Friday, April 30, 2010

A couple of things

I'm back on the road after a week off at the Festival (I book a Vrtucar during the Festival because of all the running around that needs to be done, so since the 21st I've been behind the wheel.) And that's Thing One:

Oh, my people. Cyclists, cyclists. I know you know this already but knowing and doing are apparently two different things. When I don't know whether you're going to obey the actual rules of the road, or the "cyclist" version of the rules of the road, things get hairy. I had to slam on the brakes once because a guy came cruising along the sidewalk, on the wrong side of the road for the direction he was going, and darted across the crosswalk against the light, as I was trying to turn right. Good thing I was trying to turn right, and not just rolling straight on through the intersection: it meant I was already going slow enough that I could slam on the brakes.

Turning left by crossing a couple of lanes, then cruising straight down the yellow line for half a block, then pedalling the wrong way into the oncoming lane while angling for that turn? Spooky. And let's talk about stunt bikes with bitty tires that wobble back and forth every time you pick up steam. Weaving and wobbling along, at the side of a road like Bank Street? Also spooky. Popping out from between parked cars? Yup. Spooky. I'm the driver that slows up and gives you room, remember, but I have to be able to see you. Or predict where you're going to be. I have said this before and I'll say it again: when everyone knows what to expect of everyone else, things are cool. When no one knows what to expect from anyone else, things are uncool and people could get hurt.

However, to the cyclists I did see (lots of them) who signalled, stopped at lights, shoulder checked, and generally behaved like cars - thank you. You, I didn't tense up while passing.

Thing Two: Mostly unrelated to Thing One. Today was my first trip downtown in over a week. I was on my way back up Bank Street, past Billings Bridge (this is where all my run-ins seem to take place) when an elderly couple in an elderly minivan came along and turned off Riverside. It's one of those intersections with the eased right turns. I was just crossing, and they came around the corner and right up on my back tire. I didn't notice them slowing up at all. I don't know if they heard me shouting, "Whoa. Whoa! WhoawhoawhoawhoaWHOA!" at them, as I started pedalling frantically to get ahead of the van, which was looming up behind me with no sign of stopping or slowing, almost as though they hadn't seen me. The woman, in the passenger seat, looked out the window at me with a vague, inscrutable smile as they passed me and I screamed, "What are you DOING?!?" at them. Maybe they were completely aware of me, and knew they weren't going to hit me: but I don't know that. It's always possible they hadn't noticed me. I feel very small and very transparent sometimes, on my bike.

It was another case that reminded me why I drive the way I do, when I have a car. I don't want to scare the cyclists. And to be totally honest, I'm a bit of a scaredy cyclist. I wonder sometimes why it doesn't stop me. I know a lot of people who have said they don't bike because it's too scary to tackle traffic. And I'm not the world's biggest risk-taker. I'm not the people I mentioned above, who duck and weave through traffic on their bikes. I'm stuck somewhere in between the sidewalk riders, who are too scared of traffic to try and ride in the roads, and the daredevils that thread the needle between city buses at high speed. This incident made me pull over and collect myself: and I actually caught myself wondering if it was wise to actually go back out there. But go back out there I did.

Thing Three: I just spotted this Facebook group, to support a friend of a friend of mine who is going to be biking 40K for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. 40K, you might say. Big deal. Except that Kathleen has retinitis pigmentosa. She's legally blind, and will be biking to Bells Corners and back. Now that's cool. Her sponsorship page is here if you want to give her your support.

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