As promised, some thoughts on riding a bike in Toronto.
1) I am quite surprised by how much less scary the experience has been than anticipated. I think that with all of the stories I have heard about cyclists being injured by inattentive drivers, other cyclists, those crazy cabbies, rabid squirrels, etc. I was really expecting a somewhat horrific experience mirroring some sort of fight…eeerrrr….cycle to the death sporting event. Although I have had a few moments of panic when it feels like things could go terribly wrong (like a rickshaw driver pulling out in front of me on King Street West during the 3am post-bar traffic of a Saturday night), overall I feel like things are pretty simple. Just pay attention, leave lots of room, don’t be an idiot, and things seem to work out ok!
2) Males (in cars) have a weird fascination with girls on bikes. I have had numerous male drivers and their passengers try to engage me in conversation at red lights, and even had one driver continue to honk at me at every red light until he finally passed me while his passenger hung out the side window, yelled something like “yeeeeeeeaaaaaah” and gave me the thumbs up. I have heard similar stories from other female riders.
3) Drivers, generally, are actually pretty great. I am sure that this really might not be the impression of all riders, but I have found that most drivers are quite respectful and courteous if you show them the same regard. I have had numerous drivers give me the right of way when it definitely wasn’t, simply signal that they see me, and one lady actually waved back politely and smiled when I waved at her as a thank-you for letting me go through a stop sign first. Granted, I have had drivers start to pull out of parking spots without looking, open their doors without looking, but I personally choose to see that as simple human error on their part. I find it actually quite terrible how many Toronto cyclists speak of drivers as if they are all malicious assholes just trying to get in the cyclist’s way. I am pretty sure we can all calm down guys, not everyone in a car is trying to kill you, ok?
4) Cycling in the city takes some skill. It really isn’t a ride on a quiet country road and there is a lot to pay attention to. Maybe it is also different for me as I haven’t ever driven a car outside of an empty parking lot (yeah yeah I know I should get on that), but I find that I sometimes just really don’t know what I should be doing and what the proper “etiquette” in every situation is. I am sure that this is something that comes with time (and confidence) and I try to watch other cyclists as much as possible to get a better idea, but some situations just require really quick judgement and decision-making. I try really hard to not be reckless and to not piss drivers off, but I still sometimes cycle through traffic, or change lanes, or whatever, only to look back and wonder if I actually did the right thing. I am sure this will improve with time.
5) There are a lot of grey areas when it comes to cycling rules. Well no, I should say when it comes to obeying cycling rules. I know that technically all cyclists should follow the same rules as drivers but in some situations it just seems…well, silly! For example, I am normally a stickler for waiting for green lights, but in my part of town late at night I could be waiting at a red light on a deserted intersection for two minutes, so in that situation I typically will bike through. I guess I just realize that I have to decide what I am comfortable with while also accepting the reality that I could get a ticket for when I choose to break the rules. *fingers crossed*
Anyone want to share their experience?