Cars vs. Bicycles

This week a man was killed while commuting to work on his bike in Ottawa, which renewed the conflict between drivers and cyclists. In my youth I use to be a driver who did not like cyclists. I wondered why they were on the roads and would get angry when I saw them, then I started to cycle myself. The roads are a very dangerous place for cyclist because it only takes one bad driver to end their lives. It is true that some cyclist disobey the laws in an irresponsible manner, but most cyclist follow the spirit of the law. Here are a few misunderstandings between drivers and cyclists that need to be understood.

1) Cyclists don't stop a stop signs. Most cars do not stop at stop signs and don't follow the speed limit. It is hypocritical for car drivers to complain about these kind of laws when they are the biggest offenders. One of the reasons cyclists don't stop at stop signs is because they are picking a car to cross the intersection with for protection. Drivers often do not see a cyclist as a vehicle because they are not use to them. This is a form of protection.

2) Cyclist bike to far out from the edge. Riding a road bike is a different experience then the typical mountain bike that many people rode growing up. A rough patch on the road or sewer grate (which are typically exactly where cyclists ride) can cause a rider to swerve from the edge unintentionally. It is better to take your space so that a car knows that you need it especially since some drivers try to intentionally ride you off the road.

3) Cyclists should use the bike paths or lanes. It should not take a rocket scientist to understand that bike paths do not go every place that you want to go. There may be a perfectly good bike path right beside the road the cyclist is riding on, but he may be turning left at the next intersection. There are also times when roads have bike lanes that end at the worst possible spot on the road, but since it is the safest route to your destination you keep going. Also bike paths are not really designed for cyclists. The maximum speed on these paths are 20 km/h which is very slow for somebody on a bike. It is filled with walkers, roller bladders, and others who are taking their time who don't appreciate a cyclist who is flying by them. Quite frankly it is dangerous.

Scaring a cyclists with a car does not work because they are already scared and one mistake will kill them. Drivers and cyclists need more awareness of how to share the road. I can guarantee that once a driver experiences the fear due to the ignorance and recklessness of a small minority of drivers that they would change their tune, because that is what happened to me.

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