Like many others I am both a motorist and a cyclist. I’m also sure that like many others I lament how it seems that, especially in urban centres, there is a growing animosity between those who favour one method of transportation over the other. I always want to believe that there is a middle ground in the debate where motorists and cyclists can figure out a way to co-exist without animosity yet after seeing something this week, I can see how stupidity often adds fuel the fire.
Last week while I was heading to visit my mom who lives right in the old City of Toronto, I happened to take note of a woman cyclist who I presume was making her way home from work. While Toronto has thousands upon thousands of commuter cyclists, it was hard not to notice this woman for she had a vivid pink bike, that was rather retro in its apprearance with a full pink metal cover over the chain, wide handlebars and a big comfy seat.
She first caught my attention because of her rather methodical and plodding nature. She was enjoying her commute home, never exceeding about 10 km/h in my guess, but nonetheless passing everyone who had all the horsepower they needed to whiz past her but no breathing room to do so. I actually found her to be both amusing and admirable for her vivid bike and slow but persistent way to get home.
About 10 minutes had passed when I found myself catching up to her about 2 km’s up the road. I was first a bit smug that I had caught up, but at the same time was still admiring how she just continued to plod along oblivious to all around her. It seemed to almost be our version of the Tortise and the Hare from my vantage point and while I enjoyed being the hare, I still had an admiration for the tortise.
But a couple minutes later, she caught up again but this time did something completely stupid.
While I was waiting on a red light at a particularly busy intersection, I noticed her in my sideview mirror approaching again. However this time as she passed me, she decided to do so while blantantly and unapologetically going directly through the red light I was held up by. She didn’t pause, she didn’t look around…she seemingly didn’t care. No, this vivid pink bike peddaled right through a red light, on a busy street during the afternoon rush hour. It was also then that for the first time I took notice of the fact that she was also riding her bike without a helmet.
Somewhat miraculously, she made it through unscathed. What likely worked in her favour was the fact that there was a streetcar running on the street she crossed and it had stopped to collect passengers, which also forced other cars to stay behind. From the other direction, she apparently managed to find a gap of cars long enough to not draw blaring horns or cause broken legs. She just kept peddaling with the same methodical approach that I had come across three times in the last several minutes.
In an instant my respect for her disappeared. While its admirable to minimize your carbon footprint by choosing to cycle instead of use a car, it is completely irresponsible to show no regard whatsoever for traffic rules…or for that matter, her own safety and that of anyone else she could have endangered had a collision occurred.
Before cyclists pounce on me, don’t think for a second that I’m siding with motorists here. I know how drivers do stupid things as well that endager cyclists every day. If I had seen that instead, you can be assured I’d be writing the same post from the opposite POV.
While the environmentalist in me would love to see far fewer cars on the road than we have today, the realist knows that the shift away from cars and towards public transit and/or personal modes of transportation will be a long and slow one.
Unless we have cyclists who show respect for the rules of the road, and motorists who show respect for cyclists the necessary transition will have far more bumps, bruises and maybe worse than ever needs to be.