There’s no doubt that there’s danger when it comes to cyclists sharing the roads with cars, but can drivers be doing better?
Ben Gervais is a bike courier in Calgary’s downtown who was hit by a pickup truck in April 2016 while he was at work and riding in a bike lane from a stop at an intersection.
“I know from personal experience and lots of other things that the severity of a car hitting a human is quite intense, whether they’re a pedestrian or a cyclist,” said Gervais in a face-to-face interview.
“You don’t have the protection that a car does and a car is made of metal and carries a lot more momentum.”
Gervais was in the hospital for almost two weeks with broken ribs, a broken collarbone and almost had his kidney taken out.
“I have mixed feelings about the bike lanes, because sometimes the bike lanes put you in vulnerable positions when you have to cross over certain roadways and when you do interchange with the cars and the car roadways,” said Gervais.
“A lot of the time it feels safer and more appropriate to use the car lanes than to use the bike lanes. For making turns and stuff.”
Ernest Side is a regular bike rider in the city who says he feels a lot safer with the bike lanes than he would without them.
“The only thing that I don’t like about the bike lanes in the city is the ones downtown, they block off so much possible parking,” Side added in a face-to-face interview.
An article published in Alberta Views in 2010 states that despite an increase in commuting cyclists through the year, fatalities and injuries have gone down between 1984 and 2002.
Still, drivers could be doing better to help make thing easier for cyclists who are just trying to enjoy their ride.
“People, like lot of cars don’t know how to share the road with cyclists, they don’t understand how riding a bicycle, like what it is like,” said Gervais.
“And sometimes you meet cars in the bike lanes and you’re like ‘you’re not supposed to be here,’ because they don’t know.”
Cyclists also come upon strictly awful car commuter etiquette, like purposely being run off the road.
“I feel like most people don’t want to hit you. I’ve had people try and run me over, so I think people do,” said Gervais.
“But I think they’re forgetting for a moment the consequences. I hope that it’s just like a lapse in their judgement for a second, that they catch themselves, because it’s a pretty crazy thing.”
Most cycling enthusiasts would tell you that more education and more infrastructures is the way to start moving things in the right direction.
“Education maybe would be cool. You don’t need a license to ride a bike; I don’t think you should need a license to ride a bike, but better education at some point,” said Gervais.
“Maybe even in the driving, like getting your driving instructions and stuff. That education should have more information, like ‘Hey, bikes are out there on the roads too because they’re supposed to be.’”
Gervais added, “Don’t yell at a cyclist to get on the sidewalk, it says sidewalk – walk. Not side-bike.”
A study published in 2012 that examined environmental factors in motor vehicle accidents involving cyclists concluded that greater traffic volume; intersections, retail establishments and path obstructions were the biggest factors in such accidents.
“In a lot of cities and states they have now things that are like, and I guess cities in Europe and stuff, the bike is just a primary thing. It’s unfortunate that our cities are like built around cars,” said Gervais.
“But I guess just maybe some more traffic systems and signage and education that is more geared to protecting, being courteous or understanding we both have a piece of the pie.”
In an age where environmental concerns and traffic is at a high point, drivers could probably show a little patience and be better about respecting the city’s cyclists.
Gervais added, “It’s not that hard to change lanes most of the time, and if you are stuck behind a cyclist it’s only going to take you a little bit longer to get to where you’re going; whereas if you get too close to them you can kill them.”