Weekly Column: Rules Are There For A Reason

By | August 28, 2018

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops on August 27, 2018. 

The Falls View Trail in Peterson Creek has a new and shiny sign post at the trail start letting cyclists know the route is not suitable for bikes due to sharp turns hence reduced visibility, narrow pathways, etc. I’d add risk of erosion to that list, which is something I mentioned in a prior column. I’ve seen bikes on that trail before but thought this new sign will be a better argument for why they should use other trails.

Not quite. The tire tracks are visible and, to be honest, a let down. For the city employees putting up the sign it’s frustrating. They said so. I am sure the same is likely being said by all the cyclists who choose to obey the sign. A few can indeed ruin it for everyone. I’ve heard it before from people who love the park and would like to enjoy it for years to come without the fear of seeing trails closed because of those who disregard the rules.

The same can be said about the made-up trails recently blocked by the city. The ones that are most treacherous have clear signs advising of the closure. Others are simply blocked to stop erosion or protect sensitive plant habitat, but there could be no mistake about the message: do not use this trail. Yet some still do.

On a smoky day last week while out on a short dog walk through the park, I met the three city parks employees I often see doing work in Peterson Creek Park. I told them how much I appreciate the work they did. Some jobs are bigger than others, but all noticeable and making the park look much better. They smiled. I also asked how the closures and new signs work. They seem to work for some people and they don’t for others, they said. There are signs that people disregard them, one of them said, which is frustrating. They put work into it and lately they did so in smoky conditions. If nothing else, it’s simply good karma to keep to the trails you’re supposed to be on and not go in the forbidden areas.

Rules are there to be respected, as simple as that.

A more troublesome case of breaking the rules happens time and time again near road construction zones. I have seen it too many times to keep track of it and more often in the last year. People slow down to appease a flashing speed sign, but they pick up the speed right after. I saw the same as I drove past an accident site on the Coquihalla, once the traffic was allowed to resume. Drivers drove by as if down the road there was a prize for speeding. First responder personnel were still removing the debris as cars started flying by them; it looked like an ugly collision too, speed or distraction-caused most likely.

Traffic flaggers and other roadside workers on construction sites along many of our highways and roads are often seeing the frightening side of rule-breaking up close.

Being out in thick wildfire smoke is a health hazard, we all know that. But their job carries the ultimate risk, and that’s because people driving through break the rules. Yes, driving 30km/h through a construction zone after 120km/h otherwise may seem like a drag, but picture yourself standing by the side of the road with someone (or many) driving fast by you. Exactly.

A traffic flagging job should not carry deadly risks but it does. Last November, a traffic flagger was hit by a car in Vernon; it was her birthday. Isabelle Bourroughs died three weeks later from her injuries. To think that the one thing that could have spared her life and other traffic flaggers too, was for approaching drivers to simply slow down. Some people are distracted, others are in a hurry. The thing is, we are all hoping and wanting to make it home to our families alive at the end of a work day; at the end of each work day, that is.

Road construction or road maintenance work-related accidents and fatalities have increased in the last few years. While they are not all caused by speedy drivers, thank goodness for that, a few are and even one is one too many. According to WorkSafeBC, approximately half the roadside workers injured or killed by a vehicle while on the job, are traffic flaggers. It is someone’s mom, dad, son or daughter, who works there. Like the rest of people whose work does not involve deadly risks, they should be guaranteed a safe return to their homes every day after work.

Bottom line is this: our community, and world, are better when we respect the rules, whether they inconvenience us or not. If a rule is absurd, go ahead and challenge it, work to make it more logical and comprehensive or less so, change it for the best, but let’s never disrespect rules simply because we do not like them or we think we’re above the law. In some cases, someone’s life may depend on our abiding by them.

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