Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Toronto Cyclists Top 10 Peeves about Cycling in Toronto.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Toronto via Twitter and Facebook, "Hey Toronto Cyclists. What's your biggest pet peeve about cycling in Toronto? Let me know. I'll be writing about it."

This one came about after the drivers top 10 pet peeves after a lot of cyclists wanted their voices heard. Well, here is the writing about it and the results. Some great responses and really diverse!

Here are honourable mentions that didn't make the top ten. Drivers who don't let you change lanes, drivers who stop too close to you and my favourite...'drivers who wait for pedestrians when turning right and don't leave room to go straight ahead'. More on that one...it gets a special section for itself.

# 10 - SUV's.
I'm no really sure why cyclists don't like SUV's. Could be the carbon footprint, the size or make. Either way, I think that the dislike should be for poor driver behaviours, not the vehicles.

# 9 - No helmets.
One of my favourite answers. Other cyclists who don't wear helmets. Sure, as the argument goes, "A helmet won't save your life in all crashes." But what about the falls, the bumps and the crashes that it will save your life? Pretty small piece of safety equipment that can be the difference between life and death.

# 8 - Other cyclists running reds, makes us all look bad.
Not only does it make the good cyclists look bad, but it also confuses drivers. It's part of predictability which leads to better understanding/communication and respect.

# 7 - Not being seen.
This is a shared complaint for cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. Not being seen is a big deal. Drivers need to be more aware, alert and cognizant of vulnerable road users. Having said that, make sure you are doing everything you can to be see. Bright, reflective clothing, a light, reflectors, a bell, a whistle, not cutting in between cars...these can all help.

# 6 - Dooring.
Drivers, do you open your doors in front of cars? Then why do it in front of cyclists? You can't just rely on mirrors to see what's coming from behind you...you need to check over your shoulder to get the big picture.

# 5 - Drivers who don't get Road Sharing
Fully agree with this one. Cyclists are vehicles and have the same rights to the roadway as such. Because they are slower moving they are to stay to the right, but where situations dictate...cyclists can block a lane for their safety. This also has to do with passing. Drivers should pass cyclists giving them as much space as possible.

# 4 - Pedestrian Actions.
Pedestrians have to consider their safety and the safety of cyclists. Stepping out from between parked cars or onto roadways without looking is a recipe for disaster for both road users.
#3 - Drivers who right turn without signalling.
Drivers failing to signal was number one on their list and here it is in the top 3 here. Evidence again that this is a problem.

# 2 - Vehicle's parked in bike lanes.
No surprise here at all. The bike lanes are not a place to allow delivery vehicles or cars to park for convenience. They are to allow a safety zone for cyclists to travel.

# 1 - Infrastructure.
By a land slide! Lots of responses for this in many forms from bike lanes that lead no where, to lanes that aren't cleared of leaves and snow along with not enough bike lanes and poor road maintenance and street car tracks.

So that's the way you responded. Watch for another question coming soon. In the meantime, here is a couple of my thoughts.

Why obeying the rules of the road are so important.
One of cyclists concerns that I hear throughout the year is drivers who don't pay them any respect. I agree that there is a problem with this. But, respect is earned not demanded. One way that drivers have said that cyclists can earn that respect is to follow the same rules that apply to them. No wrong way on one way streets, no stop sign running, stop for red lights and use hand signals. Cyclists who do these, and there are many, are more predictable and are communicating. Those riders are easy to respect because their actions are safer and don't leave drivers wondering.

As for, "Drivers who wait for pedestrians when turning right and don't leave room to go straight ahead."
I'll take blame for this because I encourage drivers to do just that...when turning, move to the right to keep cyclists from passing on the right. Force cyclists to pass on the left. Passing on the right is just not a safe or smart move. Drivers should never have to worry about a cyclist passing them on the right and by closing that space, they are actually protecting themselves, and the cyclist.
Cyclists even have a great option here...stop, get off your bike, go up on the sidewalk, walk it across the street and then return to the road and ride on! No having to pass on the left, no waiting for the car to turn and you may even get the chance to make the driver wait for you.

Ride safe, ride aware, ride co-operative.


  1. "Drivers should never have to worry about a cyclist passing them on the right."

    Wow. Do you ever wonder why cyclists get 'doored' all the time by people getting out of cabs on the passenger side?

    Any time a car is stopped in the curb lane, for any reason, the driver should be "more aware, alert and cognizant of vulnerable road users" -- I read that somewhere.

    It's amazing to me that anyone would advocate using your car as a road block to "force" cyclists to take a certain path.

    Speaking for myself, I'll happily go around to the left if I see a car stopped ahead waiting to turn right. But 99 times out of 100, the driver isn't looking, hasn't signaled, hasn't thought ahead about whether he's going to have to stop or not and ends up cutting me off while I'm alongside, pinning me between his car and the curb. If I've scraped the side of his car, there's hell to pay.

    Now you've just reaffirmed his (usually profanity laden) opinion that I had no business being there because no one should ever be passing him on the right.

  2. i dunno where this goes but : Cyclists who ride on the sidewalk...

    i think it's time for a Pedestrian's list :)

  3. Tim, I completely disagree with your assessment that cars should cut off cyclists and force them to pass on the left. I am fine with passing on the left if the car was there long before me and is already halfway through the right turn. But when I'm sitting beside a car at a red light and the light turns green and the car pulls ahead and blocks me, that is not right.. yet that seems to be what you are promoting here.

    When I am driving a car, and the light turns green and there are pedestrians crossing, I pull up straight, wait for the pedestrians to clear, then check for bicycles and then proceed into the right turn.

    To suggest that a cyclist should pull up on the sidewalk and walk his/her bike only contributes to the notion that cars own the roads and cyclists are secondary.

    Pretty good list otherwise though ;)

  4. Hey James...great point and when I was writing that part, I never considered that interpretation. I agree that a driver should never cut off a cyclist to create that situation.

    I only meant that a driver should eliminate the possibility of a cyclist passing on the right. The problem with allowing that space open is some drivers, as we both know, don't take the time to look and if that space is there a cyclist potentially gets put in a bad position.

    The reason I suggest it is for collision prevention...remove the causes of collisions and less will occur.

    When these collisions occur, the vehicle turning is driver number one on the collision report and the cyclist is "in the right" due to the non turning movement. BUT, right of way is a terrible argument from a hospital bed. Avoiding the situation is the best outcome.

    It may seem that you are giving way to the "car is king" argument by mounting the sidewalk, but you could be saving your skin.

    Again, thanks for the comment James...hopefully our conversation serves the purpose of raising awareness, options for safety and most of all...safer roads.

  5. A good list.

    In regards to cars(especially those who are indicating right) at intersections, I won't ever pass them on the right if they are near to the actual corner. My rationale being that even though there is a gap to squeeze by in I can't predict/see if a gap will open up ahead in the pedestrian traffic crossing or that traffic on the cross-street will clear allowing the driver to proceed. As an extreme example I would never come up the inside right of a large tractor-trailer truck turning right.

    Anyways, I appreciate the effort James, but I might just pass you on the left anyways!

  6. "But, respect is earned not demanded."

    It is not up to individuals to decide who they will "respect" on our roads. Will you let someone get away with a crime simply because they do not "respect" the victim? Aggressive, dangerous and simply ignorant driving is not a matter of respect, it is about people willfully neglecting the laws that have been put in place to protect the safety of all road users.

    The thought of dismounting at any intersection to gain "respect" and "be safe" is quite frankly insulting.

  7. Duncan, this somewhat relates to your comment:

    A few weeks ago I wrote an article on how irresponsible the Toronto Police can be when it comes to the great responsibility drivers have on our streets (http://www.theurbancountry.com/2009/11/ignoring-real-problem-on-our-streets.html)

    I received an interesting comment from a cycling blogger down in Florida, Mighk Wilson. Here is his comment:

    "Most law enforcement now sees their primary traffic role as "keeping the cars moving," not protecting the vulnerable from those wielding power.

    A number of years ago I explained the crosswalk law to a number of officers (many of whom seemed to be hearing it for the first time). One Florida Highway Patrol officer responded: "I'm not going to stop six lanes of traffic so some some guy can cross the street to get a Frosty at Wendy's."

  8. Pretty good list, though the "honourable mention" seems to be the hot topic!

    The rationale for closing the gap seems to be defensive driving or eliminating an opportunity for a collision. That's good in theory, but the scenario here is a driver pulling across the path of the cyclist and stopping. The driver is blocking and the only potential danger is to the cyclist, who has to stop or alter his route to avoid a collison. Sounds to me like the bike is on defence, not the car!

    All I have to do is look in my side mirror and allow the cyclist to pass before proceeding with the turn. I can easily do that with my vehicle pointed straight ahead with the blinker on until it's safe to go. Everybody gets where they want to go, no detours/dismounts needed.

  9. Great list Tim, and great explanation of each one. Very fair and balanced descriptions of what we all can do to make roads safer. I will "tweet" the link to this post on the @bikingtoronto twitter account. :)

  10. Thanks Joe...appreciate your help in spreading this around.