A Toronto Cyclist's Top 10 Complaints
Toronto cyclists have much to complain about and generally aren't shy about airing their discontent. Whether it be the scarcity of bike lanes, the abundance of potholes or simply the fact that our climate makes year-round riding nearly impossible, I think it's only fair to provide a little two-wheeled perspective on the heels of Toronto traffic safety officer Tim Burrow's recently compiled Top 10 list of motorist complaints.
# 10 - The close pass
Having seen a friend's elbow shattered by a van "passing" altogether too closely, it gives me the jitters whenever vehicles don't afford myself and other cyclists adequate space. Granted this isn't always their fault -- roads are, after all, only so wide -- but it's still a common threat cyclists face. I'm not asking for the insanely wide berth some drivers give, but it's a little scary when a passing car brushes me with its wind trail.
# 9 - Lack of bike lanes
Directly related to #10, the lack of bike lanes on major streets throughout the city is an obvious pet peeve that many cyclists share. But it's not just an issue for cyclists; the scarcity of bike lanes is also a pain for drivers who are forced to share the road with those on two wheels. I know it's not so easy as just snapping one's fingers and putting them in, but it's obvious that we need a more comprehensive vision for encouraging the safe use of bicycles in this city.
# 8 - Cars parked in bike lanes
Boneheaded moves like this are getting a little more attention after the Toronto Sun spotted a cop car parked in the bike lane on Annette St. for 20 minutes the other day. The officer's gotten a bunch of flak for his parking job, but the reality is that this happens all the time. Normally it's not a huge deal, but when another vehicle and a cyclist inevitably try to pass the improperly parked car at the same time, the situation can get pretty tricky.
# 7 - Potholes
Most common during spring, potholes rank pretty high up on the list of hazards that face Toronto cyclists and are particularly dangerous for those who whip around town on superlight road bikes like me. Ever flown over the handlebars and wrecked your nice STI shifters because you weren't paying quite close enough attention? I have. And while I accept blame for not noticing the hazard, it still pisses me off that the hole was there, perfectly placed by the curb, in the first place.
# 6 - Winter
Ok, this might be pushing it. But, whenever I talk to friends who live in warmer climates, I bemoan the fact that the riding season is really only seven or eight months 'round these parts. Although the sight of die hard commuters braving snowstorms is pretty common, I'm too much of a wuss to try this. Instead I find myself relying on a car for my transportation needs and an indoor trainer for my "rides," during which I have to damage my ears with blaring music in the hopes that I might distract myself from the pain welling up in my backside.
# 5 - Other cyclists
I might not make any friends with this complaint, but when you ride relatively fast on city streets, other cyclists become a significant and often dangerous obstacle. I often wonder how it's possible to ride at less than 15kph, but somehow loads of commuters manage it. Over and above these slowpokes, also annoying are those riding brake-less fixies, couriers who disregard every rule of the road, and other egomaniac roadies like me.
# 4 - Car doors
In my years of riding, I've seen at least ten people felled by oblivious drivers opening their doors at the exact moment that a cyclist is passing. Always a nasty sight, most roads with on-street parking present a catch-22 scenario: if you want to avoid being suddenly greeted by a car door, it's necessary to drift over into the traffic lane, but this puts you at increased risk of being hit by a moving vehicle, not to mention the wrath of passing motorists.
# 3 - Streetcar tracks
This complaint is a bit like your standard NIMBY argument. As great as streetcars are for moving people around the city, when I'm on my bike, their tracks make for some pretty poor riding conditions. A scary but common scenario involves riding along a streetcar route and the sudden encounter of my #4 complaint, the dreaded car door. Where do you go? If you swerve too hastily, you might find yourself caught in the tracks (and shortly on the deck). Those who know how to bunny hop are served well in this situation.
# 2 - Oblivious pedestrians
I can't count the number of near-misses I've had with pedestrians. Lost in thought or their iPod, the propensity to wander off the sidewalk into bike lanes (or at least the edge of the road) is flabbergasting. I know bikes and their riders don't make much noise, but we're still pretty visible, aren't we?
# 1 - Sudden right turns (without signaling)
My number one pet peeve and the most dangerous thing that I regularly encounter is the last second cut off. If you're lucky you can come to a stop before crashing into the side of the car. If not, get ready for some pain. While it's crucial to be a defensive rider, the average motorist's disregard for the presence of cyclists is, in a word, shocking.
Honourable mentions: jerks who bypass the line of cyclists at red lights, slow e-bikes that need to be passed (but that can be nice to draft!), riding north from downtown (it's all uphill), and the constant threat of bike theft.