Tuesday, 27 August 2013

I am not "every cyclist"

Once upon a time, I was on my bike, picking up my son from daycare. While travelling along a dedicated bike route, I came to a traffic circle, slowing down to be sure to check for cross-traffic. All of a sudden, a motorist approaching the circle decided it would take too much time to drive around the traffic circle as is mandated by law, so they turn left by cutting me off. I was frustrated with this motorists lack of respect for the law, but thankful that I am a cautious cyclist and didn't just rush through the intersection. Moral of the story: some drivers behave badly.

This account actually happened to me just yesterday, but this is the first anyone will hear about it. It's likely no one ever would had I not been inspired to write this post. The fact is that every day I'm out in the city, whether on foot, bike or the occasional car, drivers all around me behave badly. From speeding, running stop signs, talking on cell phones or any other myriad of offences, I would surely have dozens of stories to share each day.

There are cyclists who behave badly, too. I know, I encounter them on my travels as well, and could go on about their offences near as much as I could about motorists. But for the most part, I don't. Thankfully, though, since I am an avid bicyclist, I have become the go-to for every motorist complaint about people on bikes. Yes, that statement was dripping with sarcasm, but it has become the norm for me, sadly. Whenever anyone finds out that I ride a lot, I must endure tales of cyclists "taking the lane on a two lane road", rolling through stop signs and red lights, riding erratically on busy streets, or any other number of complaints.

Well, enough is enough. I am not responsible for the poor behaviour of my two-wheeled counterparts, in as much as my mother, for example, is not responsible for every bad thing a driver has ever done simply because she gets behind the wheel of a car to get around. In fact, I'm pretty sure if I sat down with my mother and moaned incessantly about the silly things drivers do, asking her why "THEY" do things like that, she would be hurt that I had lumped her in a category of people she doesn't deserve to be in. When I get on a bike and set off to my destination, I do not assume the role of "every cyclist", nor do I deserve to be lumped into a broad and general group of people.

Lately, I have come to sit quietly and patiently for my motoring storytellers to finish their tales of encounters with cyclists. Why? Because my mother, that same woman who shouldn't have to hear my complaints about motorists, taught me if you can say anything nice, don't say anything at all. While some of the accounts I have heard do warrant frustration, many motorist complaints about people on bikes are based more on the fact that they have slowed them down rather than broken any laws. 

I was recently recounted a tale of a driver on a country road getting stuck behind a group of training cyclists. When that driver was finally able to pass the group, they honked angrily at the group, and various members of the peloton gave them the finger and yelled at the driver. This driver was astounded that the cyclists could be so rude, and questioned me as to why cyclists get so angry. At the time, I just shrugged, smiled, and went about my day. What I wanted to say was, "I'm sorry, but you're reaction was wrong. Those cyclists, while perhaps not dealing with the situation in the best way, were likely startled by your horn, and concerned about the car racing past them in an angry and dangerous manner." This is how I feel many of the times people regale tales of cyclist encounters, because many times, cyclists were doing nothing more than exercising their right to be on the road.

In general, people, regardless of their means of transportation, can behave badly. What's important is to remember that just because someone shares that means of transport, in my case, a bicycle, does not mean that they should be held accountable for the actions of everyone else who travels the same way. It really is just a means of respecting our peers. Maybe by keeping this in mind, we can start to work past this endless "battle" between cars and bikes. We're all just trying to get from point A to B in a safe and respectful manner.

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