“The new separated bike lanes in Vancouver are fantastic. What used to be a stressful commute jockeying for position in traffic has become a relaxing, almost recreational jaunt. The only annoying thing is that the lane has incited the lolly-gagging dawdlers to ride their bikes downtown too. Annoying, but a small price to pay.”
This was a comment by a woman called Lucy. She was responding to an article in Macleans by Nancy Macdonald, “Divided they ride: Drivers ignore painted lanes for cyclists. Vancouver decided there was only one way to fix that problem.”
Great article, totally depressing comment.
It reminded me of an incident in Montreal, when Maggie and I rented Bixis and set out to enjoy Montreal’s separated bike lanes. We found ourselves on a long uphill, with no way of getting off. Bixis are not really built for climbing, and Maggie was still getting bike-fit. Eventually she was forced to stop, because she couldn’t breathe any more. We were caught between a brick wall and a busy road. So we flattened ourselves against the wall, doing our best to stay out of the way. There was ample room for cyclists to get by, and Maggie was clearly in physical distress – but that didn’t stop one cyclist from wrinkling her face into a disapproving prune and shaking her head at us.
Where’s the tolerance? Again, totally depressing incident.
The only way cycling will ever become mainstream, is if we show tolerance of differently-abled cyclists. There are a limited number of super-athletes in society. Most of us are just average cyclists. Some of us need electric bikes to keep up with the average pack. Or we need to go slower. Or stop and take a break sometimes.
Bottom line: we are ALL cyclists! We are all prepared to risk life and limb by going out on public roads on bicycles. We are all vulnerable together. So shouldn’t we stick together?
Besides which, why be mean to each other when we have a real enemy – that tiny percentage of motorists who hate us? Lucy sounds uncomfortably like those motorists who rant about cyclists because they slow down traffic:
“I’m sick of bikers getting in my way! Walk or take the bus!!!! WHY MUST YOU BIKE ON MAIN ROADS AND CLOG UP TRAFFIC???”
With people like that out there, shouldn’t we cyclists stick together, support each other, and simply be nice to each other – and save our annoyance for the real enemies, such as the ranting poster on Craig’s List who urges motorists to kill cyclists?
Mainly we are good to each other, even helpful and gentle with each other, as I have commented elsewhere. A couple of years after that nasty incident in Montreal, when Maggie started to commute to work by bike in Vancouver, she was overwhelmed by how kind other cyclists were towards her. This is such a good thing – if we support each other, our numbers will grow. And then we will become more visible, and all kinds of great things will follow. More infrastructure will be created for us. We will be less vulnerable to cars: less of us will be killed! For example, Europe has four times as many cyclists as North America, but the same level of cyclist fatalities (see my post, Copenhagen is a Paradise for Cyclists).
Does it really matter if some of those living, breathing cyclists are a little slower?
In fact, nothing makes me happier than to see an obviously new bike commuter, making his or her way nervously along the bike routes. Once I even saw a guy who had his wife waving at him encouragingly as he cautiously set off on his new bike. He was pretty embarrassed, but I just thought, “Welcome – one less car to kill me!”
My opinion: Let’s stick together, and be nice to each other, and support those who cycle more slowly. United we will ride, divided we could be mown down by motorists.
What do YOU think? Should we be more tolerant of slower cyclists?
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First of all, I’m glad to see a Vancouver-based cycling blog (discovered it recently, thanks to Don Cayo’s various posts on cycling). There are many blogs in other western countries that are following in the tradition of copenhagenize.com, advocating in one form or another for more cycling. About time Vancouver had something similar.
To the topic of this post: as with most of the frustrations surrounding cycling, and its increased popularity in this city, the main problem seems to be about infrastructure. Whether its the lack of a sidewalk or extra space on that Montreal hill that you and your wife were caught on, or the ridiculously narrow bike lanes that most of us have to deal with in Vancouver, our infrastructure still leaves much to be desired. Improve the infrastructure, give us more space, and lessen the chance for friction between those of various abilities and speeds.
Yes, we could certainly hope for more tolerance, but I think our environment has a lot to do with how we interact with each other.
I wrote in to Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish recently on a similar topic recently:
Hi pacpost. Thanks for all your positive feedback.
You raise an interesting point about infrastructure. Last week I was on the Central Valley Greenway, in New Westminster. A short part of the “greenway” is a very narrow sidewalk, next to the very busy North Road. Cyclists are supposed to travel both ways here, and also a sign requests that cyclists yield to “peds”. It’s all just an accident waiting to happen, especially given that the CVG is probably the main commuting route for cyclists going from New West to Vancouver. If I had my way, cyclists would be given entire ROADS – not a lot of them, but enough that you could get most places on them. One road per route, basically. Then we’d have LOTS of space, and there’d certainly be less room for friction.
Thanks for that link – I found the video a bit annoying, and liked your response.
By the way, I am always on the look out for people to do guest posts. Maybe you’d like to do one about the issues you raised in your message to Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish? Or some other issue, as you clearly have international cycling experience?
Thanks for the kind response.
I’ve cycled the CVG from Broadway & Commercial to Burnaby Lake, but I’ve yet to “enjoy” the stretch of road you mention. Having been around that part of town only a few times, I can only imagine what it’s like to cycle around there.
My brother lives out in New West (on that sliver of land between the river and the railroad tracks), and I’ve taken the BC Parkway a few times. That has its own “exciting” sections.
I agree, having a linked, protected network of wide “roads” strictly for cyclists would be wonderful. It would be nice to think that all cyclists should be respectful of each other (“we’re all in this together”), but we remain human beings, with the full range of attitudes and characteristics. Both good and bad.
Thanks for the offer, I’ll see if I have some additional ideas that would be worthy of posting.
Keep in touch.
Definitely will keep in touch – and looking forward to maybe receiving a post from you one of these days!
Regarding the March Road incident: Darryl Wilton, Ottawa Paramedics snedriutpneent of operations, told CTV.ca that the distance between the point of the first impact and the patient furthest away was 120 metres. That kind of stopping distance is consistent with going at 120 to 130 km/h, and failing to pull out of the bicycle lane. Faster, actually, since the driver was still going fast enough at the end to injure the last cyclist.I hope the police seriously investigate rather more severe criminal charges than just fleeing the scene.
THose kind of rude bikers are like the muscle guys in gym – they intimidate you so you are afraid to even go out on the bike lanes. But if there were more bikers, obviously we’d be safer – no-brainer!
Great to see your Blog, as an old Hunter Valley boy I remember alyaws a strong bike/surf culture industry and sport in Newy Heaps of bikes with board trolleys and carriers back to the old Mal days. Sad about the velodrome and so many of the old makers who actually manufactured bikes in Newcastle way back. Check out Pyramid bikes, I have one from the 1920 s. Keep it going
I try not to be a rude cyclist, but it is possible that some will misconstrue. If I find somebody travelling at half my normal speed I will typically slow down and follow along for a few blocks just so that I don’t convey some sort of superiority. Besides, I appreciate an excuse to take a break now and then.
At some point, though, I will usually have to pass; I try to make eye contact and some friendly acknowledgment when I do, but my cycling gets a little wobbly at low speeds and it must be done. I can only hope that the acknowledgment is not taken as some form of smug communication.
I do admit to being less polite to “cyclists” who disregard the basic rules of the road or others’ enjoyment of said road. Follow the signals, walk in crosswalks where you’re not allowed to ride, and wear a helmet (particularly if you are making your kids wear one), and I have no problem sharing the path with you.
I agree it is not easy to be polite to the cyclists who disregard all the rules. I actually wrote about that in another post at https://averagejoecyclist.com/?p=486 – I’d be interested in your opinions. Since I wrote that, I have been second-guessing myself a bit. For example, Royal Oak is extremely busy and the traffic is extremely fast. Right next to the road is a very broad sidewalk that has very few pedestrians. Cyclists would be much safer on the sidewalk, and would also not slow down the motorized vehicles. So it would be better for all. As one cyclist who I know said, it’s unfair for the authorities to fail to provide us with safe infrastructure, and then force us to risk our lives on the road. For example, in the case of Royal Oak, that broad sidewalk could be divided into a pedestrian lane and a bike lane for little cost, and save cyclists’ lives (and nerves). And not force cyclists to break the law!