Saddle Up column: Drivers must be cruel to be kind to cyclists

Sticking to your right-of-way is important for road safety

I was recently contacted by a cyclist who wanted to vent about a situation she encountered while riding her bike. 

I was happy to listen, and as she told me what had happened, I couldn’t help but think of the countless times the exact same thing has happened to me.

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Before I tell you what it is, I need to say that you won’t often find me asking motorists to not be courteous to cyclists, but, in this scenario, being courteous can have unintended and deadly consequences. 

The rules of the road, including, the right of way to be specific, are there for a reason and this illustraes why.

This is how it goes: Imagine No. 5 Road which has two lanes of traffic both ways. I’m riding north in the right lane and I pass Williams Road. 

Up ahead is King Road and I want to turn left there. There are no lights, no crosswalks, and no reason for cars driving south on No. 5 Road to stop at that intersection. 

I shoulder check and there is no traffic behind me, so I cross into the left lane and signal that I am turning left.

There is traffic coming in my direction, so I’m prepared to wait. However, the driver coming towards me in the centre-most lane sees I want to turn across the road, and being a nice person, decides to slow right down and waves at me to cross the road in front of them, even though they have the absolute right of way. 

At that moment traffic from the other lane, or from behind this person (who couldn’t figure out why the car in front has slowed down) comes zipping by on the outside of that vehicle — and if I’d taken the bait, so to speak, I’d be dead or severely injured in a split second. 

So, while the motorist is genuinely wanting to be courteous, they are unknowingly endangering the cyclist’s life.

As a motorist myself, I’ve seen this even more times while driving and you might recognize this scenario more easily: You’re driving when all of a sudden a vehicle stops on a busy road to let a pedestrian cross where there is no crosswalk and no lights. 

Then that person, or I’ve even seen children, basically walks out into a busy road with a false sense of safety while this stopped vehicle creates a distraction for all the other motorists who aren’t looking for pedestrians and keep their speed through this area. It’s just asking for someone to get killed.

The one thing motorists always remind me of is how their vehicle will destroy bikes and cyclists in an accident. I agree. 

So, please, don’t invite or tempt any cyclists into that situation. Keep your right of way and let’s all get home safely every day.

Geordie McGillivray is an avid Richmond cyclist. His Saddle Up column appears regularly in the Richmond News

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