Monday, 17 May 2010

Do Any of These People Actually DRIVE?

Before I rant a bit, I want to share two personal experiences.

Story the first: Three years ago I was driving Westbound on a two lane regional road approaching Cambridge. Ahead of me was a cyclist that I would be passing. Approaching east-bound was a semi-trailer tanker truck. I would up making the following decision based on the following parameters. 1) If at all possible I give as wide a berth as I can to a cyclist I am overtaking, which means I straddle the dividing line that separates the two lanes. 2) Given the approach speeds of myself and the semi coming my way, I knew that such a manoeuvre would result in a head-on collision. 3) Given the berth of the oncoming semi, I would have to move closer to the cyclist for my own safety, yet risking the cyclist's.

So for the safety of all involved, I hit the brakes and decelerated to match the cyclist's speed to remain behind him until the semi passed us both. After which I moved out and passed the cyclist with my usual wide berth. Well there was a full sized rednecked-up black pickup truck behind me (dualies, chrome exhaust pipes over the roof, bush bar, etc.) The driver did not take well to my courtesy to the cyclist and laid on the horn. After I passed the cyclist, he passed me where both the driver and his wife swore a blue streak at me (motherfucking asshole were the words I could read on her lips). All because we were delayed about 3.67278 seconds for this courtesy to occur.

Story the second:  Many years ago when I was a kid living at home, our family was on our way to some function or other.  During our drive an automobile doing well in excess of the speed limit blew by us on an uphill in a no passing zone.  My father, an ex-OPP officer, noted the license plate and he called it in to the OPP.  They found the guy, charged him and it went to court.

Even though my father was ex-OPP, his testimony was not admissible as expert witness testimony.  Since he was the only witness, the charges were overturned and the driver was let off scott free.

So the above stories highlight the reasons I do not support Cheri DiNovo's initiative.

1) As a driver, this law will require us to a) know our speed, and accurately know to-the-foot know our distance from a cyclist.   Speed, well OK.  All drivers should be aware of that.  Distance?  Yeah right.  While driving there are only three distances drivers are aware of.  Far away, close and Holy shit we're gonna impact!  Cars are not equipped with range finders.

2) Courteous drivers are already kind to cyclists.  Asshats will always be asshats.  Laws be damned.

3) Without police officers following each and every cyclist, there will be no enforcement of this law.

4) Many country roads (or even older city streets) simply do not have the room or are too busy for drivers to safely follow the rules.  ( From the above linked article, I will quote Bob McMullan, local legend, "Bob McMullen, a veteran cyclist and trail advocate, wonders how practical such a law would be. On two lane streets with lots of traffic a cyclist could hold up a long line of cars, McMullen said.“I like the intent of it. Do I think the NDP have a hope in hell of getting it through? No,” McMullen said.")

I like the intent too Bob.  However this proposed change is neither practical or enforceable.  Until our transportation infrastructure is changed to accommodate cyclists and automobiles, cyclists will continue to be at risk.  Even if all our drivers were  courteous.  The vast majority of our roads were designed for automobile traffic only.  Wishing otherwise or creating laws does not create room or courtesy where there is none.


Ken Breadner said...

As you know, I am primarily a cyclist and I don't drive at all. I appreciate your courtesy. Most people are pretty reasonable about giving a cyclist space, at least here in town. I've heard horror stories about Toronto.
This law is pointless, as you say. If a cyclist is clipped, the driver should (maybe) be charged--I say "maybe" because we all know how many cyclists are apt to veer out into the center of the road at any time and for no reason. But you can't legislate common sense, unfortunately.

Catelli said...

Maybe we just need an education campaign for the laws we already have. Leave the activism for bike lanes. Lets juts educate drivers and riders on the proper use of the roads and intersections.