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A plea for a cyclist-driver entente

October 1st, 2008 · 9 Comments

I know I’m just asking to be flamed by posting this but I’m going to go ahead anyway and ask if it’s possible for the cyclists in town to not treat car drivers as though they are evil incarnate.

I’m a nice person (except when I’m tired and overworked, but we won’t get into that). I like the idea of more people cycling in this city. I try to watch out for cyclists when I’m driving, letting them go first at the roundabouts, giving them lots of room, trying to be careful about opening my car door, not roaring past them on a narrow street. Many of my friends ride a lot; some have been in terrible accidents, which has made me aware of how vulnerable they are.

But it seems as though about once every two weeks, some cyclist yells at me for my presumed sins. I didn’t see them coming at 40 kilometres towards the intersection and I started moving ahead. I didn’t check before opening my car door, for the first time in weeks, because I came home exhausted and was just focused on getting into the house.  I was on my cellphone while driving. (Oh, please, not the lethal injection!!)

The strange thing about it is, they yell at me even though they are doing just as many dumb things as I am.

One couple who screamed at me hysterically for not giving way to them in an intersection didn’t seem to be aware that, since they were coming from my left, they actually didn’t have the right of way. They’re right. I wasn’t paying attention to them. That’s because I was, in fact, focusing on the car that was coming into the intersection on my right.

I live on a bike route that’s at the bottom of a small slope, so we get a lot of bikes going past at an incredible speed. Not only do they go really fast (I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that I am going to find my beloved cat’s mangled body on the street someday) but a surprisingly high number of them go that speed at night, without lights. Occasionally, they are also on cellphones. When I almost got hit by a man one night, because I was crossing the street in front of my house and didn’t hear him coming along in the dark, he yelled at ME because I suggested that he get some lights.

If there is going to be more cyclist commuting in this city, I hope that cyclists can get past the idea that the mere fact of being on a bicycle means that they are virtuous and don’t have to live by normal traffic rules. It would also be great if they could adjust to the idea that no driver is perfect all the time and that it’s not a bad idea to take some precautions — watch the road ahead and give a honk or a wide berth if you see someone pulling into a parking place on a residential street. Oh, and some lights would be nice too.

And I promise to go even slower and to try to rig up some gizmo in my car that will sound a buzzer when I start to open the car door to remind me to check behind. It’s a deal

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