The Cycling Minority Is Tired of Abuse


The town I live in recently installed new stoplights at two main intersections. They have advanced green lights, sound effects for hearing-impaired pedestrians, and nice smooth pavement, but there’s one big problem that I discovered as I pulled up on my bike with the trailer full of kids. The light sensor is unable to detect the presence of a bicycle! I sat and waited for almost five minutes, but because it was early in the morning and there was no traffic going the same direction as I was, the light never changed. It was too much of a hassle to get off my bike, leave the kids in the middle of the street, and walk down the sidewalk to press the button for the crossing signal, so I eventually rode right through the red light. By then I was feeling extremely irritated.

Why is it that cyclists always, always, get screwed over? We’re trying our best to make green transportation choices and/or incorporate exercise into our day, yet so often it feels like the whole world is against us. Except in rare places where there are bike lanes, we are society’s outcasts, relegated to bumpy sidewalks where people hate how fast we go or squished over to the side of highways where cars whiz past at terrifying speeds. When I have the kids in the trailer, I usually opt for side streets or sidewalks because I’m genuinely fearful for their safety around cars. People drive like maniacs. When I’m alone, however, I am overcome by righteous indignation and defend my right to the road. I don’t hesitate to stop traffic in order to make left-hand turns or occupy a good chunk of the lane. After all, if I squeeze myself too far to the right, it encourages cars to make dangerous passes around me.

A bit harsh, but admittedly funny!
A bit harsh, but admittedly funny!

Some drivers express frustration at how aggressive cyclists can be, but seriously, can you blame us?! We’re the hated minority. We get spat upon, threatened, and honked at continually. After four years of riding downtown Toronto and receiving this kind of substandard treatment on a daily basis, my skin has gotten thick and resentment has accumulated. I no longer care what cars think, but I stick to the rules of the road. I expect drivers to do so, too… respectfully.

Because there’s so much animosity toward cyclists, I view every ride as an opportunity to change the mentality; to remind drivers that, like it or not, bikes are a necessity for the future; and to inspire others to hop on their bikes, too.  By making me feel unwelcome, dangerous drivers and silly urban planners who fail to take cyclists into account (I mean, who does that nowadays?!) make me all the more determined to make my presence known. Bikes are here to stay.

You might also like:
How to Avoid Smashing Your Watermelon on a Bike
Life with just a bike in the country
“De-motorizing Utopia”


7 thoughts on “The Cycling Minority Is Tired of Abuse

  1. My brother just moved to Brampton where he cycles on a very busy road with no bike lanes. And Brampton is deadly in a car. The worst is that it’s a new road where they could have easily put in a bike lane. One side of the road still has no curb so he’s going to petition to get a two-way bike lane put on that side because he’s pretty sure there are no plans for one. It’s ridiculous in this day and age. I seem to remember recently a big push to get more bike lanes in Toronto that eventually got scrapped because of too much outcry from motorists. Asinine.

  2. Did someone actually spit on you? That’s awful. I always ride in the left portion of the lane when I’m on my bike too (pedal powered or otherwise). It’s just as important to safety as signalling and wearing a helmet. Way to teach your boys to be good riders from the beginning!

  3. I’m lucky to live in a city with a “complete streets” policy but the needs of bicyclists are still underserved. Have you been following the outrage in NYC over the CityBike (bike share) program? Jon Stewart has a great clip about it.

  4. People do drive like maniacs. I wish we would stop building super-roads to encourage fast driving. People will always go as fast as they can, so why do we let them? If we want to encourage bikes and pedestrians, we have to make it safe for them. Build more walkways and bikeways, and force car traffic to slow down and move over.

  5. I have run into those road sensors in Toronto, where I stop and the pedestrian counter goes down to zero and then the light doesn’t change! I have had to learn which intersections I need to ride up onto the sidewalk and hit the pedestrian crossing button. But I am pretty sure this will change as people in Toronto (other than Rob Ford) start paying attention to the numbers of cyclists on the road; I just wrote this post this morning about Harbord Street:

  6. Katherine, when I would bike with the kids in the trailer in town, I choose my route knowing that sometimes I would have to drive up onto the sidewalk and push the button to change the light. Super frustrating, and a bit of a learning curve but it becomes habit & routine. I absolutely refuse to bike on the highway – sticking to side streets is a bit safe unless its Bricker or Waterloo – they’re as bad as 21.
    In general, we stick to the rail trail now that they are riding themselves. I don’t trust them to watch the cars yet and I KNOW the cars aren’t watching for them.
    Once, biking to Independent, I was cut off at the Plex. I had right of way, and the truck was on a perpendicular road, turning left onto the road I was on. He stopped at the stop sign, smiled at me and then proceeded to turn left right across my path! I had to slam on my brakes and hop my feet down so I wouldn’t hit him as he crossed in front of me.
    I follow the rules of the road. When I am on my bike, I consider myself a vehicle. I stop at stop signs (unless there is truly no traffic to be seen, then I slow and continue) and use hand signals.
    When the kids bike with me on roads, I put them on the sidewalk, if possible, and I bike on the road beside them. They know they have to move over and drive in the grass if there are pedestrians. I am teaching them to “walk on the left and bike on the right” – I see many young children doing the opposite.

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