Friday, November 19, 2010

Cyclist Vigilantism

This morning while cycling to work, an incident occurred that has been annoying me all day for some reason.

I was approaching Bay St. while heading east along College St. I sometimes take Bay south when certain lights are red. As I approached the intersection the light was red (i.e. for College St.). I slowed down, intending to turn right to go south. Since the other set of lights were about to turn red too, the pedestrians close to me were antsy to start crossing, but I knew I could safely make a turn around them and merge with traffic. I was watching them closely, and judged there to be an opportunity to turn. All but one pedestrian waited for the light; this one guy seemed to jump the gun and proceeded to walk straight into me. I was practically stopped (but still mounted) since I was watching the traffic carefully. So I touch him and dismount, alarmed he stepped into me unexpectedly. It then becomes obvious he purposely walked into me. He then turns to me and says, "see that? That's a red light. You can't go." I look at him puzzled, and just as he turns to start walking I mention to him, "right, but I can turn right at a red light..". Safely past this guy, I begin my turn and say under my breath, "..wthe FUCK".

Various emotions boiled up for the rest of my ride. There's no doubt in my mind that what I did was quite legal and courteous. I assume this fine gentleman took it upon himself to teach me that I need to make way for obnoxious pedestrians like himself. Not that it should matter, but this guy wasn't exactly in a suit; if I was being a total snob I'd say he was dressed like shit. He did, interestingly, have a British-Empire accent (couldn't specify from where). Perhaps he was frustrated seeing so many cyclists blatantly go through red lights, stop signs, and perform various other illegal maneuvers. For that I suppose I must sympathize with this guy.

I'm keenly aware of a general frustration among motorists and pedestrians about cyclists' behavior while driving downtown. I usually try to see things both ways. When the bike lane is illegally used by a stopped car, and I'm approaching it fast, I typically watch for cars in the adjacent car lane, then make an obvious lane change. I was honked at aggressively once for this kind of maneuver when there was OODLES of space between me and the car behind me (who honked). To tip it off, I was going as fast or faster than the car, so it's not as if he lost speed or something. He just saw me and honked, then drove by and yelled at me. Perhaps he wanted a signal. Well, in a car, this is an easy thing to do, but on a bike this can actually make things *more* dangerous since the cyclist needs to take a hand off his handle bars. On my bike in particular, this is extremely hazardous so I don't like doing it, especially when I'm going fast. In any case, I see why this kind of thing alarms drivers who are already flustered and frustrated with driving a car downtown.

What bothers me even more are cyclists who seem to behave like it's some kind of grand sin when a car performs a right while clearly giving the cyclist due notice. I've come to expect that no car ever really pays attention to cyclists around them, and try to drive accordingly. A lot of the time, I make an effort to *lock eyes* with a driver so that I know they are aware of me. Otherwise I assume I'm invisible. You don't see cars trying to sneak past other cars on the right hand side, so why should bikes, even if the bike is in a bike lane? Stop! Or go on their left. Big flipping deal.

So, to that guy at Bay and College - fuck you, I was in the right. Blogging. Fuck yeah.

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