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.
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