Each year at this time, I dread the appearance of the “hobby cyclists.”
Hobby cyclists are different from those I encounter in the winter months on Vancouver Island. Winter bike riders are typically well equipped. They have lights front and back, since a good portion of their riding time occurs when it’s dark. They also use reflective clothing and markings on their two wheelers. They are apt to wear a helmet, have gloves and use mirrors to see hazards that may materialize from behind.
These riders often commute to work, school and recreational pursuits. They are not only skillful but safer than the average hobby cyclist. They signal their intention to change lanes, turn and enter and leave traffic flow. They actually obey traffic laws. They obtain eye contact with pedestrians and drivers alike.
Winter bikers are a hearty bunch. They dress for the conditions and are likely to get from A to B faster than most vehicle drivers in downtown areas. They ride in the rain. For the most part, they act like car drivers and mesh with other traffic in a seamless fashion. They are not perfect, but inspire a reasonable degree of respect.
Now for the hobby cyclists, who do things that are odd at best and death-defying at worst.
The weather gets nice and they hit the road, to the shock and awe of the average vehicle driver, pedestrian and others unlucky enough to get in their way, winter cyclists included. They ride on the sidewalks and medians and have little knowledge of the rules of the road, let alone courtesy toward other travellers.
They wear hoodies rather than helmets. Traffic flow has no relevance for them. In short, these ridiculously ill-equipped bicycle riders, lacking in skill and safety, cause frustration for everyone.
Recreational riders are different from both regular commuters and hobby cyclists. They want to obey common-sense rules of the road as well as extend simple courtesy to fellow road users. Recreational riders like to keep to the trails and areas of low traffic volume. They are out for exercise and sheer enjoyment of the ride.
Motor-vehicle drivers should be aware of the increasing presence of cyclists at this time of year. They should always shoulder check prior to turning at intersections, since bike riders can get hidden in a driver’s blind spot, particularly when turning right, across a reserved bike lane. They approach vehicle drivers at much higher speed than most drivers estimate. Left-turning car drivers often misjudge the speed of oncoming cyclists. Cyclists do not make the same noise as a motor vehicle. In most crashes involving a motor vehicle and a cyclist, the vehicle driver simply does not see the cyclist.
The increasing number of bicycles of all kinds on the roads is a good thing. Good for the environment, for the health of the riders and for ensuring less general traffic congestion.
It’s the job of all motor-vehicle drivers to be more aware of the springtime surge in the number of cyclists on our roadways.
It’s equally important for cyclists to act more like the responsible winter riders admired by motor-vehicle drivers.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.