• Bloomer Park, Rochester Hills, MI

  • Racing the Provincial's Crit 2014

  • Forest City Velodrome - London, ON

  • Larkenville Challenge, Buffalo, NY

  • Winning the Sprint at the ForestCity Velodrome

  • Track Nationals 2014: Keirin

  • Track Nationals 2014: Points Race

  • OCUP #1: Feb 2015

I don't know how to say it: commuting by bike in North America is taking your life in your own hands. The car culture is the problem and regardless of how many bike lanes are installed in the downtown core of cities, the problem is not going to get any better.

I read an article recently that blamed the culture shift on the auto companies back in the early days of the car when people/bikes/horses rules the roads and cars were the new thing. Back then (1920's), any auto crash was assumed to be the fault of the driver. Now, you can almost commit murder with a car and get away with it. Back then, auto companies saw this bad press as bad for business and setup marketing to change the blame to the pedistrian/cyclist/etc.. It worked all to well. Stories are abound with car/cyclist crashes where the driver kills or injuries a cyclist (or pedistrian), and gets away with it. It was the auto companies, apparently, that framed car crashes as accidents. They are crashes. Nothing is accidental about it.

That said, commuting to work can be fun...most of the time. One just has to understand a few "rules". Most of these items are common sense but it is worth repeating.

 

1) Drivers believe they own the road. Cycle accordingly. This means do not trust anyone!! Expect the worst. Cycle defensively. Remember: drivers just won't see you.

2) Never cycle in the gutter. You are entitled to cycle "as close to the right as you deem safe". This means with enough space between you and the curb to avoid sewer grates, cracks in the road, etc.. I usually ride about 75cm from the curb. This also forces cars to pass wide in most cases.

3) Take the lane. In my mind, any lane I ride in is a bike lane. I take the lane to force traffic to wait or to pass wide. Drivers generally have no idea how much space is needed to pass safely. Take the lane means riding in the center of the lane.

4) That said, don't hog the road. Yea, take the lane, but remember as a driver yourself how much you like it when a slower driver hogs the lane. Ride you bike accordingly. If there is a transport truck driving slowly behind you, at the first opportunity - move out of the way and let them pass. Share the road means everyone share the road. You will definitely get buzzed by a driver if you spend 10 mins blocking traffic.

5) Pass on the left of traffic stopped at a light if you must (keep in mind, this is not legal), but stay behind large vehicles. What is the point of stopping in front of a transport truck or bus when the moment the light changes, they have to pass you? Nevermind, they just can't see you. 

6) Do not pass moving traffic on the left side of the lane. This is asking for getting taken out, right hooked, etc.. What do I mean? You are moving up stopped traffic at a light (you never do this right?), and the light changes, traffic starts moving, STOP!! That moving car beside you does not know you are there. Unless you are 1m in front of the vehicle, assume they do not know you are there.

7) Ride with a bell. Bells are stupid you say? Nope. You can scream all you want, but drivers and peditrians are conditioned when then here DING-DING that a cyclist is coming. All bike my bikes except my racing bike has a bell on it.

8) Ride with lights on. Always ride with a rear light on. You are 10x more visible to traffic coming up behind you. Considering: on a sunny day, what happens when you go under a bridge? Can you see where you are going with your cycling glasses on? Do you think a driver can see you with their shades on? I ride under the 401 here in Toronto and it's wide enough to almost go completely dark. Also, use a front light in the rain or other set of conditions were you need to have drivers see you coming such as a hour (not 1/2 hour) before dark. If in doubt, turn the light on. I ride with a 1000lumens headlight. Almost as bright as a car headlight.

9) You will get yelled at, honked at, told off, etc.. It's a fact of life. Get over it. Just wave nicely to the idiot making the comments. Remember: they have metal cage to protect them - you don't. Some drivers are more than happy to use it as a weapon. Guess who will lose? Don't get involved in road rage. It always ends badly for the cyclist.

The bottom line: you need ride to be seen and to assume everyone is out to get you. It is really sad, but it comes my experience of commuting in Toronto (CANADA) (some three years now year around). Drivers are in a hurry and will do stupid things to get around you. Cycle accordingly.

 

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