For many of us in the fitness community the return of spring means one very important thing; the return of cycling! With this comes the renewed relationship between cyclists and other vehicle traffic. With such a short riding season riders get rusty and drivers are not used to sharing the road and this makes the YEG a tough place to cycle.
As a group we often complain that we do not get respect from drivers but frequently we are our own worst enemies. Ignoring the rules of the road, using sidewalks when it suits us and riding past lines of waiting cars all cause frustration with vehicle traffic and may result in unwanted confrontations and a lack of space as we ride. While it is true that riding past vehicles while they wait is a time saver it has been my experience that this results in these same vehicles passing closer and closer to my left elbow. Typically, drivers will give you a decent berth as they pass the first time, but if you pass them at a red light and they are forced to find their way around you again and again that berth gets smaller and smaller. It’s hard to blame them too, they have places to be and driving safely around cyclists takes time.
Drivers, you need to be extremely aware of us too! As a courtesy we usually ride in the right 1/3 of the outside lane. However, this is the most dangerous part of the road; potholes, sewer drains and miscellaneous road debris like gravel are most commonly found in this same section of road and, unlike a vehicle, striking these on a bike can be catastrophic. This means cyclists may swerve suddenly and without warning into the middle section of a lane. This is why it is absolutely critical that you give a one metre allowance beside a cyclist when you pass them.
Another area where cyclists need to be more courteous is when we are passing runners and walkers on the pathway system. It is critical you warn the other path users of your presence with either a bell (as required by law) or giving a shout of “on your left.” As someone who also runs on the pathways I can tell you it is quite startling to have a bike whiz past as you’re jogging along and this simple gesture ensures you won’t have a nasty collision if they were to drift to their left.
The City of Edmonton has done a great deal to promote road sharing and making the city more usable for cyclists but they can only do so much. It is up to us to use the roads responsibly and protect ourselves as best we can.
Here are my top tips for safe riding this season:
1) Wear brightly colored clothes; with distracted driving on the rise, everything you can do to be more noticeable is critical.
2) Use side roads when possible; you are legally entitled to use main roads but limiting danger to yourself is your best option.
3) Avoid listening to music; if you absolutely have to have music opt for a handle bar mounted Bluetooth speaker or just use a single ear bud in your right ear (away from traffic).