Friday, July 12, 2013

More On Sharing The Road

There has been an ongoing situation in the Kitchener-Waterloo area regarding the altercation between the driver of a horse trailer, and members of the Waterloo Cycling Club. It's not going well, and it points out the frustrations of both motorists and cyclists. For more on sharing the road, see my last blog!

There have been charges laid against the driver of the horse trailer, and several of the cyclists. Apparently there is a local bylaw that does not allow 2-abreast riding.

This has lead to columns such as this one in a the local Kitchener-Waterloo paper of record, The Record:

My response to columnist Luisa D'Amato, who's eMail address is,, is as follows:

Ms. Damato,

I am going to respond to your recent editorial in The Record, in two parts:

1. Indeed, cyclists need to respect the rules of the road. I do all the time. What I find odd is the behavior of motorists, who despite the fact that I am observing the rules of the road to a T, seem to want to take some form of hostile action against me (Mostly verbal assaults, but occasionally physical actions). I ride several times a week - and have been for 30 years. On at least one of those rides each week, almost without fail, there is always at least one completely unprovoked altercation with a motorist, or the motorist drives their vehicle in a manner that puts me at extraordinary risk. Hopefully I don't need to explain the basic physics surrounding any contact between motor vehicle and cyclist, other than, it ALWAYS turns out very bad, and even fatal for the cyclist. 

Many motorists seem to have a poor understanding of the rules of the road, and they are also extraordinarily cavalier in their attitude when it comes to the safety of others, who share the road with them, and indeed their own safety. May I suggest here, that MOTORISTS need to respect the rules on rural roads!

2. To understand the rationale for 2-abreast riding, requires some counter-intuitive thinking:

Say there is a group of 20 cyclists out riding. If they are riding single file, they are strung out in a long single file line. On a two lane road, with no shoulders, as is the case on many rural roads in Ontario, many motorists think it OK to try and squeeze by the cyclists while staying fully in their lane. This places both the cyclists, and the motorists less than 1/2 a meter apart moving along at a reasonably high speed. The passing of a long line of cyclists takes some time. ANY false move on the part of the motorists, or the cyclists will result in . . .  Now, compact the group to 20 riders, riding 2-abreast. If it's a group of good riders, they will be riding tightly together. They will be taking up more of the lane, but not that much more, and the distance from front to back of the group will now be less than half of what it was. However, this will force, the motorist coming up from behind, to slow down. Otherwise, they will run right over the cyclists - something I hope they would not want to do. They will then have to wait for a safe place to make the pass around the cyclists - just as they would if they came upon a slower moving car, farm vehicle, police vehicle, etc . . Yes this a minor inconvenience. However, that safe place to make the pass, as it always does, will come up in a few seconds. Now, the pass is made by, moving into the adjacent lane, giving the cyclists a wider berth, AND, key here, passing the group of cyclists in significantly less time. This is safer for EVERYONE - the cyclists, other motorists, and the driver of that particular vehicle! Think about it for a bit.

To FULLY understand, #2, you need to embrace the thinking of  Share The Road, headed up by Eleanor McMahon - the philosophy is that we ALL need to share the road - motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and other vehicles, because, we all have a right to be there!

I ride frequently with the Newmarket Eagles cycling club in and around Aurora and Newmarket, ON, in central & northern York region. It is the club policy to ride 2-abreast, where appropriate. We are lucky that most of the roads of our regular routes are on reasonably quiet 2-lane rural roads probably not unlike the roads outside Kitchener-Waterloo . We rarely have any major issues when riding 2-abreast - but do from time-to-time get verbally harassed by motorists( see #1). We even get passed by York Region Police officers in their cars, and we exchange friendly waves.

At the risk of being accusatory, your views are very motorist-centric, which is understood, because that is most likely the only experience of using the road that you have. Ditto for almost all motorists. To better understand, the view of cyclists, I would suggest spending some time on a bike, on either urban, or rural roads, to better appreciate the situation that cyclists are in, and the challenges that they face. If you did, I am sure your views may be altered.

Best regards,

Steve Fleck

What say you? Do you agree or disagree with Ms. D'Amato. Please feel free to express your feelings here or via an email to Ms. D'Amato, or The Record.

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