I was in Chicago for the August long weekend and randomly happened upon their Critical Mass ride. It was so huge! And the city is so cyclist friendly! Bike lanes in the downtown core, imagine!
So it’s not surprising that it was the Chicago police, and not the Toronto police, that put out this video. It’s very educational, in both the good and bad sense: perhaps a bit unsophisticated, but very, very useful. Interspersed with horror stories by bike commuters and bike cops are voiceovers outlining the driving laws pertaining to cyclists. It’s not just annoying to turn right in front of a bike, park in a bike lane or squish a rider over to the curb, it’s illegal. The police officers in this video encourage their colleagues to enforce these laws—wouldn’t it be nice if the Toronto police did that too, instead of just busting cyclists?
The vid also admonishes cyclists to behave themselves too (I’ve been practicing my driving lately, and realized that not having a front light makes me an idiot). Sharing and caring: it’s time to go back to kindergarten, everybody.
FYI, cyclists: a friend of a friend was biking his usual route yesterday morning, west along Danforth towards the core. He was stopped by a bunch of bike cops at Broadview and Danforth and given a handout about the cycling rules of the road. The police officer who handed it to him said “next week, it’s zero tolerance.”
I’ve commuted by bicycle for nine years now, and as anyone who’s ridden with me or read this blog knows, I’m very safety conscious and I think cyclists could tighten up their act. Put a helmet on, and get those damn headphones out of your ears. That said, I’m really disappointed and angry that in the aftermath of the tragic Darcy Sheppard/Michael Bryant incident, the official response is apparently to pin the blame for bike-car incidents on cyclists. Any traffic crackdown on cyclists that isn’t matched by similar “educational” efforts towards drivers is only going to escalate the situation between cars and bikes in Toronto. Has anyone ever heard of a motorist getting a ticket for cutting off a bike? Or for dooring someone, a deadly, daily threat? Cycling aside, if the police have the time and resources to crack down on hitherto ignored traffic violations, what I’d like to see are tickets slapped onto idling cars. It’s wasteful and gross, and it’s my air they’re polluting.
A person lost his life in a horrifying, unnecessary way this week. The lesson we should all be learning is that travelling in a busy city, whether by car, bike, foot or transit, is serious business. I was reading about Critical Manners today (thanks @helenspitzer), a ride that’s happened in San Francisco and Vancouver, whereby cyclists take to the street en masse – and follow the rules of the road. The comments were pretty interesting – a lot of people think that Critical Mass riders are road hogs that do the cycling advocacy movement no good. I was struck by one pro-Mass comment though: that part of the point is to imagine a world without car supremacy. I haven’t ridden in Critical Mass for years – it was fun and totally thrilling to own the streets, but I didn’t like taunting police horses. At heart, I’m a Critical Manners kind of girl. I really hope that police resources in my city aren’t being used to reinforce that cars – despite the pollution factor, the peak oil factor, the accidents causing death factor – are “real” vehicles, and bicycles merely interlopers. I might just have to ride around wearing a shiny wig, honking a big horn, reminding Toronto that streets are for people.
Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece about the Bike Snob, who has gained notoriety and made celebrity friends thanks to his funny rants about NYC cyclists. I thought I’d take this opportunity to first link you to his very clever blog, and then tell you my own personal pet peeves about the Toronto cyclists that I curse every day.
1. People that are too cool to stop at stop lights but too lame to go fast. These losers pass me at every red, but ride soooo sloooowly I’m forced to constantly jump the streetcar tracks (which I hate) to pass them. Cue new red light. Repeat. Grrr.
2. People that listen to music while riding. Um hi, you need your inner ear for balance. You need your whole ear to hear whether one of the four million other people that live in this city are going to get in your way. Riding with headphones is dumb and seeing your brains on the pavement would really kill my buzz, so quit it.
3. People that ride really fast on the sidewalk. I’ll admit it, I shortcut over the sidewalk at times too. It’s wrong. But it’s more wrong to do it really fast, endangering children, old people, and all the pedestrians who have the right to assume that they won’t be plowed down when they’re on the sidewalk. Related: cyclists that don’t even pretend to stop for streetcar passengers.
4. Low riders. I just think they look dumb, and bad for your hips. The exception to this rule is the tall black hairstylist from Coupe Bizzarre with the crazy outfits and crazy gold low rider. She makes the city cooler and can do whatever she wants.
5. People that ride next to each other and chitchat on busy streets. Riding with friends is fun. Blocking the lane to attempt a meaningful conversation during rush hour is wrong.