Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Safe Cycling II: Lighting the way

I have said before that I think cyclists have two obligations: not to harm another vulnerable road user, and not to die on a ride ourselves if we can avoid it. One practical and legal consequence: we ought not to ride on sidewalks. Another: we ought to ride with lights at night.

Any light beats no light at all. When I ride, I carry a couple of spares that I can offer to cyclists I encounter who don't have lights on. I personally carry two lights on my front handlebars, and a tail light. I also carry a small bag under my saddle with spare batteries. I have one flashing light on my handlebars, and one steady light. I cycle this way because I believe
strobing lights make it difficult to track and predict my speed. My flashing front light indicates my presence very clearly, but I think having only a flashing light would make it harder for other road users to see where I'm going or how quickly.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What a close pass feels like

As the title on the video says: this video is not about blame. It's about what a close pass feels like on a bicycle. It's a plea for motorists to allow at least a meter when passing a cyclist. I think it may help to make a case for legislation, proposed in Ontario and enacted in a number of American states and elsewhere, to require motorists to give cyclists a meter, more or less, of space.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Safe Cycling part I: Sidewalks

In the introduction to this series, I wrote that I believe cyclists have a moral obligation to the vulnerable users we share the roads with and to ourselves and the people we love: do no harm. Do not hurt or kill a pedestrian or another cyclist, and do not die on a ride if you can by any means avoid it. That means I have one top ethical and practical rule: do not ride on sidewalks. Riding on sidewalks endangers pedestrians, as two fatal collisions between sidewalk cyclists and pedestrians in Toronto over the past five years make tragically clear. But sidewalk cycling also endangers the cyclists who do it. Cyclists who come off the sidewalks at speed run a far greater risk of colliding with cars than cyclists on the road. Even a relatively slow cyclists moves at twice to three times the speed of the average pedestrian; motorists at intersections have to look farther or more frequently to see cyclists riding into the road. Not all motorists look far enough, and cyclists riding from the sidewalk to the street risk turning directly into the blind spot of a right turning driver. Over even a short ride, a sidewalk cyclist will ride through many intersections. It only takes one misjudgment with a single pedestrian, one driver failing to look far enough up the sidewalk, to turn a ride into a tragedy. 

Don't do it. If the road frightens you, and Toronto has plenty of frightening roads, then find a safe route. Ride on a side street, through a park, on a shared use trail, use the bus to skip over a dangerous stretch of road. Riding on the sidewalk won't solve your problem.