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City of Toronto’s “Make Room for Cyclists” campaign Effective – in this rider’s Opinion

It’s a purely subjective thing, but it’s also counter intuitive – which seems to lend these observations some credence. A negative proof I know – but bear with me, it’s good news – which means I can spout unscientific feel-good drivel.

Since the election of the more-room-for-cars Mayor, Rob Ford, I’ve noticed that drivers are going out of their way to make room for me on my bike. It’s like they’re saying with their actions that they’ve seen the City of Toronto Sharrows Video (below) and understood it’s accompanying message:  “Make Room for Cyclists”. And perhaps further – that they don’t agree that pedestrians and cyclists who die in traffic deserve their lot – and that they’re going to show it with the only vote they have left, in the way they drive.

(From the City of Toronto Youtube Channel - Cycling Playlist Page)

I’m noticing people taking extra care at corners; they’re not racing ahead so they can stop in my lane and they wait for cross traffic to clear so they can make their turn – forcing me to make a dangerous lane change. I’m seeing people noticing that I’m following ALL the traffic rules and encouraging my social road use with the same respect in return.

Of coarse this is completely subjective as I said above. My experience of late has been good, and better than I had feared (vigilante SUV road warriors gunning for tree hugging two wheelers in the brave new era of  ‘Tax Payer Respect!!’).

That said, chugging up Kingston Road yesterday, just east of Main, an elderly couple  ahead were stopped – half in the parking lane and half in the metre and a half we all use as a bike lane when there isn’t one. I’m a really good cyclist, I ride defensively; so when I saw what was coming I read the worst case scenario. There was a foot of concrete for me to ride on between the car and the dotted line – but that didn’t matter to me – what if a door opened? What if they pulled out into traffic with out looking? I would be door prized or forced out into fast traffic. I immediately looked behind me and changed lanes. And good thing I did as the driver, with out signaling and with out looking over his shoulder pulled out into the fast lane with me on his rear quarter! I had to break but I was never in any danger – because of my lane change. He blithely swerves out into the traffic lane, moves up four parking spots to one closer to the door of the retirement Lodge – with out ever seeing me! Or hearing my loud-as-I-could HEY!!!

As his passenger got out at their new, better stopping spot I politely asked her to inform her driver that he had just cut me off. She leaned back into the car to do that and off I went; chugging up my hill – my faith in humanity a little bit tainted, but still intact.

Happy Holiday’s Everyone. And in the spirit of the season – it’s better for everyone if we all make room for each other.



Posted: December 4th, 2010
Filed under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

4 Comments on “City of Toronto’s “Make Room for Cyclists” campaign Effective – in this rider’s Opinion”

  1. 1 Ben Mueller-Heaslip said at 2:09 pm on December 4th, 2010:

    I like your positive approach, and think the “Make Room For Cyclists” campaign is a good thing.

    But my experience, and that of many cycling friends, surely doesn’t reflect a new awareness of and respect for cyclists since Ford was elected mayor. Quite the opposite actually: it seems that many drivers are taking Ford’s “streets are for cars, busses, and trucks, not bikes” mantra to heart and behaving more thoughtlessly and recklessly.

    Consider the example you give about being cut off: you’re clearly a very good cyclist, so you could leave that encounter with nothing more than a bruised faith in driving Torontonians’ good will. But someone a bit less skilled than yourself could’ve been badly hurt or killed.

    Of course keeping a positive attitude is a very good thing, as is hoping for and appreciating good drivers. But all of us know and love people who – by virtue of their innate clumsiness or innocent tendency to sometimes allow their attention to wander momentarily in checking out a cute puppy while passing an off-leash park (yes, I’m thinking of a cyclist I’m particularly close to here) – might not see that situation coming and end up the worst for it.

    Does one have to be a hyper-aware cycling ninja to appreciate the love for cyclists that Ford’s election has injected into our culture?

    While a campaign to encourage people to behave civilly is nice, the city actually enforcing the law regarding bike lanes would save lives. Rather than “make room for cyclists”, I’d prefer a “get the f— out of the bike lane or you WILL get a big fine” campaign.

  2. 2 michael holloway said at 3:23 pm on December 4th, 2010:

    “ seems that many drivers are [...] behaving more thoughtlessly and recklessly.”

    I’m sorry to hear that.

    “..hyper-aware cycling ninja…”

    The ninja analogy is right on Ben. I like playing sports, and I must admit, I love the adrenaline that goes along with it too. But the fact that we need to approach cycling to the store for bread like an F1 driver approaches a deadly high speed race is pathetic. The fact that I wasn’t even aware of the meme, or see it as unusual or insane, says much about where we are.

    Ya, enough coddling car drivers like they’re Uber-Citizens – enforce the law in a way that reflects The City of Toronto transportation plan.

    In fact, the police could lead by example; reduce the fleet of cars they run and have more police walking beats so they can interact with, and help build communities.

    Use the money saved on automobile up-keep and maintenance, and gasoline, to open more, smaller neighbourhood station houses – just like in “the good old days”.


  3. 3 Todd Tyrtle said at 4:31 pm on December 4th, 2010:

    As the election rhetoric heated up whether it was because of perceived suburban attitudes or reality, I found it more and more unpleasant to ride north of St. Clair and I haven’t been north of there since sometime in September. Downtown I haven’t seen a lot of change. That said, now that I am no longer doing a 20 km commute, I’ve switched to a much slower and heavier bike and my style has changed a lot. I ride far more on quiet residential streets and am generally not in a hurry to get anywhere. And so despite the fact that I’m still riding downtown several days/week, I’m having hardly any close calls or bad interactions. So I’m likely a terrible one to comment on changes since effectively I’ve retreated (though somewhat coincidentally) for the most part to downtown streets with 30 km/hr limits on them.

    As for the ‘ninja’ comment. Yes, I’d say that as long as there are cars and trucks on the road, everyone else on the road whether they are crossing a street, riding a bike, or driving a motor vehicle needs to have something of the ninja attitude about them. Years ago I heard much talk about this when it was called “Defensive driving”. For me it isn’t so much a function of heightened awareness as increased cynicism. If you’re on the road you likely have a good idea of what’s around you just from your eyes and ears. However, I tend to assume that I’m invisible and that drivers are going to do the most dangerous thing I can imagine and then react accordingly. So quick reflexes don’t come in to play so much as a quick a quick judgment that most drivers aren’t paying attention and even when they are, with blind spots and sound insulation they aren’t as aware of what’s going on as I am.

  4. 4 michael holloway said at 5:45 pm on December 8th, 2010:

    For me it’s not about ‘increased cynicism’ it’s about rat-in-the-cage. These modern cities with the volume of traffic – and generally everything one needs to navigate around – is testing our brains ability to process information. The vast majority of the billions of our foreberers spent their lives in the country, on farms – our brains have evolved over 10,000 years of civilization at a much slower pace. We are adapting, as we do – some better than others. Under pressure we all sometimes crack and the darker angels of our nature take the lead for a moment.

    This *can* become a meme, an accepted standard of behaviour, – that’s the danger I guess – people beginning to accept abuse of the other as if it’s OK.

    It is not I think, and I try through ultra-civility, to counter balance the in-humanity I see more and more of in these days of change. But I ain’t never givin’ up this good fight – it’s all we worth in the end.

    Those not coping with change well, the dick-heads out there, should not read this incorrectly; I will stand in the way of evil.

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