A Guide to Harmonious Coexistence
Mercy. When I sat down to write Glenn’s story, I certainly did not expect it to make the evening news. More importantly, when Glenn agreed to let me show a picture of his butt on my little blog, I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect it to make the evening news either.
But make the evening news it did. While I hesitate to say the story has gone “viral” (because viruses are bad), it certainly did get a lot of attention (which is good), resulting in a small mountain of reader comments. Most were positive, offering well-wishes for Glenn, or calling for tolerance and patience from people whether on two wheels or four. There were some, however, that leaned pretty heavily in one direction or another. Like those who feel all drivers are rage-riddled crazies intent on killing us off one-by-one. Or those who suggested that cyclists who get the short end of the stick in a collision with a vehicle are merely paying the price of admission for being in traffic in the first place – an argument that bears an eerie similarity to one that suggests what a provocatively dressed woman has coming to her. I try my best to see both sides, but that shit’s just messed up.
Considering all the good, constructive comments that came in, I figured it was my duty to use them for good, and share some tips for us drivers and cyclists to consider as we attempt to navigate the roads of our fair city without killing each other.
If you are a regular here, you’ll know I love me some lists. I am also very lazy, and finding appropriate pictures for this list seemed a bit too much like work. But in an attempt to keep this from turning into a shitstorm of negativity, I decided to add some random inspirational images to keep things upbeat and positive.
Like this one:See? Don’t you feel more positive and upbeat?
Tips for Cyclists
Many of these suggestions came directly from a reader and long-time commuter named Andrew. Like Andrew, many commuters and career cyclists like Glenn have a very low tolerance for cyclists that break the rules and ride like douchebags. Unfortunately, douchebag behaviour is difficult or impossible to change – so this is for the rest of us who just need a little reminder of proper traffic safety and etiquette.
1. Obey traffic signals. Don’t run red lights and stop signs. It just pisses everybody off.
2. You have the right to a lane, but don’t be a jerk about it. If you don’t need to turn left or establish your position, keep right, and ride straight and predictably.3. Keep your distance. You don’t like it when cars get too cozy, so offer the same courtesy. Unless you’re in a bike lane, don’t squeeze between cars and the curb when stopped at a red light.
4. Don’t make a motorist pass you twice. Many cars will move over or even change lanes to get around you, but don’t abuse that courtesy by passing them at the next red light. The next time they pass you, they’re going to be mad at you. You don’t want that.5. Stay off the sidewalk. You think it’s safer, but riding on the sidewalk can be surprisingly dangerous. You are a fast moving vehicle, and neither pedestrians nor cars expect those on the sidewalk. If a sidewalk really is your safest option, go slow – or better yet, dismount. Oh, and don’t be outraged if you get a ticket. It is the law, and you always have the option of walking your bike.
6. Choose your route carefully. If you’re making a lifestyle change, you may end up riding that route thousands of times over the next few years. Statistically, you are more likely to be hurt on some roads than others, so choose a safer route, even if its a bit longer. Most Extreme Elimination Challenge is fun to watch – not so fun to play on the way to work everyday.
7. Assume Nothing. Unless you KNOW a driver sees you at an intersection (think lingering eye contact across a crowded bar), assume they don’t. They may be checking out your hot friend across the room and not see you at all. Not that that has ever happened to me, and certainly not with the super hot identical twins I hung out with in high school. Nope.
8. FOCUS. You are a vehicle in traffic. Don’t wear headphones, screw around with your phone, or show everyone how you can ride with no hands. Pay attention, and ride assuming that the motorist will make a mistake.9. Signal your turns. Seriously, if you’re arm is broken maybe you should walk.
10. Relax and be patient. If a driver makes a little, non-life threatening mistake, keep your cool. Freaking out on a little old lady because she accidentally cut you off doesn’t help anybody. You’re riding your bike – make it last.
Tips for Drivers
1. Give (at least) one meter. You wouldn’t speed just inches past a concrete pillar, would you? Give cyclists one meter between them and your vehicle. If, like me, you are afflicted by a complete lack of depth perception and a barely passable knowledge of the metric system, just give them the whole lane and move on.
2. Check your rearview mirror before you open your door in a parking lane. Cyclists should leave at least a door’s width between them and parked cars, but many don’t so why take a chance? Trust me, it only looks funny in the comics.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, use your car as a weapon. Swerving into a cyclist with your vehicle, or cutting them off and slamming on the brakes, is no different than taking a swing at them with a two thousand pound bat.
4. Just drive. Put down the cell phone, Sudoku or lipstick. I promise you will still be popular, smart and gorgeous when you get to where you’re going. Right now, you should probably pay attention to the road.
5. Don’t drive in a shopping mall. This is no more illegal than cyclists riding on sidewalks, and I’m trying to make this a balanced list.
6. Watch for bikes. They are smallish and hard to see, but they are there and will pop out when you least expect them. If you pass one then want to make a right turn, the laws of physics dictate that the cyclist will reappear just as you instigate your turn. Always do a quick mirror check to be safe.
7. Don’t blast them with your horn. Whether to show displeasure or solidarity, it is ridiculously loud and startling. If you’ve ever let a 2 year-old sit in the driver’s seat while you washed the car, you know exactly what I mean.8. Be patient. Although most cyclists drive, most drivers do not cycle, so it’s hard sometimes to empathize. Sure, it’s frustrating to be stuck behind something that is slow and in your way, but I promise you will get where you need to go, even with the small delay.
9. Try not to stereotype. When you see some dipshit zigzagging through traffic with a 24 of beer in one hand and a stack of 2x4s in the other, don’t assume all cyclists are like that. We come from all walks of life, and believe me, the serious commuters out there want nothing to do with the dipshits. By the way, this rule applies to you cyclists out there too.
10. Ride your bike sometimes. It’s economical, fun, good for your health and the environment. And it will give you a really nice ass.This is by no means a comprehensive list, but a few things you can do in traffic instead of looking at pictures of your cat on Facebook like the idiot who hit Glenn. Most of all, everyone on the road – cyclists, drivers, and yes, even pedestrians – is guilty of doing stupid and illegal things sometimes. I challenge you to find one driver who has never gone over a posted speed limit. Or a cyclists who hasn’t rolled through a stop sign. Or a pedestrian who hasn’t crossed the street against a light. So don’t throw stones people. Instead, practice tolerance, patience and courtesy toward each other, and we’ll all be much safer and happier as a result.
I drive and bike and have observed traffic for 35 years. If I were to sit in the passenger seat of a car, crossing any city in North America with two stop watches; one tracking how long the car is held up by bicycles and the other, how long held up by other motor vehicles, I would be looking at a few seconds on the first watch and many minutes on the other.
According to another local blog I somewhat follow, prevention of accidents can be stopped, though it’s apparently an age-old issue. It’s suggested that accident prevention is simply up to parents, teachers, and “the Company”…that and accidents only happen to boys.
Maybe today’s stakeholders are much the same if by “teachers” you mean those who know the do’s and don’ts like Greg, and by “the Company” you mean motorists. Parents should set good examples, whether on 2 wheels or driving 4.
Right you are Dave! A very good and accurate observation.
I wish I’d known accidents only happen to boys. Could have saves myself a LOT of trouble (and skin). Great find KK, and you’re right – education and example are two critical pieces of the puzzle. Education campaigns take time and money – thankfully, setting a good example is free and we can do it every day.
I just hope my boys don’t follow my example through mtb trails.
Well said Andrea. And now if I may… I would like to add my two cents…
I act like a car should when I ride my bike… except through the bush (deers and critters scurry away). Always signalling and stopping at lights and stop signs. I feel like the oddity when I ride and I think I surprise most drivers when I too obey the rules of the road. That doesn’t say much about the cyclists around town here.
Now regarding Tip #7 for Cyclists, I find that if you try to look the stopped driver in the eyes as you approach them at an intersection, they will notice you. Of course, you only do this because you have the right of way, and not while trying to run the red-light.
Tip #8 for cyclists reminds me about pedestrians who walk on the shared pathways. So …. Tip#1 for pedestrians… I use to be told to get a bell when approaching and passing some irate bicycle hater. So I did. Now I ring my bell 50 or more feet back, several times and find that the person walking ahead with their back to me has their ear-buds blasting tunes into their gourd. Needless to say they haven’t moved to one side or the other by the time I pass them and that scares the bejeezus out them. So leave the Ipods off while ambulating so you can hear the bell you asked me to get!!.
Tip#9 for cyclists…. I love it! True but funny!
Tip#10 for cyclist… little old ladies are just too sweet to yell at, except when they push their way in front of you at the cash!!
Tip#8 for drivers… a lot of drivers just have to be ahead of you no matter what you drive or ride. Especially while driving I find that an impatient driver will do everything possible to get out from behind you only to end up being stuck ahead of you at the next light or jam. And then to top it all off, they have parked in the same lot only several seconds ahead of you but you both ride up the same elevator together. Such a LOOSER!! Slow down everyone… you put us all at risk to save a few seconds and those few seconds you save could rob someone of any more seconds of life.
Tip#10 for drivers… it’s true… cycling gives you a nice ass!! Just ask my tailor and my Mrs.
Great comments Drew, thanks! I just saw another commuter on my way home last night at the corner of Wellington and Academy near the bridge. He rode up the sidewalk, right into traffic to make a turn like he had some sort of death wish. I cringed both inside and out. It was like being out with a friend who’s acting like an ass and you feel embarrassed and guilty by association.
Hopefully we can lead by example!
Amen sister Andrea Amen. Respect the other guy and be responsible. It’s simple isn’t it.
Perfectly simple Brother Phil. : )
I feel so positive and upbeat, must be the pictures. Great job.
Interesting that no one has referenced the truck drivers who rev their engines at red lights just to give you (the person on the bike) a heads up that you will be choking on their exhaust as they cut you off with their steel balls hanging from the hitch mount. I agree that we should be considerate and understanding even to those vertically challenged men with ED. They have no other way to feel good about themselves.
But like you said” douchebag behaviour is difficult or impossible to change” it’s just too bad there are so many of them.
However, I wont let that stop me from doing my best to improve as a driver and cyclist and set a better example.
Thanks Andrea for the wake-up call for everyone.
Thanks Vanessa! Good point about the exhaust – it’s awful isn’t it? Worse than second hand smoke, I can feel my lungs getting blacker. Love the comment about the steel balls!! I almost died the first time I saw a pair. Sadly, I’m pretty sure the guys with balls on their trucks don’t read Winnipeg CycleChick. ; )
Tip for Cyclists #3 is just wrong. That is the advantage of bike over car. Live with it. Same for #4. Some Cities have special zones for cyclists at traffic intersections so they can be ahead of vehicles.
I have drivers apologize to me on a weekly basis for almost killing me. Those people don’t bother me it is the ones that don’t even notice or pretend not to notice that piss me off.
I had a close call in that exact spot at Wellington and Academy or is it still Maryland and I admit I was riding like a douche. Turned off sidewalk and crossed Maryland with green light and a car was making a fast turn off River onto Marlyand and crossed into middle lane right away. I won’t try that again. First and last time. I actually prefer to cross there waiting for light as a pedestrian with a bike. So on the sidewalk with my bike.
Sadly, Ed, the advice from tips #3 and #4 is not only sound from a courtesy and safety standpoint, it’s also the law. The HTA forbids passing on the right unless the vehicle being passed is indicating or making a left turn or if there are other free moving lanes in the same direction.
Is it fair that motorists are allowed to pass a cyclist while in the same lane of traffic while the cyclist isn’t allowed to return the favour? Not really, but squeezing alongside a row of cars is irritating and dangerous. Without signals, (I’m assuming most cars don’t come with signals these days, based on what I see on Winnipeg roads) who’s to say one of those cars isn’t going to make an abrupt right hand turn while you’re exercising your “advantage of bike over car”.
I won’t even mention your choice of riding on the sidewalk. Oops.
Traffic is primal. And drivers can smell fear and weakness, just like bees. My personal survival strategy after years on motorcycles and then bicycles is based on a mixture of mutual respect and aggression. Always obeying traffic laws but not apologizing for being there, which sometimes means fighting for your spot. And I always assume I’m invisible.
And I do love me some ABBA.
I still don’t see the danger in creeping along the curb at a red light when cars are stationary. Everything else I agree with. You have to assume you are invisible to cars. Cause it turns out sometimes you are. I thought yesterday a lady was doing a common U turn on Portage right in front of me and too my horror I realized she was going to drive right into me because she was turning onto a side street instead of U turn. I slowed down enough for her to miss me. She saw me at last second as she went by said sorry.
When HTA was created I am sure it was meant for other 4 wheeled vehicles. Or even motorized vehicles.
It’s all outlined pretty clearly — some parts for motor vehicles, some for bikes, some for both. The problem with knowingly breaking the rules or *ahem* being completely ignorant of them is that it makes it difficult to get the respect of motorized road users. I think this is particularly true of the situation we’re describing here.
from some comments it’s obvious this car/cyclist contraversy is never going to end. Just 1 point, #4 passing cars at red lights. You wanna pass a car, do it while it moving, fair is fair, passing on a cars right while it has to stop is not too fair. Nothing pisses cars off even more. I have had it done to me on my bike by cyclists going thru red lights. Like I want to follow their fat ass again until it’s safe to pass once I catch up to them 2 minutes after the light turns green !
I almost never have issues with cars, and all I have to do is respevt them. I admit I expect the same in return, and while not every car meets my expectations, I focus on the ones that do, n0t the few bad apples that don’t.
Genius to put kitten, Big Lebowski, rainbows and Gumby all in one harmonious bike tip post!
DOUBLE rainbow. And ABBA!!! Don’t forget ABBA!
I had a baffling close call with a car a few days ago. I stopped at stop sign, and they almost plowed into me from behind. From what I could gather from the irate ranting they spewed out of their window at me, cyclists are apparently expected to run all stop signs. o_O
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