Blindness is a protected characteristic under the human rights code – cycling is an activity.
The sighted frequently perceive blindness as one of the most feared conditions. As such you would imagine that the sighted would treat those who are blind with compassion, understanding and empathy. Where this is often true regarding casual personal contact, there is a marked contrast when the visually impaired push back against prejudicial changes. This could not be more evident than when members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind, after exhausting all other avenues, found it necessary to file a human rights case against the City of Victoria over the “floating” bus stops on the bike lanes.
Ending with a three-week court hearing, the City of Victoria spent the last two years unsuccessfully fighting visually impaired citizens. Now the city has the opportunity to either continue discriminating against CFB members or take the high road. Because discrimination was officially proven, “reconciliation” should occur and the duelling put to rest.
Moving traditional bus stops away from the sidewalk places unnecessary risk to all, but especially blind pedestrians. Leaving the “floating” stops in place is an abuse of power and insults the legal process. To avoid further conflict the city should restore bus stops to their traditional place adjacent to the sidewalks and dispense with inaccessible ones. The cyclists can still enjoy the bike lanes on Pandora and Wharf without unnecessarily endangering their fellow travellers.
The city made a mistake that can be simply rectified with relative ease. What has been lacking is the political will and understanding that an old city infrastructure must be altered with compromises, not at the expense of others safety. Riders, like pedestrians, compromise all over the city, and Wharf and Pandora streets with bike lanes can work for everyone.
Hundreds of thousands of public dollars have already been spent on legal fees. Is it not time to direct these resources to properly fixing the problem?