There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about Ontario’s new law that requires motorists to leave one metre between themselves and cyclists. Ottawa Police on bikes are testing a new sonar device to educate drivers about just how far that distance is. Delivery trucks are parking in bus lanes and buses are parking in bike lanes. Several newspaper columnists have written columns about their experiences either as a cyclist, driver or both. In all the comments, the one that spoke to me the most was the one that said something like: there are dickheads on bikes and dickheads behind the wheel. Please everyone stop being dickheads.

For nine months of the year I probably spend most of my time one of my many bikes. I have a clunker bike with milk crate attached for groceries. I have a cruiser one speed bikes to see the world more slowly when I want to photograph my world. I have a folding bike for travel touring and a cyclecross bike for going really fast. So I try to use them for all my trips under 10k. Or just to get exercise.

When I’m not on a bike, I’m walking. I really only use the car in the winter,  for Costco trips or when I need to be somewhere farther away and have a time limit.

In the  past week or so after reading that drivers say I don’t belong on the road because I break all the rules I started to become more aware of what I was doing and what they were doing.

At every light cycle at Byron and Island Park at least four cars run the red light. That’s not a left turning car already in the intersection, it’s people who are impatient. Half the time, cars were not stopping at the stop line, even when a school crossing card was standing in the middle of the road. Also on Island Park, which I only cycle on when heading over to the Quebec paths, I always try to remember which cars know I’m in the bike lane. I’ll mark one and say if I pass that car, the driver may not think to look in the bike lane. I had one car that passed me drift into my lane four times. In case you didn’t know drivers, crossing a solid white  line is illegal. Then a Canada Post van was parked on the bike lane. I checked my mirror realized I had a break in traffic, signalled my intention and went into the traffic lane to get around it. Next time you’re on Island Park, look at how worn out the white line is for the bike lane. It isn’t from cyclists!!

I also had a run in with a Quebec driver on Byron. I was cycling through Westboro on Byron and the farmers’ market was on. Lots of people were parking on the north side of the road and not checking before they opened their doors. I didn’t feel that traffic could safely pass me, so I took my lane when I saw oncoming traffic. The driver passed me anyways, rolled down their window and told me to get the F*CK of the road. Really, there are dickheads everywhere. And I admit I lost my temper on that one. If I’d thought about it, I should have taken Dovercourt.

At Byron and Kirkwood, heading west, there is a right turn lane, then a bike lane, then the regular lane for through and left-turning vehicles. While I admit that I have sometimes gone over the white line  while driving to get around left-turning cars when I’m going straight, the other day I saw a car almost hit a cyclist and then the driver proceeded to yell at the cyclist.

It reminds me of when I was working and heading east on Wellington, wanting to make a left turn onto Western Avenue. I had my left arm out, went to the middle of the road. While waiting for approaching traffic to clear, I checked my mirror to know what was coming up behind me. I only saw another cyclist. My way was finally clear, and I had a green light. Suddenly, a car heading south on Western made a left turn in front of me, with a RED LIGHT! So please, drivers, it’s not just cyclists who break the law.

Today I was mostly a pedestrian, because it looked like it might rain. As I walked along the sidewalk on Wellington, I had to deal with four adult cyclists who should have been on the road. They didn’t slow down for any pedestrians, didn’t call out and felt like they were entitled to be there. Again, dickheads, right?

When I had my last and most serious cycling accident, I wasn’t in the wrong. But it didn’t matter. I was the one who ended up on his windshield. The police officer said my bike was the first completely legal bike: reflective tape on the forks, lights, bell, etc. The driver had just finished a night shift, stopped and the stop sign and then drove right into me.

I believe most people want to be safe but are just too self-absorbed to think of other people. If you saw people driving on YOUR street the way you drive on mine, you’d be annoyed too. Maybe if we remembered that people live in those houses, people are on those bikes and people are using the sidewalks, we could get along better. Be predictable, be aware and be safe.

It took a long time to get back onto my bike after that accident. And I still fear being hit from the right as I was on that day. But I am much more aware of my surroundings and try to make eye contact with drivers whether I am behind the wheel, on two wheels or on two feet.

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