Saturday, April 21, 2007

Never say I've never...

I remember as a kid saying I've never been stung by a bee, and then presto - the next day I think I stepped on one barefoot. Today someone was telling me that they would like to bike in the city, but that everyone they know that does has been injured by a door prize. I've never been doored I mention, and then I knock on some wood.

Better than knocking on wood of course is not riding within the door zone of parked cars, but on narrow downtown roads with streetcar tracks this means riding in the only main traffic lane (between the tracks). If traffic is light you'll incur lots of road rage and "what the f*%& do you think you are? A car or something" comments. If traffic is heavy, you'll sit in line all day waiting to cross town when you could be easily zipping past all the stopped cars in the gap between the parked cars and slowly creeping forward ones. So you ride in the door zone but as far out as possible. You are aware of who's behind and beside you so you can swing across the tracks if you have to (or a vehicle is particularly wide or badly parked), you are aware of which vehicles are occupied so potential dooring hazards, and you ring your bell approaching occupied vehicles to remind them there is a bicycle, and you certainly don't ride like you're in the Tour de France in this space - moderate speed is the key. Most drivers driving on a road like Queen will just have passed oodles of cyclists getting to their destination which is a good reminder. Most people check before opening their doors, and most people also open their door in two phases, first a crack, then wide.

Anyway today is a positively glorious sunshiney warm day. The kind where you just want to be outside. Some people's idea of being outside seems to be driving around in a car with the sunroof open or their arm hanging out the window. So traffic on Queen is lined up for miles barely moving. I love Queen street though because it feels like bikes and streetcars own this street. I'm riding from west end to east, and not in a particular hurry. So when there's a bike jam of several bikes in the narrow space between the empty and not empty cars I am just smiling at seeing so many bikes out rather than cursing the slowness. I could ride along Adelaide instead (four lane one-way road) to have more space, but Queen is by far nicer for calm traffic and people watching. Life happens here. Adelaide is more for getting somewhere quick in a car.

So I mostly am paying attention to doors from parked cars, rather than doors from moving ones, of course I am always alert that people can step out of any side of a taxi whether it has pulled over or not. Then whoosh. Passenger side door flies fully open from a car in the center lane that has not bothered pulling over (despite there being an easy gap in parked cars to do so) I'm like whooooa, I'm going at a not fast pace but certainly not slow enough to stop in the space available. The car is actually over in my lane a bit already, which is not uncommon as driving on streetcar tracks is unpleasant and some stagger their wheels too far to the right. I swerve hard right and lean my body so that the door won't graze me. I hear "oh shiiitt" coming from somewhere inside the car.

And I pass the door unscathed. That knocking on wood really must have done the trick. But that's the closest a car door has come to me in a very long time and it has me rethinking my whole I hate helmets in summer weather policy. I'll be knocking on some more wood again too.

I'm sure someone will comment that passing stopped traffic on the right is a bad idea, but really if I had lined up behind them it would have taken me all day to get across town. Not very practical to pass on the left either because of the width of streetcars.