I am a cyclist. As the weather warms and cycling season approaches, I find myself considering the open animosity with which some of you regard me. I hope that most of this animosity stems from a lack of understanding. So maybe if I can help you to understand me a bit better, you won’t hate me so much.
First of all, please stop telling me to “get off the road”. I cannot over-emphasize the fact that bicycles DO NOT belong on the sidewalk. The sidewalk is for pedestrians. It is in fact illegal for anyone other than a small child to ride a bike on the sidewalk. Cyclists who ride on the sidewalk are breaking the law and endangering the safety of pedestrians and themselves. Bicycles are classified as vehicles under the Motor Vehicle Act, and as such belong on the road.
My bike is not a toy. It is my primary means of transportation. I am not riding my bike on the street because I enjoy annoying you, thwarting you, or getting in your way. I am just trying to do the same thing you are trying to do: get from point A to point B.
While my bike cannot go as fast as your car, in rush hour traffic I can usually keep up with you or even overtake you. Sometimes I overtake you repeatedly. I am not doing this to be a smartass. Once again, I am just trying to get to my destination. My vehicle is smaller and more maneuverable than yours. It’s not personal.
Please get over the idea that I am committing some unforgivable effrontery by being in front of you at an intersection. If I am making a left turn, I need to be in the left hand lane. Unless I am heading uphill, I am capable of accelerating almost as quickly as a car. I do not take any longer to turn left than an SUV. If I am going straight through an intersection, I will position myself in the centre of the lane. I do this so that a vehicle will not pull up beside me and turn right into my path and run me over. If you are behind me and you want to make a right turn, you will have to wait for the light to change, just as you would if I was driving a car.
You are wasting your breath when you roll down your window and shout at me. Your vehicle is noisy, as are all the other vehicles around us. Unless we are stopped side by side at an intersection, I can’t hear you.
I have a better view of the gutter than you do. If I am not riding as far to the right as you think I should be, it is because there is something dangerous in my path. There is also an area which cyclists call the “door zone”. It extends about three feet to the left of a row of parked vehicles, and it is one of the most dangerous places for a cyclist to be. Smart cyclists ride far enough into the lane to be clear of the door zone. You can help alleviate this danger, and prevent damage to your vehicle, by always checking for oncoming cyclists before flinging open your door.
I am going faster than you think I am. A fit cyclist is quite capable of traveling 50 km/h on a flat road. If you wouldn’t make a left turn into the path of an oncoming car, you shouldn’t make one into my path either.
Occasionally, a situation arises where I am obstructing your passage. Maybe we are going up a hill and I can’t go as fast as you want to go, and there is no way for you to pass me safely. These situations are uncommon and only last for a few seconds. If you were to tally up every second you lose in a day because of cyclists, even at the height of the cycling season, I assure you it would be less than five minutes. I realize you don’t know me, but is my life so worthless to you that you would endanger it to save yourself five minutes?
And finally, there are bad cyclists: people who ride on the sidewalk, coast through stop signs, weave through traffic, don’t signal, and commit a multitude of other sins. These people make all cyclists look bad, but they are a small minority. Most of us are well aware that the most likely outcome of bad cycling is a dead cyclist.