not responsible for any loss or damage users may suffer as a result of using this cycling map or the cycling routes. The County of Lanark, Town of Perth, Perth & District Chamber of Commerce, and their directors, officers, employees, owners, volunteers and staff do not warrant the safety of any route, highway, road, street or designated cycling route shown on this cycling map.

Hang on... you're not finished yet. After reading the disclaimer, you then have to read AND AGREE TO the following waiver:

Waiver: Having read the foregoing material and as a condition of using this cycling map, the users of this cycling map waive, release, and discharge, for themselves and their heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns, any rights or claims which the users have or may hereafter have against the directors, officers, employees, owners, volunteers and staff of the County of Lanark, Town of Perth, Perth & District Chamber of Commerce and other sponsoring businesses and organizations, for any and all damages which may be sustained by the users directly or indirectly in connection with their use of this cycling map or the cycling routes.

Goodness me. Talking about overcomplicating a simple issue. I wonder if damages include paper cuts?

Do motorists in Ontario have to sign waivers before acquiring road maps? Considering how many car accidents there are, you'd think they would need to/be forced to.

Maybe all GPS gadgets should have the voice state things like:

"Turn left, 500 metres... at your own risk and releasing the company who produced this GPS machine from all liability..."

"Continue straight, 1 point 3 kilometres... fully accepting that you are doing so entirely at your own risk..."


On the other side of the planet, I am researching things to do and see in Abu Dhabi and read on a tourist website that:

"Though cycling is a common mean of transportation for the locals, it has become a favourite leisure activity these days. Abu Dhabi provides many bicycle lanes that go through the skilfully developed public parks, gardens and roads in the city."

Which sounds lovely. Although on another site they were mentioning the Corniche, a boardwalk along the sea and highlighting that it was perfect for walking/promenading "although the more adventurous visitors could rent a bicycle and ride on the bikes lanes."

Adventurous? I guess I'll be Hillary and the Corniche of Abu Dhabi will be my Everest...

Double sheesh.


bikefriendlynorthshore said...

This is why lawyers should be shackled and forced to construct bike paths until they show signs of human behaviour.

Anonymous said...

This is the effect of ridiculous lawsuits, chutzpah and incompetent judges . Some people will sue for damages simply because they were stupid and then the judges will grant compensation simply because the user hasn't been warned against their own stupidity. Hence the companies want to protect themselves.
The exaggerated example of the GPS device might soon become reality, just because the law system is flawed.

Kim said...

As the old joke has it,

Question: What do you call 1,000 lawyers chained together at the bottom of the sea?

Answer: A good start!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I'm seeing it from a different angle. I think they require this waiver because they KNOW that they have not provided safe infrastructure for cyclist. That comment about the truck traffic, that raises a huge red flag in my mind. Cyclist fatalities caused by trucks happen far to often on our rural highways.

Getting people to sign a waiver is cheaper and easier for politicians than building safe cycling infrastructure. Alternatively they may be trying to ease their conscious, knowing that they have done nothing to provide safe infrastructure, they can at console themselves with the thought that they tried to warn people.

A similar waiver may not be required for drivers because the infrastructure for drivers IS safe. Safety is a huge factor in highway design standards - site lines, radius of curves, width of lanes - all these are specified based on safety. Where a road or intersection has a high rate of collisions, it is often re-designed. So a waiver for driving is not necessary. However, no such consideration is given to cycling, ergo the necessity of a waiver.

Kiwehtin said...

I grew up in that area, just east of Lanark County, and one of my sisters – who I visit at least once a year – still lives just east of there. (Lanark is the rural county just west of the expanded city of Ottawa.)

Perth?! That sleepy little town? I can't help wonder if all this bike map business isn't really to cover for the likely fact that these are just recommended bike touring routes and not in fact separate bike infrastructure. Last time I was around there, there was none. The rural routes in particular tend to be arrow-straight survey line roads which attract speeding as in "80 km/h? Must be the minimum: nobody's gonna take away MY right to use my 4WD the way I want!". Regular news items in this part of the country tell the story of the latest teenagers or young adults who have wrapped their vehicle around a telephone pole and sent their separated body parts into the ditch or a neighbouring field.

And the few highways that cut through the area tend to be narrow two-laners with sorry gravel shoulders on which the typical driver is also convinced that posted speed limits are in fact the minimum.

There is practically nowhere in Canada that I am aware of that comes anywhere close to the kind of safe rural cycling infrastructure that I know from the Netherlands.

townmouse said...

Our GPS unit actually does have a waiver, right when you switch it on, reminding you not to abandon your common sense when following its instructions...

Kiwehtin said...

Here's an example i saw just now in the news, of just the kind of problem we have here because safe-separate cycling infrastructure is outside what our politicians are capable of conceiving of in Canada:


Just the kind of thing the Perth-Lanark tourist people had in mind, I think.

David said...

The advice for group cycling is even more amusing: it tells you to ride in single file despite the fact that in Ontario riding double file (or more) is not illegal (this is surely an oversight, but that's the way it is). It's kind of hard to have an enjoyable cycle ride through the countryside around Perth (which is some of the most beautiful in this part of the world owing to the varying landscape as it transitions from the flatlands of the clay and limestone of the St. Lawrence Valley to the granite uplands of the Canadian Shield) riding in single file unable to chat with your fellow cyclists.

More to the point though given that this is supposedly a "safety tip" is that riding more than single file is actually safer. Why? Because motorists are pretty much forced to slow down and make a safe passing manoeuvre in the opposite lane rather than chance it by squeezing past at high speed in the face of oncoming traffic. If traffic is heavy dropping to single file is sometimes called for, but only once the cars behind have been slowed down. Of course you'll get honked at a lot riding double file...

As for comments about providing cycling infrastructure in rural Ontario and especially in areas like Perth with Canadian Shield outcrops - dream on. Population densities are way too low and agricultural income (ultimately the main source of tax revenue) too marginal to afford it without even considering the harder geology. They can barely maintain the roads they have and many townships are seriously considering converting some less-used paved roads back into unpaved roads to save money.

I suggest looking on Google Earth at Perth from an altitude of say 10 km and then doing the same anywhere in the Netherlands at the same altitude. The population just isn't there to support significant infrastructure of any kind in rural Canada.

nathan_h said...

"A similar waiver may not be required for drivers because the infrastructure for drivers IS safe."

Except it's not at all. Maybe some Ontario bureaucrat had a guilty conscience for helping making cycling more dangerous than it should be, by neglecting separate infrastructure and eagerly accommodating speeding automobiles. But, despite the billions lavished on auto infrastructure it is not particularly safe to use with any vehicle. If a rational estimation of risk were behind this disclaimer, all road maps would carry one.

But only cyclists are to be bothered with such nagging and expensive lawyering. Not because of any actual difference in risk per trip, but because these people simply think of cyclists as Different.

spiderleggreen said...

I'm with the folks who think the lawyering is due to the fact that you don't want to put much trust in the safety of their chosen routes. That hold true, here in Mpls. They count all sorts of roads as bikeways, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Anonymous said...

wow I can't believe Perth is featured on Copenhagenize. Who the hell wears those kinds of outfits in Perth? The whole thing is ridiculous.

Take back our city said...

Why the insults to club riders??? Lots of people dress like that ...

here is a similar area in Quebec...