I’ve finally started riding my bicycle to work. It doesn’t happen every day. I’m definitely a fair-weather cyclist. And I’m still nervous. But I am cycling and I am loving it.
At least I love it when I’m not fending off angry, entitled motorists. In the first week alone, two ugly shouting matches with drivers marred my commute. The guy in the red BMW who yelled at me as I waited in the middle of the lane to go straight through the intersection of Hallam Street and Ossington, for instance, insisted I should be over by the curb so he could turn right.
“I’m a cyclist, too, and you are in the wrong,” he bellowed when I refused to move.
Actually, I was right, according to the bicycle cops. While slower vehicles are generally obliged to keep to the side of the road, we are entitled to any part of the lane when it is necessary for safety. And as the police officers noted, safety is an issue at intersections where cyclists want to proceed straight ahead and motorists want to turn right.
If there’s ever to be a truce in this war, both drivers and cyclists need to be better educated about this particular scenario and the many others that spark confrontations.
Yvonne Bambrick of the Toronto Cyclists Union has lots of ideas about how this could be achieved. Her organization is gearing up to lobby the provincial government for a rewrite of the Ontario Driver’s Handbook — one that would expand upon the rules of the road pertaining to cyclists and motorists.
“It’s a chance to educate people who might want to cycle and a chance to better educate drivers,” she notes.
Municipally, Bambrick points out that Toronto’s decade-long $70-million bike plan virtually ignores road-sharing education. “I’m particularly fond of bus shelter ads,” she says, observing they are visible to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
“And how about some public service announcements and commercials? It’s not rocket science. We know how to advertise things, we know how to affect public opinion. Yet none of that has been applied to road sharing.”
Critics will argue that such campaigns are costly. But patching up the 1,000 or so cyclists who are injured each year is expensive in terms of both dollars and cents and human suffering.
Under the circumstances, surely even a little education would be a good thing.