The debate continues

Globe and Mail writer Nathan Whitlock finds a worthy debating opponent in himself:

Dear driver: How about we share the road?

followed up by ...

Dear cyclist: How about trying to share?

The comments that follow the articles might make you worry about who gets drivers licenses or question the whole concept of democracy.


Thanks for posting this.
Sometimes it's truly very difficult to be an advocate for bicycling, but it's the operators not the machines. And they're better than the mobile furnaces for a lot of reasons.
The :why" of the vehemence of some of the comments against cyclists should be noted as there's maybe a grain of truth.
Maybe the fix is trying to get more respect for everyone - somehow...
this may include feeling sorry for some of the "cagers"

Nathan Whitlock writes in the Globe and Mail that cyclists also need to learn some lessons in sharing the road.

It's hard to read his advice when he starts his article with the mistaken assertion that cyclists are on "a road built for cars." This is not true. (The ONLY roads that were built for cars are the major highways.) Our cities' roads are public spaces through which we move people and goods. They have been modified to accomodate cars, but were initialy built for pedestrians, carts pulled by people, people on horseback, and carts or other wheelled vehicles pulled by horses or other beasts.

Then came the bicycle. It was the bicycle that introduced the whole concept of personal and affordable transportation to an increasingly urban society. Before the bike, personal transportation was too expensive for almost everybody; the best one could do was to hire a livery from time to time, otherwise public transport was the only way to avoid a lot of walking. Cyclists were also the first to convince municipalities to pave roads with asphalt for the smooth ride we all enjoy.

Next came the internal combustion engine, and with it, the motor car.

Yes, we've made a lot of investments to retrofit our roads to accomodate motor cars, but our roads were not built for cars; they were built as public spaces through which we moved people and goods.We've just gone too far in accomodating motor car on our public roads, we even allow people to store them there for free for extended periods -- I can't use 120sq feet of High Park to store my winter clothes, but I can park my car on the street all summer and not get a ticket.

I think that Nathan Whitlock's perspective, even when on a bicycle, still suffers the modal bias of a motorist. .

And if he thinks that Toronto's cyclists ring ther bells incessently, he's not been to China ;-) Toronto's cyclists are wisper quiet in comparison. I wish we would ring our bells more!

He may have some good advice, but it's hard to figure out what it is with his sarcastic tone and his faulty premise. Me, I like this advice from Kingston better.

Oh and, by the way, the Globe did put the two letters he wrote into one article in Saturday's paper.

Whitlock's two sections of Pick a Lane and Don't Ride Blind are logically inconstant.

If I am in your blind spot for more than 1/2 a second doesn't that mean I am riding at the same speed you are driving? If I am riding at the same speed you are driving (i.e traffic) why should it matter what lane I am in?

Bikes are only relegated to the far right of the road because we are slower traffic. However if we are traveling the same speed as traffic, as is often the case downtown, we are free to choose whatever lane we wish to ride in.

In fact I find cyclists generally end up riding in vehicles' blind spots only because drivers are so insistent on being 6" away from the bumper in front of them. The cyclists will be riding a safe distance behind the car in front of them (say 5') and a car will half overtake them to put the cyclist directly in their blind spot.

As a pedestrian living in the Bloor/Yonge area, my major pet peeve about cyclists is that they seem to want all of the benefits of all three statuses. Cyclists want to be on the sidewalk when it works for them, and it's up to all of us on our feet to jump out of the way. Cyclists want to be respected as equals to motorists, but many refuse to stop at stop signs or lights to allow pedestrians to pass.

If you want to ride your bike, excellent. But stay off the sidewalk, and stop at stop signs!!

Sorry, Debby, but blending everyone into one convenient profile may make your point, but we both know it's hardly accurate. Yes, there are some some folks on bikes on the sidewalks (many here would not even regard them as cyclists if that is the way they generally ride) and, yes, there are many here that do not stop at stop signs, preferring to view them as yields and, yes, some ride through red lights and a smaller number---a much smaller number---'refuse' to allow pedestrians to cross, though really they just get in the way, momentarily, of pedestrians when it is the pedestrians right of way, a far cry from 'refusing' to let them cross, as if they physically prevent them, restrain them from crossing. Uh-huh. Cyclists often commit minor illegal, inconsiderate, selfish and inconvenient acts, not entirely unlike pedestrians who step off the curb into a cyclists path without looking, jay-walk right in front of a fast-moving cyclist, even while looking straight at the cyclist, who open doors of cars and taxi's without looking. It's easy to be indignant and self-righteous until one reviews their own actions and even when one does, one should not paint all the others with the same brush. I make a point of respecting pedestrians: after all, I am one more often than not. We all get away with what we can, we all act irresponsibly sometimes and we all get in one another's way sometimes. That's living in the big city for ya.

There seems to be an ongoing discussion over many threads here about finding fault with road users who don't always obey the law.

The debate rages: all drivers are incompetant oafs determined to mow down as many cyclists as possible. Or, all cyclists are hair-trigger maniacs, disregarding all laws and daring anyone to confront them.

The reality is that most road users, most of the time are just trying to get where they need to go. Skill levels across the board vary widely. Driving, walking and cycling in heavy city traffic requires a huge amount of concentration and I would submit that everybody slips at least sometimes.

A more civil, less self-rightous and more forgiving attitude by all would probably do wonders.

So true, Tone.

I think there may be another factor at hand here as well:

When I'm behind the wheel of a car, I take it for granted I will see other cars on the road (some may say they're "supposed to be there"). I also can be pretty sure that one or more of them is likely to do something dangerous, whether it be speeding, cutting me off, etc. All of this becomes part of the background noise of daily driving. See a car do a rolling stop at a stop sign when nobody's there? No problem, that's what drivers do.

Cyclists on the other hand are fewer in number - few enough that we stand out. If we are cut off on the 401 or are passed by someone doing 140 on the QEW, we are so conditioned to expect this that within minutes we forget about it unless it was a particularly life-threatening dumb move. But if we see a cyclist cut us off it sticks out in one's mind. See a few of them and we get a reputation despite the fact that we see dozens of idiot motorists every day.

Add to that the fact that as a group we are constantly trying to get safer conditions. Joe Sixpack however, who doesn't understand peoples reasons for not wearing helmets or the logic behind why a cyclist might treat a stop sign as a yield (even as he does the same) may find it particularly maddening that for a group that is so concerned about safety, in his mind we care little about it as individuals. I would imagine it is further baffling to the average car driver that we should even be concerned about personal safety. After all, given traffic injury/fatality statistics, isn't modern travel supposed to be dangerous?

I think there's a lot of education to be done as from the outside, to the average uninformed non-cyclist we must look like rather a crazy lot!