Friday, September 07, 2012

Bicycle Commuting Vent

***Language Warning***

I am an avid bicycle commuter. I ride my bike to do everything from short errands around my neighbourhood, to attend events, to get to work-related activities. Sometimes I ride on quiet side streets; sometimes along service roads; and, occasionally I have to venture on to a major artery.

Like many serious cyclists in Edmonton, I cringed with horror when a young man was killed last week when riding on Whyte Avenue. The young man, 21 year old Isaak Kornelsen, bumped a truck's rear view mirror, lost his balance, and fell under a full cement truck. He died instantly. Whyte is one of those major arteries, like Stony Plain Road and Jasper Avenue, that I try to avoid.

But even when riding on a bike path or quieter street, accidents still happen. A few years ago, I was involved in an accident on 102 Avenue near 122 Street - ironically, a route often used by cyclists to avoid the traffic of the aforementioned Stony Plain Road or Jasper Avenue. A driver had opened her driver's side door without checking first, just as I was passing. My upper right arm made contact with the edge of the door. I lost my balance and fell onto the pavement, narrowly avoiding hitting my head (I was wearing a helmet). Had there been a car right behind me, my fate would likely have been the same as Kornelsen's. I was lucky.

Although I had to miss the Critical Mass bike ride held in Kornelsen's honour last Friday due to preparations for a major event with which I was involved last weekend, I have thought about him every time I have mounted my bike this past week. Especially this afternoon. I did one of my "monster commutes" between my home in the west end and Little Italy, where I work much of the time. This involves riding along 102 Avenue, including past Railtown on 109 Street, where things can get interesting. That part of 102 Avenue, stretching to past Churchill Square, is a major traffic and bus route. I try to get off of it as quickly as possible, taking detours along 96 Street and through the LRT pedestrian/bike path.

While I am the first to admit that many cyclists make mistakes when riding, either out of ignorance or audacity, so do pedestrians and motorists. I encountered plenty of both today, and decided to make note of it, right here, as a list of shame.

For Motorists
  • Park your vehicle no more than 50 cm from the curb. Please. You don't realize how far some of your equipment (like, for instance, a rear view mirror) juts out.
  • Do a shoulder check before opening your door. For the love of all things good and holy, it only takes an extra second or so.
  • When you open the driver's side door, don't keep it open perpetually. Close the fucking thing when you're the done whatever the fuck you're doing. Don't make me have to weave around you.
  • You have turning signals. Use them. How else am I supposed to anticipate your next move? Don't make me take that risk. You are surrounded by three tons of metal. I am not.
  • I got to the red light first. You will just have to wait until you take your fucking right turn. It is ILLEGAL to drive around me like you are entitled to take your turn right then and there, cutting me off when the light finally does turn green. Be patient and burn your fossil fuels when it's YOUR FUCKING TURN.
  • Don't even think of honking, yelling, or otherwise exhibit obnoxious behaviour when you are behind me. It's distracting, and besides - you're wrong. A bicycle is a vehicle and I have every right to be on the road, same as you. So shut the fuck up.

    For Pedestrians
  • When you are crossing an intersection whilst smoking, please don't blow your stinking crap in my face. Your shit fills my lungs and I can't fucking breath. Unlike you, I am trying to make healthy choices and I don't need your fucking second hand smoke.
  • You are not supposed to start crossing at an intersection when the hand is blinking. You know what is going to happen? The light is going to turn green, I am going to be stuck there waiting for you to get to the other side, and the vehicles behind me are going to get pissed off. This creates a very stressful situation. And it's all your fault.
  • When I am on a shared sidewalk/trail and you are ahead of me, I will do whatever I can to warn you of my impending presence. I will ring my little bell and shout that I am passing. I will keep doing this until I get your attention. Note: in order for me to get your attention, you have to be paying attention. Stop yammering to the person beside you for a second. Don't walk around with the music so loud in your headphones that you can't hear. And when you do hear me: MOVE! What the fuck do you think the bell means? I'm not a fucking ice cream truck.

    It is not often that I curse out loud, but this is a very emotional issue and a matter of life and death, so I decided not to self-censor. As we move towards a world where more and more people are choosing a sustainable lifestyle, there will be even more bicycles on the road (I hope). There is no room on the road for stupidity - from anyone.

    Colin F. Smith said...

    You have valid points, Paula, but your tone, as with so much we hear from dedicated cyclists, is repellently self-righteous. It is rarely addressed, but often bicyclists are just travelling too damned fast, partcularly on the trails.

    Paula E. Kirman said...

    Sorry Colin, I tried as best I could, LOL! Seriously though, I did make mention of the fact that cyclists do stupid things also. All of the things I mention in this piece are things that have personally happened to me - and they are all avoidable - and none my fault. At the same time, as a pedestrian, I have nearly been run down by cyclists going too fast or riding on the sidewalks where not permitted, so your points are well-taken.

    Anonymous said...

    For someone who claims to have been bullied in high school, you're the one who sounds like a bully in this blog. Just saying.