NOW magazine published an issue on cycling. In addition to some well thought out proposals from Cycle Toronto, they included the usual set of shop-worn "myths" motorists and cyclists supposedly have about each other.
I have read most of these supposed "myths" before, in fact many times and in many articles. I consider many of the supposed "facts" provided by Now as flat out wrong as the so-called "myths". To try and make a positive contribution to the discussion, I propose a series of "myth-fact" pairs that I haven't read quite so often before.
Myths motorists believe:
1) If you get in front of a cyclist at an intersection, you will save time.
For motorists, trying to dart ahead of us and cut in to get one car length ahead in the queue at a red light or stop sign risks a collision and makes no sense. Queuing behind a bicycle doesn't cost you any time; in fact, a cyclist can get off the mark more quickly than any (non-electric) car, because a human can exert maximum torque at zero revs, which no gas engine can do.
2) An intersection is a safe place to pass a cyclist.
No. Intersections are inherently complex, with pedestrians and wheeled vehicles going, literally, four directions at the same time. Streets have an illusion of width through an intersection, which means that cyclists who turn out to let cars go by can find ourselves in conflict with pedestrians, or outside the stream of traffic and out of road on the other side of the intersection. Just stay in the lane, in order, and wait to pass.
3) It's OK to make a turn in front of a cyclist
Nope. Cyclists should not pass right turning cars on the right, and motor vehicles should not make turns across the path of cyclists.. If you come up behind a cyclist signalling right at a stop sign or traffic light, the safe thing is to queue behind the cyclist and make the turn in order, as you would with a car. If the cyclist is going straight, then pull up behind them and signal, and if they can do it safely, the cyclist may pull out to the left to give you room to turn. Likewise, never pull up on the right side of a cyclist signalling left in order to make a left turn; that creates an extremely dangerous situation.
4) Getting "stuck" behind a cyclist will always slow a motorist down.
Wrong. Except in relatively rare cases, the cyclist you pass will come up to you at the next light.
5) If you hit a cyclist, only cyclist will suffer.
For the sake of argument, let's assume a psychopathic motorist who really doesn't care about killing someone. Our psychopath still has to worry that hitting a cyclist who has life and/or disability insurance will leave one or more large and powerful financial institutions significantly out of pocket. One way or another, somebody will pay for the cost of a crash, and insurers will naturally want to make sure that as much of the cost as possible falls on the driver who caused it. Hitting a cyclist can certainly ruin your entire day.
Myths cyclists believe
1) Motorists have a built-in mad skills detector.
Look, you know yourself as a super-cool experienced cyclist, but when you push off in the dark with no lights and salmon up the wrong side of the road, motorists only see an unpredictable road user, and (good) motorists will react by behaving cautiously. If you find that insulting, don't blame them; motorists can only gauge a cyclist's abilities and intentions by what they can see. And it's hard to see an unlit cyclist in the dark.
2) It matters what motorists think of us.
Wrong. The reason not to behave unpredictably, annoyingly, or in a manner dangerous to pedestrians and other cyclists as nothing to do with the opinions of motorists, individually or collectively. We should behave safely because it's the right thing to do. Most motorists will operate safely whatever they think of us, and sociopaths and emotionally unstable drivers won't behave any less dangerously if cyclists all began riding safely.
3) Political rhetoric matters
We got more protected bike lanes while Rob Ford was Mayor than we did in the eight years of David Miller. The amount of cycling infrastructure that gets built depends on how much we use, and how much benefit the larger public obtains from our use of it.
4) The handful of blatantly anti-cyclist posters on web sites represent motorists.
I doubt it.
5) Bad driving is deliberate.
As someone who has made my full share of driving errors, I don't think so. Relatively few motor vehicle operators intentionally use their vehicles as weapons, and in my experience ignorance and misjudgement cause much more bad driving incidents than malice.