I know that bikes and cars don’t always get along. In fact, as I was trolling the internet for other like-minded Ottawa cyclists, I happened across many personal blogs raving about the insensitivity (or stupidity) of motorists. Likewise, I hear many drivers grumble about the amount of reckless (or law-breaking) cyclists on their roads. As a cyclist that both loves and appreciates the occasional car rides donated by friends and family, I maintain the following position:
99% of motorists are competent and bike tolerant.
This is the only explanation for how I arrive safely to and from work each day. Yes, I could give all the credit to my skillful car dodging abilities, but then I would be living a lie. In all honesty, most people in cars give me plenty of space and consideration, and as an easily-crushable cyclist, this could not be more appreciated. Of course there are those drivers that seem to have a perpetual hate-on for bikes (and maybe life in general), but this is thankfully a small minority.
99% of cyclists are well-meaning and rule abiding.
Sure, we may cut through the occasional Power Sports RV lot, but all in all, we are a pretty decent bunch. Aside from your intermittent street anarchist, we stick to bike lanes and road shoulders, we signal when needed and we generally try to stay out of your way. This is because, when it comes down to it, we all just trying to get from A to B in one piece.
So why the constant misunderstanding? The road is to share, and whether we like it or not, neither car nor bike is going anywhere (except during the winter when most bikes choose to hibernate). As an occasional driver, I would like to offer up this advice to cyclists, from one amateur to another.
- Please don’t be obnoxious; the rules are there to keep everyone safe. If you want to be treated like a street vehicle, act like one.
- It doesn’t hurt to signal.
- Make sure you are visible.
As an avid amateur cyclist, I would like to offer this advice to motorists:
- Please shoulder check before turning right and, when parked, before opening your car door to oncoming traffic.
- Give cyclists space; it’s not their fault that the city has chosen not to provide bike lanes.
- If a cyclist tests your nerves, keep the follow things in mind. Many cyclists are either a) helping to unclog traffic by keeping another car off of the road; b) reducing our impact on the environment or c) unable to afford a car, which makes them poorer than you.
So there you have it, my two cents on how to minimize the car eat bike world that is the city of Ottawa. As much as I would love it if every driver within a 10km radius of work/school left their car at home and opted for a more sustainable method of transportation, it can’t be helped if people love their cars. And let’s be honest, when faced with an impending rainstorm, or a trip exceeding 30km, I love their cars too.