Time to end driver, cyclist war

There is a simmering, seething, situation that is evident every day on our roads. It is the conflict between the motoring public and cyclists.

Vehicle drivers are very critical of cyclists for several reasons, some legitimate and others not so legitimate.

Drivers often see riders who ignore stop signs and traffic lights. Many do not wear helmets and ride without lights at night. Some cyclists weave in and out of traffic, never signalling, and cause conflict by holding up the smooth flow of vehicles. Cyclists who ride on the sidewalk or on the wrong side of the road are flirting with disaster.

These poor, offensive riders are in the minority but seem to stand out.

Slack enforcement of the most basic bicycle regulations is to blame for a lot of the resentment toward the two-wheeled pedal-pushers. It is about time that tickets were issued for the above offences in the same way that seatbelt and speeding citations are issued.

On the other hand, the safe and skilful cyclists should be appreciated by everyone on the road, pedestrians included. They set a good example for all of us. The more bicycles on the road, the fewer cars. The environment wins every time we get on our bikes instead of in our motorized chariots. People who pedal are in better shape than the rest of the population.

There are special cyclist lanes in most of our urban areas, which are a testament to the support for this form of transportation by all levels of government. Most cyclists adhere to the rules and regulations that govern motorized transportation.

Vehicle drivers must become much more aware of the space needed by bicycle riders. Every driver should do a shoulder check before any lateral move, whether a lane change or a turn. Because bicycles are smaller and do not make much noise, drivers must always look for them. Crashes with cyclists cause much more serious injuries than would happen to a person protected by thousands of pounds of metal and safety equipment such as seatbelts and airbags.

Dedicated bicycle lanes should be thought of as sacred territory for cyclists. Pavement marking should be fluorescent to emphasize these lanes.

Drivers should yield to cyclists who dismount in order to use a legal crosswalk. Riders who do not dismount should be treated as vehicles waiting at an intersection, subject to all the regular right of way rules and conventions.

Drivers should be particularly careful when passing bicycles. Allow enough space for a safe pass and appreciate the difficult task faced by riders every day.

Many bicycles on our roads are very valuable, and can cost thousands of dollars, yet there is no mandatory insurance requirement. No licence plate for identification is demanded by government at any level. No proficiency test exists for cyclists.

All of these things cause resentment by motorized vehicle drivers, who must insure their vehicles, pass a driver’s test and display a licence plate. Are they legitimate concerns? Probably not, since most people who ride also hold a driver’s licence.

One of my associates rides his bike to work on days when the weather permits. Most other times he drives to work. Lately, he has confided that he is upset when cyclists display bad behaviour but is equally offended when on his bicycle, he encounters impolite drivers. He sees both sides of the issue.

His advice is simple: allow more space and respect the rights and responsibilities of other road users. Advice we should all heed.

Steve Wallace is a longtime teacher and owner of the Wallace Driving School in Victoria.

Photo credit: Brett Gundlock, National Post