Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A thumb in the eye for a courtesy...

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When returning from the waterfront to Bloor West, I frequently take Windermere Avenue; it provides an easier and safer ride. Recently at the intersection of Bloor and Windermere, I had yet another experience of the factors which make for friction between motorists and cyclists. The Windermere/Bloor intersection has two northbound lanes: a right/through lane and a left turn lane. I reached the intersection on a red light, the first in line. I noticed the driver behind me wanted to turn right on the red, and the traffic conditions would allow him to do so safely, so I moved to the left to let him through. He made his turn safely and waved his thanks. Then the next car in line moved up and when the light turned, the driver went straight through the intersection on my left. That didn't cause me any great problem, since only one car went through the intersection that way. But If a whole line of cars had decided to pass me on my left, particularly if I also had cars going southbound, I might have found myself in a very uncomfortable position as a result of my courtesy to the driver turning right. I don't blame the driver who passed on my left; in Ontario, we don't train drivers to look out for cyclists.

The moral? The next time you see a cyclist and think that person could let you go ahead but won't, don't take it personally. Look at the situation from the cyclist's point of view. They may have no trouble letting you through safely, but they can't predict what the car behind you will do. Keep in mind also that the cyclist in front of you can probably do nothing to get you home sooner; if we let you through, or you pass us (safely, please) we'll probably see you at the next red light. Also, where you have crumple zones, seat belts, and air bags, we have a half millimetre of cotton or spandex. The other moral? If you want to speed up your actual travel time, well, get a bicycle. But if you have a load you have to move by motor vehicle, and you want to get through the city quickly, behave courteously to vulnerable road users, and encourage other motorists to do the same. For every driver who blows through a crosswalk, some pedestrian will push the button and wait for the lane to come to a complete stop. If you want crosswalks to work better, watch for the lights and obey them. If you want cyclists to offer you little courtesies, then make sure we don't find ourselves in dangerous situations when we do. If I move left to let a motorist make a right on red, that does not give you permission to pass me going straight. I try to treat other road users with respect and I expect respect in return, and respect and tolerance have to start with the people behind the wheels of the two-tonne steel bombs.

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