Monday, February 8, 2010

The Ups and Downs

It's been an uneven cycling day, all told. Leave aside the damp, -20 windchill this morning, which made it a slightly unpleasant slog at times on the way to work. That's okay, I can deal with that. In fact... I think it's been established I'm a bit of a glutton for punishment.

But it was the ride home that was such a roller coaster.

Here's the note I just wrote to the "feedback" people at OC Transpo. (Mom: you might want to skip this bit.)

I don't know if this falls under "personnel," but there was no category provided for "safety." At pretty much exactly 5:00 this evening I was on my bike crossing the Montreal Road bridge over the Rideau River. There's a bike lane there (although it's half buried under ice at this time of year.)

An articulated bus, route #12, passed me. I'm used to biking in traffic, I've been doing it for two years now, and I'm used to being passed with little space to spare. But this bus had overlapped the bike lane. It did not slow down as it went by me, and even allowing for the under-estimation of clearance that happens when a cyclist is terrified, this bus had to have passed within a foot and a half of my handlebars. I instinctively slammed on my brakes. Good thing there was no ice under my tires. It was frightening, and one thing I've figured out in my time on the streets is that it's when cyclists get scared that accidents happen. I didn't catch the bus number. I was too busy trying to collect myself.

Don't get me wrong - for the most part I have had a great experience sharing the roads with OC Transpo buses. Usually, the drivers slow up around me, give me room, wait for me to pass before pulling out, even go above and beyond and get over into the other lane on four-lane streets, and generally behave very well. That's why I felt I had to report this one. It was frightening.

Thank you for the drivers that do understand how scary it is to share the road with something the size of a bus - and please, please, try to educate the ones that don't.

Thanks -

Kathryn Hunt
Bike commuter and OC Transpo rider.

I actually had to stop a pedestrian as I was waiting to cross at Charlotte to double check the bus number. "Was that bus a 12?" I asked him, and he nodded. "Okay," I said. "Cause he just nearly hit me back there and I'm calling it in." I'm a big proponent of calling this kind of thing in, too. Nothing gets done by generally bitching about it... but call and ask to speak to a supervisor and at least someone will sweat a little. I ticked "Response Requested" on that note, by the way. I'll post whatever I hear back from them.

But, I continued on my way. Past the spot on Laurier where I spotted someone's lost agenda notebook on the street on Friday (nice thing about biking, you go slower and notice things like that; I stopped, stuffed it in my bag, and called the guy when I got home. Returned it to him today, and that was cool.) And on down the street, meshing with the rest of the traffic. By this time "Stadium Love" was playing in my right ear and I was over the jitters from the bus encounter. Pulled up at a red light somewhere near King Edward and a guy sitting on a park bench, with a Labrador retriever, said, "Hey, good for you. Biking through the winter."

I grinned. "Thanks," I said. "It's not as hard to do as people think it is."

"Yeah. People say things like 'how do you do that?' ... I say," and he made little pedalling motions with his hands, "you pedal."

"Exactly," I said. "You put on some gloves, and a hat, and you go." And he laughed, and said, "well, good for you," again, and the light turned green and I took off toward the canal, smiling.

So the fact that I was skimmed by a sedan on Heron, or that just outside my building some idiot in a car decided that just because there was a bike in the middle of the intersection was no reason not to blow through a stop sign, gunning it into a right turn and nearly hitting me ... that was just more ups and downs on the run home.

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