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Saddle-Up Column: Road shoulder lanes or bike lanes?

Bike lanes often treated as debris deposits, says Richmond News columnist
Geordie McGillivray (Saddle up)
Richmond resident Geordie McGillivray writes about different aspects of cycling.

Shoot first and ask questions later. Sadly, this mentality has ingrained itself into so many people’s attitudes and actions. Here’s a good example: You see a car pull into a handicap parking spot without the proper tag hanging from its mirror. This gets you fired up so you go over there and start to give the person a piece of your mind just as they are pulling their tag out of the glove box and then hanging it on the mirror. Maybe they keep it there as it’s a hot item for thieves? It doesn’t matter. You judged that person and that situation without any knowledge of what was really going on and honestly, you look foolish in the end.

Or maybe you’re driving down the road and there’s a bike lane on the right-hand side, yet up ahead you see the cyclist come out of the bike lane and start riding in the lane of traffic and you’re going to have to slow down. So, do you start honking your horn? Many of you do, trust me. And the reason you honked is that you like to judge situations, or people’s intentions without knowing many, if any, of the facts. For the record, I ride out of the bike lane most days that I ride a bike. It might be for a few seconds, it might be for longer. But why do I do that?

To answer that, you need to be aware of what most bike lanes are. Simply, most bike lanes are actually road shoulders that were created a long time ago so that if a vehicle breaks down or needs to pull over, they won’t impede traffic too badly. Over time, cycling became more popular and so cities realized the easiest, and cheapest way to implement cycling routes was to paint white bicycles on the road shoulder and call it a bike lane.

That’s actually a good thing, as legally, if you’re a cyclist and in an accident on a shoulder painted with bike signs, your rights and protections are different than if that shoulder is not designated a bike lane. That’s a fantastic topic for another time. 

Back to shoulders, I mean bike lanes. They tend to be debris deposits. As trucks roll down the road, all the rocks and gravel constantly fly out of their tires and settle on the bike lane. An accident occurs and the scene isn’t cleaned properly, you’ll find all the glass and debris in the bike lane. A house is being built and construction debris spills over to the bike lane. And do not, I repeat do not forget about glassholes. Yes, I said it. Glassholes. People who love to toss their glass bottles out of the vehicle onto the shoulder. I mean bike lane.

So the next time you see a cyclist come out of the bike lane and into the lane of traffic, before doing something foolish, maybe think that that person has a better view of the ground in front of them than you do (I know this as a cyclist and motorist) and there’s a good reason for them to do so. Slow down, let them pass the hazard and settle back into their lane and then be on your way to the rest of your fabulous day. Stay safe everyone.

Geordie is an avid cyclist who writes his Saddle Up column on cycling in Richmond.