This article aggravated me even before I started writing it and I’ve hesitated writing it because I didn’t want it to be a “Mark’s on his soapbox” article. We try to keep the site as non-political and as informational as possible. So here goes.
I had just removed the trainer tire off my road bike and completed my pre-season maintenance, helmet was on and i hit the road. Not two blocks into the ride- in a bike lane going down a hill- a minivan pulls from a side street and we have a “near-miss”.
The driver says he didn’t see me to which I reply “Well yes, because I watched you look right as you kept rolling through the stop sign and continue your left hand turn, had i been driving a car I could have t-boned your van. To sum it up, you weren't even looking out for me.” He then tried to explain how it was my fault for not watching for him and the argument ended with a quick drivers ed refresher and a stern talking to from me.
There has been an ongoing “war” in Toronto between cyclists and cars for years, just google “cyclists vs cars toronto” and you’ll have plenty of reading material. Both groups are right and both are wrong on the matter. There are jerk cyclists out there and there are jerk drivers, the one constant in every story is one of them is at least 2500 lbs heavier than the other, so whoever is “in the right” may not always be the winner of the battle. Here’s some fun statements I’ve read:
“Roads are for cars, Cyclists should ride on the sidewalk.”
Nope, anything with wheels over 24” can’t be on the sidewalk (keep riding on the sidewalk kids!). Cyclists belong on the road and in Ontario should stay in the right lane and as close to the curb as “practical” (per the highway traffic act). Cyclists can take the whole right lane whenever they want, and do when there’s an oncoming hazard or when trying to get over to the left turn lane.
As a driver I can not recall a single time yielding to a cyclist causing any impact on my schedule or my day. Also as a driver I cannot imagine how I would ever live with myself if I took out a cyclist.
“Drivers are too distracted”
True, and it’s illegal to drive and text. I also see a lot of distracted cyclists- riding with headphones in or on the cellphone. If you must ride with headphones, keep one ear unplugged so you can hear your environment. Archer preaches situational awareness for a reason.
“Drivers don’t signal in the city”
A lot of drivers don't, and no one is a mind reader, so cyclists- here's a refresher on hand signals.
Left turn: Left arm stretched out straight
Right turn: left arm out bent at elbow with palm up- like you’re waving (don’t wave though) or, right arm straight out
Stop: left arm out, bent at elbow, palm down
A large cause of bike/car collisions in the city is due to attempting to occupy the same space (physics says nay) so be mindful of your blind spots and remember that most drivers can’t hear that little bell you ding. Drivers- please double check before you or your passenger open your door, no one wants the door prize.
“Cars don’t respect bike lanes”
I could agree with this for sure. The data also backs it up, from 2008-2012 (5 yr average) there were 0.7 collisions per kilometer of bike lane in the city of Toronto’s 215 km of lane. For the record, a solid line dictates a bike lane, a dotted line is a shared lane.
“Cyclists are rude on the shared trails”
The shared trails are found throughout Toronto and are two way paved paths for pedestrians and cyclists.With such a wide variety of users there is bound to be conflict if you’re not paying attention or not following the guidelines. Some of the more important rules and considerations to follow are:
Yield to oncoming users when passing
20km max for cyclists
Call out your intentions on the bike ie “passing on your left” etc
Keep your dog on a leash and pick up after it (this is a big one I’ve seen on the trail. I’ve also rode myself off the path to avoid a darting dog)
Overall I have found riding in the city to be quite an enjoyable experience and a great way to commute. The city has some great cycling (head to Centre Island this summer) and trail infrastructure with more improvements on the way. If you’re a new rider in the city, be sure to take your time and be a defensive rider. Also, be sure to carry a toolkit and at minimum a pump and spare tire. Most cyclists will stop to help if you’ve had a breakdown but won’t be willing to give you a tube.
Stay safe out there.
Really handy links I’ve found:
Getting the bike season ready:
Hand signals for cyclists
Pedestrian and Cycling safety
Toronto Cycling Infrastructure, laws and Maps
Quick Escapes is aiming to complete a 52 week photo project in 2018. A picture a week...that sounds easy enough. Well I'll tell you from experience...it's tougher than you think.
This is week 16 of 52