Saturday, May 22, 2010

Road hazards

On my way west on Heron today, I was enjoying the sunshine and actually getting up some speed - not enough, really: I still need to get my gears fixed up - when I looked ahead and realized I was on a collision course with a motorized wheelchair, heading straight for me down the side of the street.

It startled the hell out of me. I gave him a weird look as I swerved out and breezed past him, and his buddy (I think) on the sidewalk gave me a weird look in return. What are the rules governing motorized wheelchairs anyway? Something tells me they probably don't allow for random, counter-traffic, in-the-street motoring. Anyone know? Anyone?

On the same trip, I also encountered a ten-inch galvanized nail in the bike lane (not, sadly, that uncommon an experience, but one does wonder how it got there) and a company van that buzzed me (within at least two feet) going about 60km or more. Also not that uncommon an experience.

The wheelchair, though: that's a new one on me.

Speaking of Heron, that's an intersection I'm going to have to post on Ottawa Biking Problems. Coming east on Walkley, where it converges with Heron, I always wind up with the same choice. Do I stay right as long as possible, then duck across two lanes of  Heron before it splits off from Walkley so I can keep going down Walkley? Or do I stay in the Walkley-bound lanes (with a lane or two on my right) in the middle of high-speed traffic, many of the cars fresh from the highway? If I choose to stay in the "Walkley" lane, I have a good 1000 feet or so to bike with cars on either side of me, and it's kinda scary. If I choose to stick right, I then have to shoulder check, signal, and cross two lanes of traffic to get back into the Walkley lanes as I approach the intersection. This seems to me like a spot where a bike lane, giving bikes a buffer as they continue onto Walkley, would be a really good idea.


  1. Wheelchairs are like pedestrians, except if there isn't a way to get onto the sidewalk, they have to use the road (which is not uncommon if you've ever had to use one).

    Search for "wheelchair" at the HTA here (though it doesn't give much).

    Good idea about the bike lane/pocket.

  2. Yeah, a friend of mine commented that in Montreal, where she lives, the wheelchairs frequently have to be in the street because the sidewalks are impassable. (In this case, though, there was a wide, broad, navigable sidewalk right next to the road - Heron is definitely not a cluttered downtown street - and there was another guy in a wheelchair motoring along on the sidewalk beside him.) Granted, this guy may have gotten onto the street and not been able to get over the curb, and might have been heading upstream to try and find a spot where he could get back on the sidewalk. Which I can imagine could be kinda scary.