Friday, July 17, 2009

Notes on a ride

I rode downtown yesterday in the heat of the afternoon, not the best idea for someone recovering from strep throat and with a heavy load of antibiotics on board, but going without riding for too long makes me nervous, depressed, and then I can't function. And right now, I need to work well.

On my way downtown, I passed a side street with a Purolator van coming out of it, and the driver pushed the stop sign. He didn't stop on the white line, he edged into traffic. That got me thinking that I had no way of knowing whether he saw me and would have stopped well short of my path, or whether timing alone made the difference between me scooting past him and me ending up as a hood ornament on his truck. Another white bicycle and another motorist saying they just didn't see the cyclist. And that got me thinking that car and truck drivers have to remember how threatening their moves can look to cyclists. In a car, I have a steel cage, crumple zones, and air bags to protect me. In a bike, I have about a quarter millimeter of cotton. So when you see a cyclist (or a pedestrian) heading your way, and you have a stop sign, stop. Stop at the white line. You may see us, you may intend to stop well short of our path, but we don't know that. And if you don't stop, we end up getting badly hurt or killed.

Then on Bloor street, I rode downtown in company with a cyclist who jumped the stop light at every intersection. He headed out when the light for the street opposite turned red, a second or so before the light facing us turned green. That made me think, too. Partly, I thought about the disagreements in the cycling world; we can't seem to make up our minds whether to obey the traffic laws, and criticize cyclists who don't, or whether we want to flout those laws. It also made me think this: the second or so pause in the traffic lights in Toronto gives traffic time to clear the intersection; it gives everybody breathing room. If you make a habit of jumping ahead the moment the other light turns red, you defeat the purpose of a safety feature.

Finally, I notice that several months after the city council voted for bike lanes on Annette, the parking signs still haven't changed, which means motorists endanger themselves and us by parking in bike lanes (with their cars sticking out into the high carbon emission lane).

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