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.
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.