The good news is that bicycles are featured prominently in the 2013 edition of The Official MTO Driver's Handbook.
Check out the cover, where the driver on the left is parked behind a cyclist in a green "bike box" at a signalized intersection.
Wooo, it looks like the bike box at Davenport and Columbia in Waterloo (except for the highrises). Cool.
It's almost as exciting as making the cover of the Rolling Stone.
And the good news doesn't stop there. Page 40 marks the beginning of an eight-page "sharing the road with other road users" section, which includes specifics on pedestrians, cyclists, motorcycles, large commercial vehicles, municipal buses, farm machinery and horse-drawn vehicles, aka Mennonite buggies. (Thanks to Colleen Cooper of the Region of Waterloo Public Health who raised cycling issues and the buggy issue at the stakeholder group meeting last year).
In the 2007 version of the handbook, this overall "sharing the road" section was fewer than five pages, and the information on cyclists took a mere 20 lines.
The revised handbook treats bicycles more seriously, with three pages, 100 lines and five diagrams. The 2007 "best practice" of leaving one metre between a motor vehicle and a bicycle when passing is restated, as is the advice that a bicycle may take "any part of the lane if necessary for safety" (although it would have been more satisfying if the wording had been, "any part of the lane, up to and including the entire lane, if necessary for safety").
But overall, the bicycle section is a significant improvement on the material now distributed to would-be drivers, with explanations and diagrams about how to deal with bike lanes when painted lines are solid or dashed, what to do at intersections, motorist etiquette when overtaking bicycles (don't honk!), the requirement not to allow a motor vehicle to crowd or occupy a bike box, what a sharrow is and what it means, and a few words about children and bicycles.
Bicycles appear in the text elsewhere in the 222-page, $14.95 driver's guide, including references to bicycle signage, how to pass bicycles safely, and watching for bicycles when turning.
That's the good news. This is, after all, the guide to every person in the province of Ontario who is seeking to get a driver's licence. Something in the order of 100,000 new drivers enter Ontario driving schools every year, adding to the eight million motorists already possessing a driver's licence in Ontario. In theory, they have to read and understand the driver's handbook. Surely, reading this book will usher in a new generation of smarter, road-sharing motorists.
And the bad news, well . . . This new "bicycle-friendly" handbook won't be available anywhere anytime soon. I went looking for it, and was told that the old stocks had to be sold out before the new version would be ordered.
And, aside from the cover, the overall book isn't dramatically different from previous iterations. I was pumped to have a larger, more detailed section on sharing the road: Now if we can just get the diagrams on all the other sections to include pedestrians, bicycles, wheelchairs, e-bikes and all the other road users and not just cars. It's a shared road, people.
It seems clear that significant change -- change for example that would put cyclists and motorists on equal footing in the eyes of the Ministry of Transportation officials who shepherd this handbook through its renewal process -- will be incremental.