Cycling the hard road

The accident last week that killed a Toronto bicycle courier and put former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant’s career and reputation on the line has unleashed a firestorm of opinions about cyclists and motorists in Ontario.

I don’t want to talk about that event specifically; more about the relationship between these two groups in general.

As a student in Kingston I can’t afford a car, so I bike everywhere—weather permitting. However, I also have a driver’s license and use a car frequently when I’m home in Toronto.

I’ve seen all kinds of crazy things while doing both.

I’ve seen cyclists cut off cars, cars cut off cyclists, pedestrians fail to look for cyclists when crossing the street, car doors open leaving cyclists having to swerve to avoid them and countless cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road.

The underlying cause of all this is a lack of education and common sense.

A bicycle is a vehicle and a cyclist must obey all the rules of the road. This includes stopping at red lights and stop signs, signalling and using the proper side of the street.

Also, sidewalks are for pedestrians. Anyone riding their bike on a sidewalk is endangering those who walk on it.

I’ve often heard it’s dangerous to ride a bike on the road where there isn’t a bike lane. However, most people don’t know that any cyclist reserves the right to a lane of traffic if there isn’t room to ride safely next to passing motor vehicles.

Bike lanes are still very important and more cities are beginning to rethink their roads to include them.

Cities like Montreal, Vancouver and Portland, Oregon have developed thoroughfares, lanes and bridges dedicated to bike traffic.

Bike lanes can also provide a valuable margin between motor traffic and the sidewalk, making pedestrians feel safer.

Being a smaller vehicle on the road means you need to make yourself seen. Buy a brightly coloured bike and buy some lights if you feel they are necessary. Bike shops in Kingston (of which there are at least four downtown) have options ranging from sub-$20 LED lights to bright headlights.

Despite all this, the cars are truly the rulers of the road.

Motorists need to acknowledge cyclists’ place on the street and be courteous.

This includes giving them enough room, changing lanes if possible and watching for cyclists when making a right turn or parallel parking.

If everyone on the streets used a bit more common sense and did some reading about bike laws in their area, cyclists and drivers would have a more pleasant relationship.

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