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The Fixer Gets It Right 14

Family on bicycle

Mother and her three children riding home from school – by Brad Hawkins / Courtesy of RateMyVelo.com

Two weeks ago I wrote an open letter to Toronto Star newspaper columnist Jack Lakey who calls himself “The Fixer” because he fixes things that are “broken in your neighbourhood”.

I critiqued “The Fixer” for his angry rant against cyclists because it perpetuates an animosity towards bicyclists who are already treated like second class citizens, and we sometimes have to break the law just to stay safe.

But most of us are courteous and don’t endanger other people, so I didn’t appreciate the generalizations and hyperbole in Mr. Lakey’s rant.

After writing a subsequent Fixer article highlighting cyclists who ride through a park where bicycles are banned, Mr Lakey emailed me to ask for my comments.

I basically responded that cyclists shouldn’t be banned from parks in the first place (and in fact the vast majority of parks in Toronto allow bicycles), but I also pointed out that I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t a general rant against cyclists, and it actually targeted a specific issue and specific cyclists who were using the park despite the prohibition.

I also thought it would be appropriate at that point to invite Mr. Lakey on a ride around Toronto to show him some of the things that are broken in the city that cyclists have to deal with every day (and there are many).

The Fixer accepted my offer and will join me for a ride around Toronto in mid August on his trusty old Raleigh bike that his wife gave him as a birthday gift more than 20 years ago.

If you live in Toronto and have suggestions of “broken” places to take Mr. Lakey, I’m compiling a list and will devise a route in the next week or two.

During our correspondence, The Fixer told me it was only fair to ask drivers to change their behaviours since he had asked cyclists to change their behaviour. So he asked me to describe some of the things that drivers can do to make cycling more comfortable.

These suggestions were published in The Fixer’s column yesterday entitled “Give cyclists space, and a little respect”.

I asked the following of motorists:

  • When passing cyclists, slow down and give them a bit more space. A pothole could be enough to cause us to swerve, and if you’re passing too closely, a one-foot swerve could put me right in your path.
  • When I’m making a legal left turn, please don’t get mad at me because you have to drive around me. I have every right to be in the left-turn lane, and getting angry at me doesn’t help, it only tempts me to break the law and do an illegal left turn to avoid angry drivers.
  • When I’m in the right lane, and a streetcar is in the left lane, please don’t try to squeeze through.
  • Help us try to get better cycling infrastructure. As a driver, it’s in your interest to have more bike infrastructure. It helps you to get to your destination without bicycles getting in your way. It also makes my ride more comfortable and encourages more people to use bicycles.
  • Please don’t park in the bike lane. It forces me into traffic which creates unnecessary conflict between drivers and cyclists. It’s bad enough that many of our bike lanes are in the ‘door zone’ of drivers. Please don’t make it worse by blocking the small space that we have.
  • When turning right, please check your blind spot to make sure I’m not passing you. I’ll do my best to pass you on the left side when it’s safe to do so, but sometimes the bike lane passes on your right. I’ll be cautious when I pass you, but if you could take a look, I’d appreciate it.
  • Please be sure to check your mirrors before opening your car door.

View the full article here.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • Montrealize

    1. Do not rat run through residential areas, cutting throught at full speed: these streets are used by a lot of urban cyclists, sometimes with children. Stick to the major arteries.

    2. Get out of your car and cycle once in a freaking while, it shall open your eyes!

  • Montrealize

    1. Do not rat run through residential areas, cutting throught at full speed: these streets are used by a lot of urban cyclists, sometimes with children. Stick to the major arteries.

    2. Get out of your car and cycle once in a freaking while, it shall open your eyes!

  • Gclarke

    Hopefully Mr. Fix-it will read BicycleSafe.com and update his skills (after a 20 year lay off).

    There’s a picture on the site of a bike with a bright pool noodle tied to the back of the bike which is the same as the width of the handlebars. This is to show drivers how much space the bike takes up on the road. Nice idea.

    The site doesn’t mention bike mirros but I use them religiously even if my cycling friends make fun. I feel better knowing what’s bearing down on me.

    I’ll give Mr. Fix-it 1 hour in traffic before he toss the bike and hails a cab.

  • Gclarke

    Hopefully Mr. Fix-it will read BicycleSafe.com and update his skills (after a 20 year lay off).

    There’s a picture on the site of a bike with a bright pool noodle tied to the back of the bike which is the same as the width of the handlebars. This is to show drivers how much space the bike takes up on the road. Nice idea.

    The site doesn’t mention bike mirros but I use them religiously even if my cycling friends make fun. I feel better knowing what’s bearing down on me.

    I’ll give Mr. Fix-it 1 hour in traffic before he toss the bike and hails a cab.

  • zmau

    James, why so many pleases ? Most of staff you ask them, they can also read in traffic rules.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      The Fixer’s original article was pretty rude and generalized about all cyclists – demanding that they follow the law without looking at some of the reasons why cyclists break some laws in the first place.

      I thought I would take the higher road and be polite about it. If you’re looking for a smug, sarcastic message to drivers, my article from January entitled “You’re Welcome Mr. Motorist” will do the trick: http://www.theurbancountry.com/2011/01/youre-welcome-mr-motorist.html

      • zmau

        That’s my favorite one :).
        And it’s good to let them know that they are the ones who break the rules every minute, and as I do more and more discussions to them, I am getting more and more aware that they are really not aware of it.
        But, of course, I respect strong nerves that you show in this case.

  • zmau

    James, why so many pleases ? Most of staff you ask them, they can also read in traffic rules.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    The Fixer’s original article was pretty rude and generalized about all cyclists – demanding that they follow the law without looking at some of the reasons why cyclists break some laws in the first place.

    I thought I would take the higher road and be polite about it. If you’re looking for a smug, sarcastic message to drivers, my article from January entitled “You’re Welcome Mr. Motorist” will do the trick: http://www.theurbancountry.com/2011/01/youre-welcome-mr-motorist.html

  • zmau

    That’s my favorite one :).
    And it’s good to let them know that they are the ones who break the rules every minute, and as I do more and more discussions to them, I am getting more and more aware that they are really not aware of it.
    But, of course, I respect strong nerves that you show in this case.

  • davehamel

    James,

    I would recommend you take Mr. Lakey on a ride along the Gerrard Bike path to University. It is in generally poor condition, has many cars using the bike lane as a parking, and once you get to University you are thrown into 3 lanes of traffic each way. (plus it is my morning commute).

    Keep up the good work!

  • davehamel

    James,

    I would recommend you take Mr. Lakey on a ride along the Gerrard Bike path to University. It is in generally poor condition, has many cars using the bike lane as a parking, and once you get to University you are thrown into 3 lanes of traffic each way. (plus it is my morning commute).

    Keep up the good work!

  • Ryanunderson

    Often times I asked motorist what they’re mostly done at street, they said they’re very alert when car doors are opening either they slow down or change lane just to avoid getting hit.

    locksmith in Wichita

  • Ryanunderson

    Often times I asked motorist what they’re mostly done at street, they said they’re very alert when car doors are opening either they slow down or change lane just to avoid getting hit.

    locksmith in Wichita