Monday, August 31, 2009

Diva In Car

It's a gorgeous day for biking: enough of a cool breeze that I cool off when stopped, enough sun that I have to squint, and just the right temperature to be wearing my favorite brown hoodie with the ninja on it and my favorite biking capris from MEC. And I have completely lucked out in that most of my 7.5 mile trip home from work is along the Rideau River pathway and I can just zip along and enjoy the sunshine. Made the whole trip in 35 minutes today. I counted.

But, the last mile or so is up the hill on Bank Street between Riverside and Heron. And past Billings Bridge Mall. Where traffic loves to turn. And today I was just about cut off by someone turning right, in front of me, driving a sedan with one of those novelty warning signs - you know, the yellow diamond that used to read "Baby on Board" - that said, "Diva in Car."

Isn't that the problem? Divas in cars?

I guess it bothered me today because my brother was hit by a car last weekend. He was heading south at the intersection of Jane and Dundas in Toronto when someone blew through the light and caught his handlebars with his rearview mirror. Luckily, that was all the contact there was between bike and car - it could have been a lot worse - but he's still pretty banged up: went over the handlebars and apparently hit the curb back-first. Yowch.

Proof that the biking gods are kind, though - there was a cop car on the same block, and the guy got written up for running the light. And, I fervently hope, for reckless endangerment. I have yet (knock on beech-appearance foil from IKEA) to be hit by a car on Mike. I was hit, once, back in college when I was riding an eighties-pink-and-white beast I owned as a teenager, and that time I was the one blowing through the intersection, in Old Ottawa South at the bottom of Cameron on my way into Brewer Park, just outside Carleton campus. The poor middle-aged couple that hit me were horrified, and to tell the truth I was more embarassed than injured. The bike wobbled for a bit, and I think I wheeled it most of the way to Philosophy class, but I was fine. Ditto for the time I had a car door opened on me on my way down Bank two years ago. The woman who did it tried to buy me a Booster Juice to apologize.

But I remembered, when I heard about what happened to my brother, that I'd seen a listing in an article from the Citizen, of bike/car incidents and what's going on, statistically, when two wheels conflicts with four. According to the article, one in three accidents happen when the car is turning right. "Most motorists don't see the cyclists .... their brain is not looking for [them]," is the comment from Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Stuart Feldman.

Then again, looking at the raw numbers, and remembering the rate at which Ottawa drivers blow through red lights:

Collision statistics

Apparent driver manoeuvres in 2008 collisions involving motor vehicles and cyclists in Ottawa.

Going ahead: 101

Turning right: 91

Turning left: 48

Stopped: 24

Other: 28

Apparent cyclist manoeuvres in 2008 in collisions involving motor vehicles and cyclists.

Going ahead: 255

Turning left: 22

Other: 34

Source: City of Ottawa 2008 Annual Collision Report

(Update: My friend Sari read this post and sent me stats for Toronto, from the Montreal Gazette bike blog... 10% of car/bike accidents in Toronto, apparently, are the fault of the cyclist. Not all that surprising. We tend to be on our guards, heads up, eyes open - cause if we get hit things go badly. If cars hit us, they only have to worry about a scratched paint job. For the most part.)

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