Community Soapbox: Observations from the Bike Lane

Bike Lane, Kingston, OntarioI’ve been riding my bike here in Kingston for a few years now. After 10s of thousands of miles commuting on two wheels under my own power, I have noticed a few things about drivers. Things that they themselves probably not realize.

So here as a public service, four recommendations from me to you, to enhance your commuting experience:

  1. Your horn is malfunctioning. For some reason, it keeps going off whenever you get too close to one of our bikes. It may be some electronic thing. Perhaps it’s set to honk when some huge two wheeled chunk of metal and flesh comes dangerously close. Maybe not. I’d get it check if I was you.
  2. Though driving with your right wheels to the right of the solid white line on the road does protect you from anyone who may inadvertently drift over the centre line, it also means you’re going to subject 1/2 of your car to the same rough road, cavernous potholes, and smashed glass as the cyclist. Our bikes are there to run over this tire-blowing debris before it harms your vehicle. Please let us do our job.
  3. Somewhat related to that: even though there’s a solid line of very bright white paint defining the bike lane, cyclists still feel it doesn’t protect them from the ten foot 2×6 that’s been so carefully jammed through your passenger window and anchored into the backseat of your Prius. In fact, most bike riders have such a tenuous sense of balance, that they’ll probably fall down like a diving NHLer the second your clearly necessary lumber purchase “nudges” them from behind.
  4. If you’re going to roll down your window and yell something at somebody on a bike, do it fast. That ridiculously funny quip you shouted out about the rider’s spandex, skinny white legs, awesome butt, or whatever it was, got lost somewhere between the first and second word as your vehicle is travelling about 3 times as fast as the cyclist. In essence, the cyclist heard something like “hey youf….” and though you probably went to the frighteningly insightful end of that sentence, the poor rider is left wondering if you sneezed, have Tourette Syndrome or just passed your high school equivalency and needed to tell the world. It makes us sad that we don’t get to hear the full impact of your finely honed wit.

I know, I know. Cyclists aren’t even supposed to be on the road. Why should you have all this added extra worry when you’re trying to get to work, drink your coffee and get your emails out of the way before you get in. I get that.  Driving is not easy.

There we are adding all this stress while we whine away about our stupid bike lanes.

We’re a selfish bunch.
Submitted to Kingstonist’s Community Soapbox by: Jim Elyot.

Thanks to Richard Masoner for the accompanying photo.

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12 thoughts on “Community Soapbox: Observations from the Bike Lane

  • I'd rather cyclists take abuse than ride their bikes on the sidewalk. Pedestrians hate cyclists as much as cyclists hate motorists.

    Basically, get off my durn sidewalk you durn kids

    • Cyclists are not 'kids', they are of all ages. And pedestrians don't hate cyclists, nor do cyclists hate motorists – most people who cycle are also pedestrians or motorists at one time or another.

      This attitude really doesn't help.

      What would help is if more Canadians cycled… in countries like the Netherlands it is the fact that everyone is at one time or another a pedestrian, a cyclist or a motorist that makes for understanding (and decent transport policies).

      • I agree with you that sarcasm doesn't help but I think your comment should be directed at the author rather than Ted who is clearly joking.

        I cycle, walk and drive and I find this post rather sarcastic and unhelpful. A lot (not all) of Kingston drivers need to learn to share the road just as much as a lot (not all) of the cyclists in Kingston need to learn the rules of the road.

  • Is he? It's not obvious to me and I'm about as sarcastic as they come. But then I've generally turned my sarcasm monitor off since I moved to Canada, as sarcasm seems to be almost absent here.

    I don't know why anyone should complain about the original piece – he's entirely right (in an amusing way) in my experience – and I cycle every day in this city, all year round. Both cyclists and pedestrians are definitely regarded as a lower form of life than drivers in Canada, almost as much as in the USA (where I've also lived). There needs to be a major rebalancing in favour of non-motorised road users.

  • I wasn't being entirely sarcastic. Cyclists should not ever be cycling on a sidewalk. If the bike lane is not safe or does not exist and feel you must for the sake of safety use the sidewalk, you get off your bicycle and walk it for the safety of other pedestrians. If you're on a bicycle, it's a vehicle, and it goes in the road. It's the law!

    I am, for sake of argument, including in the "cyclist" set every person on a bicycle; from hipsters on fixies, to cycle-commuters on road bikes on their way to work.

    As someone who walks most places, and cycles others, I am tired of cyclists on sidewalks presenting a danger to pedestrians. This goes double for skateboarders and rollerbladers (which I didn't think they made anymore but no, here's some klutz zooming along on the sidewalk.)

    The sidewalk is for walking. Regular walking, fancy walking, it's all good. Preferably walking at a good clip and not stopping to gape at every damn rock Sir John A. might have touched like some slack-jawed tourist but all types of walking.

    David, my problem with the article is the faux self-deprecation and all too real holier-than-thou martyr attitude. The tone is smug rather than amusing and it presents cyclists as god's gift when in reality there are bad cyclists just as there are bad drivers (and even bad pedestrians.)

    "Your clearly necessary lumber purchase" – what even is this. People need lumber, for different reasons. Maybe they were using it to burn books, maybe they were very slowly building a puppy orphanage. They could transport it better, but don't attack the lumber.

    I am also for mandatory helmet laws but that is neither here nor there.

  • Lighten up people! I thought the article was quite funny, and contained a lot of truth as well. I cycle from the west end to the university most days, but I'm lucky as I can travel along Front Road which seems pretty safe. But there are lots of roads in Kingston that make me uncomfortable (e.g. Bath Road, Gardiners Road). There are lots of issues about how drivers interact with cyclists that need to be addressed for the safety of cyclists. It would help a lot to have more people cycling, so that cycling becomes institutionalized as it is in many European countries (I remember a trip to Leiden, where I was amazed by all the bike paths and cyclists). But it's a chicken and egg thing– many people are reluctant to cycle because they perceive that it's not safe. So how do we move forward with that?

    Now, having said all that, I recognize that we cyclists need to improve our behaviour too. I often see people cycling on sidewalks (often younger folk, but not always), going through stop signs without stopping (I'm guilty of this too), and not wearing helmets (I often see parents with their kids– the kids are wearing helmets, but the parents aren't– what kind of message is that sending? Bring on mandatory helmet laws!)

    • As we know from Australia, mandatory helmet laws tend to discourage cycling, and as the best thing for the safety of cyclists is more cyclists on the road, this is counter-productive. And on the other hand, in places like the Netherlands for example, where most people cycle at some time, very few people wear helmets…

      And you really shouldn't put helmet wearing in the same category of behaviours that are dangerous for other road users. It has nothing to do with those kinds of things and does indicate irresponsibility.

  • The bicycle lanes in Kingston are deplorable. The first thing to do in changing the attitude of bikers to drivers is giving them at least the means to use their alternative transportation.

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