Thursday, October 26, 2006

Best Of

NOW magazine has selected Crazy Biker Chick as the best personal blog in Toronto in their current best of Toronto issue. Sorry I have been quiet lately, hope to spook you all tomorrow at Critical Mask!
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Monday, October 02, 2006

Mad Mad World

Trying to be more observant of my traffic interactions the past few days, I just have to come to the conclusion that traffic is a crazed mad world out there, and so to survive you just have to kinda play along with the crazed mad game, which can mean you will sometimes come across as aggressive or inconsiderate.

Here's a sampling of the interactions:

  • A cop car cuts across me from the other side of the road. I figure he is pulling me over for something, of which I am completely clueless as I have been obeying the law. I have to brake reasonably hard, and I'm annoyed he hasn't stopped me in a safer manner. Then he waves me by, and it becomes apparent he was not stopping me at all, he was making a three-point turn to go the other direction, and just didn't see me.
  • Yet another bad professional driver - I'm riding along with another cyclist when a taxi driver opens his door right in front of him so he yells "BICYCLE" and the taxi driver - the one who opens his door without looking (which is a 2-demerit point offense by the way) yells "IDIOT" at the cyclist.
  • Friday at rush hour a friend and I meet up on our bikes to go to an outing in the direction that most commuters are heading. It always baffles my mind why people want to drive every day in mind-dumbingly slow traffic moving at about walking speed. Anyway we are on a road with a bike lane, so there's theoretically a path for bypassing the congestion, but ah the jam of cars going nowhere slowly is making this difficult. Drivers always seem to assume there is a reason they aren't moving, which is different from the simple fact that there are too many of them crammed into too small of a space. So every few cars there is one stopped to the right, across the bike lane line, in order to crane their neck to get a view of why this is happening. Most of these are just slightly into the bike lane, so its possible to pass them. One luxury car driver is fully blocking the lane, as she turned the corner when there was not space to complete the turn. This annoys me and I wait behind her continually ringing my bell. Hey outta my way. Of course another cyclist behind both of us yells at me because oh yeah I could pass her if I leaned my bike to the side and kicked my foot against the curb. (difficult to do without scratching the car)
  • We are taking a route with a lot of four-way stops to avoid rush-hour nutcases on Yonge Street, and its also easier to ride while chatting on the residential roads. So I get a better chance to set a good example and come to proper stops as I rarely take roads peppered with stop signs. I notice cars do not come to proper stops at these either and roll through. Coming to full stops seems to irritate cyclists behind me who ring their bells as they roll on past. But the worst is a driver rolling through the stop sign from the cross street when it was my turn to go! What did he think because I came to a full stop I was taking a rest break there or something? It seems in aggressive traffic if you you want your turn you have to roll through too. Drivers have no patience it seems for anyone following rules to the letter no matter what their vehicle.
  • A driver honks me as is typical when I am stopped in the center of the curb lane at the red light because he wants to turn right. Oh okay I'll be nice, and I push my bike over a bit further to the left so he can squeeze by. The next driver is going straight through (although there is a parked car not too far ahead in the lane). I signal with my right arm straight out, so I can move over and switch positions with him. He just really aggressively guns it straight through the intersection without letting me over at all.
  • At night I realize that a bike headlight is harder to notice when you are looking for traffic before making a turn than a car headlight is. So in an effort to make myself more visible, I also have a VERY bright headlight on my helmet, which I can then point in the direction of a car waiting on a cross street so I can be sure they see me. I'm out far from the curb, I point my head towards the drivers window. Yet still a car turns right in front of me. Yeah okay I have brakes and everything but this is annoying. I'm sure the driver must have seen the light. Does the driver a) just not associate the light with a vehicle? or b) figures its a bike but totally misjudges my speed, or c) figures he is more important than a bike so who cares?

I would not consider any of these close calls, you sometimes just have to anticipate the idiotic things other people are going to do in traffic so you can avoid them. I did however have a "close call" about a month ago. I am riding along Queen Street in the left side of the right lane (since there are parked cars in the lane, and I also do not weave in and out through gaps in parked cars, that just makes you invisible). This was the day after my brevet ride so I was really sore and moving at a slower-than-usual pace. Out of the corner of my eye it is apparent the car beside me is turning right onto a small side street. HELLO. What the hell are you doing, turning right from the center lane of the roadway? I suddenly turn right too, and I'm not sure if I countersteered or leaned to make a hard turn, or just turned, I was just concentrating on where the car was and not colliding with it.

Now perhaps I should have stopped, and asked the driver what he was thinking. I had passed him at this point because he stopped no doubt when he realized he could hit me, I look back, see his license plates (California, so far far from home), tinted windows so I can't actually see the driver, just sigh, make a u-turn, and then turn back onto Queen again. There are two possible explanations for what he was thinking. He was lost, not paying particular attention to his surroundings, so did not really notice me at all as he passed me, and then when I was in his blind spot, he saw the street sign went OH CRAP that's where I wanted to turn, and seeing nothing in his mirror makes the turn. Inattentiveness is annoying. But its not as worrying as idiocy or aggression. The other explanation is that he wanted to turn right, but could not change lanes at that point in time because I was there. So he probably figured a bike is slow, and if he just speeds up a little he can make the turn faster than if he waits for me to pass so he can change lanes. If it was the second explanation I have a much less forgiving attitude....

edit:After I wrote this I had a positive motorist interaction so I thought I would add it for balance. Going across the Bloor viaduct, traffic was too heavy and too fast to merge over a lane (the rightmost lane turns into an expressway on ramp) I signalled left anyway, shoulder checked and noticed the frontmost vehicle slowing to let me across his path. I waved a thank you, and then happily carried on. This is not unique to bikes, cars signal all the time where someone slows down to let them in their lane. I think its nice though to wave so the driver knows its appreciated. Too often people don't let others in since being nice often gets taken advantage of by aggressive drivers.
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