Ghost Bike Memorial

Cycling and the City: Driver Confrontations

I've been cycling in this city for 3 years this summer and other than one dicey incident that included construction dust, pylons and my tire getting stuck in a streetcar track, I've been pretty lucky when it comes to avoiding any real damage to myself or my bike.

But that doesn't mean I haven't had my share of close calls thanks to reckless drivers, as I'm sure most cyclists in this city can attest to. Coming back to the roads this spring, drivers seemed more unsure than ever and I seem to be hearing more reports than usual from friends and acquaintances of being hit, clipped or endangered. While some blame the quality of the roads which are noticeably worse for wear due to the heavy winter, most simply blame the lack of self-awareness from drivers on the roads, where the goal is to get somewhere as fast as possible, safety rarely being a priority.

In terms of driver-caused negligence, I've been clipped several times, thrown into parked cars on streets such as College or Huron and I've even had my front wheel bumped by a rolling taxi who merely waved and backed up as I tried to stay upright. In those incidents, the drivers just took off, ignored me or I wasn't able to chase them down after recovering from the shock. That is, until today.

Leaving work around 3:30pm this afternoon, cycling west on Dundas past McCaul, I was nearly run off the road and clipped by a side-view mirror. The vehicle was a tan mini-van which swerved abruptly from the left lane to the right lane to make a last-minute turn onto Beverley. While doing so, he either didn't see me or just horribly misjudged the space and clipped me. With my heart in my throat, somehow I managed to holler at him and regain my balance, but he obviously didn't hear me and continued driving up the street and out of my sight. Considering the amount of time I've wasted chasing reckless drivers, I chose to forget about it and get to my destination. But to my surprise, I found myself behind that same van a few streets up and decided to follow them to their parking spot.

By the time I pulled up to the van there was nobody in the driver or passenger side, but I saw movement in the back and ended up confronting the wife of the driver. Blinking at me while I shakily insisted I speak with the driver, she just kept saying that he "must not have seen me", which should never ever be an excuse. To add to the mess, I saw that the driver had two toddlers in car-seats strapped in the back. Not only was he endangering me, but potentially his children. When he came out, I told him as much, adding angrily that he should really be considering the safety of those around him as a parent. I don't know if I got through to him but he listened to me and apologized all the same.

When I left however, I didn't feel better. I later remembered an article I read in the recent publication of the Walrus which focused on the dreaded 'right hook' which is usually the cause of injury, if not death to cyclists. In terms of my situation, it wasn't quite a right hook, but could have been had I been riding slightly faster. As usual, this scare doesn't deter me and I will return to cycling tomorrow, anticipating the usual lack of courtesy and awareness that I witness on the roads on a regular basis. All I can hope for is that perhaps one driver will think twice before he returns to reckless habits. The last thing we need is yet another ghost bike on the road, although I sadly realize it will be sooner rather than later.

Photo: Bike Memorial by blogTO flickr pooler avp17

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