The other day as I was riding along Northwest Marine Drive, a car suddenly pulled out and made a left from a parking lot along Spanish Banks despite the fact that he saw me approaching quickly and was literally only meters away from his car. I swore at him and experienced a moment of anger due to shock then realized that the driver probably made a stupid last minute decision— I saw him hesitate for a split second on whether he should turn and he did. We all make rash decisions. The driver was most likely not a cyclist and underestimated the speeds at which bikes could travel.
The new few kilometers, I started reflecting about how cycling has made me a better driver and pedestrian.
If only everyone would spend a few weeks riding and commuting by bike, I think our roads would be a much safer place.
I’ve lost count of how many times a car would suddenly turn right or stop without signaling (ahem such as this morning when I almost crashed into one and my rear wheel totally skidded but I somehow managed to stay on my bike…) or pass too close because they were impatient or angry. Pedestrians are sometimes worse as I’ve seen many walk into bike lanes and roads without checking for traffic (while looking down at their phones). That is one of the reasons why I feel safer cycling on the road at Stanley Park instead of the Sea Wall. At least most drivers are aware that they are driving a 4000lb weapon so they practice more caution while pedestrians happily prance around in headphones and not paying attention to their surroundings— maybe because they don’t know better. Those ways have always been ingrained into our society so I guess they are not entirely at fault.
As a cyclist, those are things I experience very frequently. As a cyclist, pedestrian and driver, I make a stronger effort to make safer decisions, and am absolutely aware of the magnitude of those decisions and it’s effect on those in my vicinity.
When I’m on my bike, I’m courteous to drivers and signal for them pass if it’s safe to do so when I know I’m holding up traffic (hello, rolling hills and dying legs). I hate it when cyclists take up an entire lane when it’s wide enough for everyone and they are clearly not in any danger. I thank both drivers and pedestrians when they let me have the right of way. I slow down and use my voice to let pedestrians know I’m approaching (and avoid riding the Sea Wall whenever possible), yet I still get yelled a by ladies walking their dogs because I don’t have a “bell” on my bike. It’s not like I was screaming at them— I know my manners and always say please and thanks. I don’t run red lights (my #1 pet peeve that I see other cyclists do). I use bike lanes whenever possible. I never weave in and out of traffic like an asshole. And I fucking wear a helmet because I love being alive too much.
When I’m driving, I signal even it is it 4am on a small, empty neighborhood road. I never forget to shoulder-check and always slow down for cyclists because they are my people. When I’m a pedestrian, I still shoulder-check and look both ways. I walk on the right so people may pass me on the left. I never cross a street while looking down at my phone (because I get annoyed when I see others doing that). I don’t blast my music so I can still hear the world around me.
Non-cyclists tell me all the time how they hate the bike lanes downtown or cyclists riding on the roads and I’ll be thinking: why don’t you ride a mile in our shoes? Literally. If you have never been on a bike on the road, you shouldn’t be forming opinions. And honestly, I’ve seen some of these people do stupid things while driving their vehicles. Is there a little double-standard there?
Some ride bikes for fun, others do it for a healthier and greener lifestyle, while some have no choice at all.
Next time you rant about having to pass “those annoying cyclists” on the road because you are afraid of hitting them, think about what it would be like to be in their situation and how they must feel on their bike while you are sitting in your car. Bike lanes are common but sometimes we need to hop on a busy road for whatever reason. Next time you get angry at a cyclist for riding too slow or taking up an entire lane on the road and causing your commute to be a couple of minutes longer, ride a bike for a few weeks and see how you feel. Sometimes we have to do this on narrow roads for our own safety
There are bad apples out there and I get annoyed at some of the actions of the cyclists I encounter but most have good intentions. Don’t get me wrong, I still make stupid decisions here and there while cycling, driving and/or being a pedestrian but the fact that I have experienced and seen so much of it while out and being so vulnerable on my bike, I know it’s my responsibility to respect my surroundings and in turn, hopefully I’ll gain a little respect back as a cyclist. We all know that when one cyclist does something wrong, we all get blamed because we are a minority but hopefully one day, all these small actions will add up and make a make a change… a tiny change but at least a change.