Is there really a war between cyclists and drivers in Toronto?

Elizabeth Renzetti makes some good points in her article in today’s Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/are-drivers-justified-in-their-irritation-maybe-they-should-just-think-like-cyclists/article19578005/). Although I disagree with her assertion that there is some kind of war between cyclists and drivers in Toronto, she offers good advice to both:

I have no idea how to calm the discord between cyclists and drivers. You can’t throw buckets of water on them, like you would with snarling cats. I can only say what works for me: When I ride, I think like a driver. I watch parked cars, thinking “Do I sometimes open my door distractedly because my mind is in four thousand unrelated places?” When I’m driving, I think like a cyclist: “Have I ever snuck up along the curb in order to grab a few seconds’ lead when the light changes, hoping I can outrace this car turning right?”

I think it’s good practice to think like each other but that only works if you actually do both. The vast majority of people in Canada and the US don’t ride a bike (one or two per cent according to Renzetti).

Her solution, of course, if for North America to emulate Northern Europe and to increase bicycle use to 30 per cent. All North American lefties love Northern Europe – it’s their utopia. The Swedes, The Danes and The Dutch can do no wrong. My wife and in-laws are Danish so I’m not prejudiced but haven’t we learned yet that North America is vastly different than Northern Europe and we can’t expect to do things the same way. European cities are more compact; the weather generally is much milder making it easier to ride longer throughout the year; there is a tradition if cycling in Europe that we don’t have in NA. We should stop comparing ourselves to them and do things our way.

As an aside, my father-in-law told me the story of his nephew, an avid cyclist, who came to the US from Denmark to complete a five-week ride from Montana to Texas. He had done some similar rides in Europe – Denmark to Italy for instance – but he was not prepared for the variations and extremes in weather and the distances between civilized outposts. He lasted five days.

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Anyway, in my opinion, there is no war on cyclists in Toronto that I am aware of. I generally have no trouble riding in this city.

But Renzetti continues:

The war has heated up as summer arrives, and cyclists shake off their winter wariness. Just this week, a Washington Post columnist, Courtland Milloy, wrote an anti-bike rant suggesting it might be okay to run down pesky riders: “It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers might think it’s worth paying the fine.” (Cyclists descended in indignant protest outside the newspaper’s office.)

I’ve heard similar grumblings from drivers: Cyclists are sanctimonious risk-takers who don’t obey the rules of the road, who run stop signs and don’t put lights on their bikes. (These same drivers have never rolled through a stop sign or checked a text message while driving, of course.)

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My advice to cyclists in Toronto: be mindful of the fact that you represent only two per cent of commuters. Stop acting entitled. Obey the rules. Don’t get into arguments with drivers – it’s never worth it. The onus is on you to be alert and to be skilled. And for pity’s sake, drive a car once in awhile.

I admit I am an aggressive rider – I take my lane, I pass cars on the left frequently, I run stop signs when no one is around, I jump lights to get ahead of vehicles and to own my lane. But I’m also courteous to drivers – I ride straight, no bobbing and lolly gagging. I ride fast to keep up with traffic. I move to the right to let vehicles pass when I’m slower then they are. I use lights and wear reflective clothing at night. I signal my intentions. I very rarely get into arguments with drivers and tend to wave off minor indiscretions (but I won’t hesitate to enlighten an ignorant driver about my rights – I just keep it civil).

What do you think? Is there a war with cyclists? Certainly not with the conservative cyclist.

 

 

 

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