No one can argue that bicycles are increasingly becoming a major part of the urban landscape. I like bikes: I own two and consider the Tour de France to be one of the greatest athletic events of all time.
But did you know that riding in a pack like they do in the Tour de France is illegal in Canada?
As someone who has been on the receiving end of a careless drivers’ mistake more than once, I have my own take on the relationship between cars and bicycles.
Keep in mind while riding your bike that you are invisible to many drivers. According to a study by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation of Canada, motorists simply do not “see” bicycles in the same way they see cars. Because of their smaller size and different rates of speed, a driver may see a bike but, somehow, the message gets lost along the way to his brain. This is especially true with older and younger drivers, and I have the scars to prove it.
This leads me to my first suggestion for drivers: how about giving cyclists a break here? How about checking twice before you pull out into traffic, turn left, or open your car door? How about waiting for that extra half a second before you make your move?
In a nutshell, re-adjust your thinking. Bikes are here to stay, and there are going to be more of them as time goes by. The consequences of your neglect for riders are severe.
If I had my way, every motorist in the world would have to spend at least a week on a bicycle before getting their driver’s license. Maybe then they’d see how dangerous it is out there.
Now, for you hard-core cyclists, the best thing you can do is lose the freaking attitude. Stop acting so self-righteous by demonizing automobiles and acting like you have the moral high ground. You don’t. Riding a bike doesn’t mean the rules that apply to the rest of us don’t apply to you.
Canada seems to have more than its share of in-your-face, militant cyclists. As far as they’re concerned, automobiles are the source of all evil, and the sooner we get rid of them, the better.
But what about the single mom who has to drop off and pick up her kids at daycare every day, or the senior who relies on a car just to get the necessities of life, or the student who has to commute across town every day, or the tradesman who has to get to the job with a full load of tools and equipment?
In one form or another, cars are also here to stay. Get used to it.
Staging Critical Mass events, giving motorists the finger and blocking main routes of traffic downtown doesn’t help anybody. I ride a bicycle as often as I can, but that doesn’t mean I feel compelled to paint myself silver, wear funny clothes, and block traffic.
Many cities have installed or are installing, multi bicycle lanes, with more to come, and things are better for riders than they used to be. Nonetheless, for a majority of people bicycles are discretionary transport only, mainly enjoyed by young urbanites. In the depths of a Canadian winter, you can count the number of cyclists downtown on one hand, but cars are a constant.
Just look at the numbers. How many people ride bikes and how many drive cars? By all means, build as many bike paths and rights-of-way as you can, but don’t do it at the expense of motorists. As usual, the tail is wagging the dog in Canada, and commuters suffer because of the yapping and whining of a small group of zealots.
Which leads me to my final observation, and this is for all those “urban planners” out there. A car is a necessity, not a luxury or an unnecessary evil. Most people can’t get by without their cars and continually hassling motorists with punitive traffic fines, higher taxes, escalating gas prices, heightened law enforcement, and convoluted city planning just makes things worse.
Right now, motorists are the most consistently persecuted group of people in Canada.
That needs to change.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).