In the words of Rodney King: Can’t we all just get along? The cyclist-car co-existence is quite the balancing act. Motor-vehicle drivers are often resentful of cyclists not obeying the simple rules of the road. Cyclists, in turn, often feel bullied by drivers.
The matter has come to a head with the elimination of several parking spaces in Victoria, for the purpose of accommodating additional bike lanes.
Every car driver knows that more bikes on the road means fewer motor vehicles plying the streets of our cities. Biking is healthy. It should be encouraged.
Most of the gripes communicated to me by both groups of commuters are worth mentioning.
Motor-vehicle drivers are upset with those bike riders who do not wear helmets. They seem to go unchallenged, with a perceived lack of enforcement. The typical motor-vehicle driver, on the other hand, who drove past a police cruiser with a seatbelt dangling out the driver window would be pulled over in an instant. The same goes for complete stops at stop signs and red lights. The enforcement for motor vehicles is rigorous, but not seemingly so for cyclists. If drivers rode on the sidewalk, there would be a riot. If they went the wrong way down a one-way street, another pullover by police would be likely. Motor vehicles are easy to identify; not so with bikes.
Bike riders are livid with certain drivers who bully them. They pass on the right using the bike lane, without so much as a signal or a shoulder check. They open their car doors without looking back to see if there is an approaching cyclist. By the way, when a crash occurs, it is a $91 fine, and two penalty points, for doing so. It is never the cyclist’s fault.
Here are some suggestions for both groups, as well as civic regulators.
Cyclists should wear bright colours. Use lights that are easy to see, but do not blind drivers. Use hand signals to announce your intention. (Several readers have reminded me that a right turn can be identified by a right arm extension, as well as the more traditional right-angle, left-arm action.) Stay in your lane. Obey the traffic laws. Get eye-to-eye contact. Take a cycling course.
Drivers should look for cyclists as a priority. Give them extra space, since they can stop much quicker at low speeds than a motor vehicle. Checking the shoulder, side mirror and rear view mirror before turning is the safest way to spot cyclists. Cyclists have the right of way when proceeding straight forward, parallel to motor-vehicle traffic, even when a driver is making a turn across the bike lane.
Local government should do the following:
Stop pitting one group against the other.
Wherever possible, separate the bike lanes from motor-vehicle traffic. Replace parking spaces lost to bike-lane improvements. Only have one-way bike lanes, or employ a barrier if a two-way bike lane is instituted. Head-on bike crashes are not pretty.
Here is something to think about. Three out of 10 Canadian baby boomers are intending to retire on Vancouver Island. Most are looking at south of the Malahat. Even if only one in 10 actually moves to the Island, that means a million people will be coming in the next 12 years. They will have cars and bikes.
Isn’t it time we all got along?
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.