We call out careless car drivers for the things they do that make cyclists’ daily commutes that much more treacherous.
Given the prohibitive expense of operating a car in Toronto, you’d think drivers would be crazy-cautious and studiously focussed on the task at hand to avoid anything that might involve either a mechanic or an insurance broker. But no. Want proof? Ask a cyclist.
Anyone who has ever powered about town on two wheels has at least one grisly tale of a near-miss collision—or worse, a not-so-near-miss—and the ensuing, profanity-drenched squabble with a distracted/aggressive/knuckle-headed motorist.
Indeed, when we recently took cyclists to task for bad behaviour such as ignoring stop signs and riding on sidewalks, we were (somewhat expectedly) slammed with complaints about car drivers, with many readers pointing out that so-called bad cyclist behaviour is almost necessary in a city where key politicians unabashedly favour four-wheels and dedicated bikes lanes are maddeningly few. Cyclist blunders may be vexing, but vehicular ones can be fatal.
So, in the interest of fairness, we hereby point the finger and cry foul at car-driver behaviour that makes life hell—nay, perilous—for the urban bike brigade. Drivers who commit these sins are far worse than mere polluters. But it’s never too late to change.
1. Sudden door openers
If you bike regularly, it’s only a matter of time before you drive into—and are, at best, inelegantly propelled over—a heedlessly opened car door. Yes, drivers, there are about million things to keep track of when you’re hustling around town from behind the wheel. But nothing—not even being on time for Junior’s piano recital—is more important than faithfully remembering to check your side-view mirror before gripping the handle and stepping outside.
2. Careless right turners
Kudos to you, Mr. SUV, for allowing us meek, worthless pedestrians to cross the intersection on a green light without your impatient bumper bearing down on our dawdling backsides. But before you puff up with self-righteous pride, please remember that cyclists use the curb lane and may be going straight, meaning you also need to let them pass before you edge your car forward. See that shiny thing mounted just outside the window on the passenger side door? It’s called a mirror. Use it.
3. The preoccupied
Lest there be any ambiguity, allow us to make this plain: Your vehicle is not an island and you need to stay connected to the world beyond your cosseted windshield. Eating, texting, blabbing, applying makeup, arguing, fiddling with the radio, playing air-drums—or (sigh) in Mayor Rob Ford’s case, reading—while driving are distractions that hamper your ability to observe what’s around you and react accordingly. Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and on the mirrors. It’s in the handbook, we promise.
4. Bike-lane blockers
I know, I know… you’re just popping out for, like, two seconds, so what’s the big deal if you pull right up to the curb, blocking a six-foot stretch of dedicated bike lane on Dundas or Sherbourne or Greenwood? Bicyclists can just go around, right? Well yes, but that puts us in traffic. And traffic can kill us. Oh, and also, it’s called a dedicated bike lane as the little painted-on image of a bike might suggest. Stay out of it.
5. Would-be snugglers
Also known with much venom as “encroachers,” these jackasses drive this close to cyclists, most often when pulling around and passing a car that has stopped to turn left. You wouldn’t appreciate it if I horned in on your nice, wide lane; stay the hell out of mine.
Not “tossers” in the British-slang sense of the word, though the meaning most certainly applies here. No, we’re referring to the scum that thinks nothing of horking a fat phlegm-y or tossing a cigarette butt or other detritus out the window and straight into our oncoming path. For the record, you utterly, completely suck.
7. Those who do not signal
Mom nailed it: two wrongs don’t make a right. So while it’s true that many bicycle operators fail to signal left and right turns (and tsk tsk for that), the implications are far more dire when it’s car drivers suddenly peeling off to the right without advance warning. Signalling is easy so just do it, okay? We promise your fellow motorists will back us up on this one, too.
8. Excessive noise-makers
So you’ve got a horn and you know how to use it. Great! Save it for the ass-clowns on the 401. You may think you’re doing cyclists a favour by beep-beeping your intention to pass, turn, or reverse, but it’s very unnerving being blasted by anything weighing a few thousand pounds. Plus, those things are way louder and more startling than you would ever guess from your perch inside your shiny metal box.
9. Maintenance avoiders
A personal peeve, this sin refers to those who don’t bother keeping their cars in proper working order, resulting in death-blasts of exhaust, tortured howls of ancient fan belts, and vehicles lurching scarily due to underinflated tires. Cars are nasty enough when they’re in tip-top shape, so stop being a total Earth killer.
10. Kings of the road
A sense of entitlement and lack of patience may be the biggest sins of all. While pedestrians and cyclists can be uptight and rigid when it comes to sharing streets, motorists—by dint of the sheer damage they can wreak when things go bad—bear the brunt of responsibility for caution and courtesy. So take a deep breath and be nice. Maybe your insurance rates will finally go down.
What car-driver behaviours annoy you the most? Let us know in the comments section below.