Cyclists

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I have a certain grudging admiration for determined cyclists – that is when I’m not cursing them as they whip by me on the shared bike pedestrian pathways by the Ottawa river. Really, do you suppose you could swing out just a smidge so I can’t feel the breeze of your passing lift the hair on my head? I haven’t been hit yet but it’s not from lack of trying.

When I lived in Yellowknife some years ago, there was a guy who rode his bike all year round. I know people in Vancouver or even Toronto might not find this remarkable but in YK the temperatures in January were often south of -35. The roads were covered 15cm deep in ice and there was frequently ice fog hovering in the air. Plus it was dark at both morning and evening commutes. These were brutal conditions. He would drive screws through the heavy mountain bike rubber tires to give him some traction and would wrap himself in scarves and hats and snow goggles. I think he trusted to the kindness of strangers not to run him over – because I’m certain he couldn’t see anyone coming.

Today on the way to the train, our cab had to come to a sudden stop at a green light as a cyclist, seeing a break in the traffic ran a red light to make a turn across three lanes of traffic. He could have been killed said the cabbie if there was afternoon sun rather than morning. True enough and then the outrage would begin – memorials posted and laments about how drivers are evil and don’t respect cyclists.

Some, it is true, don’t but it’s hard to respect a cyclist who doesn’t respect the law. Who doesn’t slow down or walk their bikes when the trail narrows. Who drive at night without any kind of light or cut off drivers in winter on slushy roads and then are surprised when the driver can’t stop. I actually saw that happen a couple of years ago in Ottawa when a winter biker cut in front of an SUV and got knocked over in a gentle bump when the woman tried to brake but just kept sliding. He leapt up and ran to the driver’s side window, screaming and cursing her. She looked terrified and when he seemed to be reaching for the door handle, she accelerated and ran over his bike, dragging it half a block before leaving it as a tangle mass. I found it hard to sympathize with the biker.

Cities should be more bike friendly; more of us should use bikes to commute. But bikers aren’t saintly because of their green attitudes. If that were true, as a pedestrian I’d be an angel.

But that’s ten minutes.

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