[Update June 15: I’ve been told by someone who spoke to the victim that the cyclist in this incident intentionally inflicted the injury. The victim told the cyclist to dismount from his bike on the bridge. The cyclist stopped, balanced on his pedals and then thrust his bike at the victim. INTENTIONALLY.]
[Update June 14: I guess I touched a nerve: this post has gotten so popular it briefly took my site down this morning, but we’re back up! Thanks for visiting.]
[Update June 13: Since this post is going ever so slightly locally viral, I’d like to add a plea that if you are the cyclist involved in this incident, or know the person involved, or have any information relevant to the authorities, please turn yourself in or contact the Crime Stoppers / Tips Line 1-800-222-8477 or www.solvecrime.ca, so perhaps some good can come of this.]
Yesterday, on the very clearly marked pedestrian-only bridge that provides access to the marina where I live, a cyclist ignored the signs, mowed down my 84-year-old neighbour, sent him to hospital with a broken hip, and rode off without offering assistance or a care in the world.
In the linked video, I listened to Erin O’Melinn, the Executive Director of HUB Cycling, the local cycling rights organization, state that licensing would be expensive and ineffective. Now, perhaps because this was a short TV interview, she said more that was edited out. But I was really bothered by the fact that she didn’t even acknowledge that Vancouver has a cyclist arrogance, rudeness and entitlement problem. You know who she sounds like with a blanket statement like that? The NRA on the issue of gun licensing.
I’ve been driving cars for 30 years, and motorcycles for 3 years. I’ve also put over 10,000 km on my bicycle in the last 12 years because I use it to commute to work. And while Vancouver’s vehicle driving habits are no bed of roses, the amount of stupidity, carelessness and lack of courtesy I see daily on the part of Vancouver cyclists is appalling. Would licensing be expensive? Most likely. Would it be effective? It won’t stop every problem, but it will solve some. As a vehicle driver, I’ve taken at least 7 different written and practical road tests in my life (due to moves and the types of vehicles I’m licensed for). Those and the courses I’ve taken have all made me a more courteous and defensive driver. Licensing might not be the answer, but some type of mandatory road sense education should be part of the solution.
I’m FOR more cycling. I’m happy Vancouver is installing more cycling infrastructure. I believe in HUB’s mission. But cyclists as a group need to acknowledge we have a fundamental courtesy and road skills problem, and we need to clean our house.
I’ll readily acknowledge I’m not a perfect cyclist. I blow through stop signs. But not when there’s a car that’s reached the cross-street first and has the right of way. But I witness groups of cyclists regularly hold up cross-street traffic on the bike routes by ignoring stops.
I ride on the sidewalk occasionally (mostly on Terminal Ave where the street layout makes it hard to get to my destination without being on the sidewalk, and the traffic speeds. It’s a wide sidewalk). But I do it slowly. With a bell. And give the pedestrians a wide berth. And smile. And say thank you when they move aside to let me through.
A cyclist at Quebec and Terminal blew through the red light and nearly mowed me down because he thought, given he was riding through the top of a T, no cars would hit him. He forgot to take into account other bicycles trying to cross to Science World. He never stopped to apologize.
I’ve watched cyclists go the wrong way through traffic calming roundabouts. Cyclists ride two or more abreast on single lane roads, holding up frustrated drivers behind them. Riders holding a phone to their ear in busy traffic. Riders wearing headphones in traffic. Riders modding their bikes with electric motors, doing 50kph or more while still ignoring traffic rules. Riders failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, even if the cyclist has a stop sign. Riders knocking over and injuring children on the seawall, then yelling at the parents before riding off, refusing to help.
I’m convinced a large percentage of riders do some of these things out of sheer ignorance, because they don’t own a car and have never had to learn the full rules of the road. Then there are simply the assholes.
And if you DARE to call a cyclist out on any of this, you invariably get the finger and sworn at. Once, I tried to cross a street as a pedestrian, and spotted a cyclist coming. He had a stop. He was over 30 feet away when I put my foot into the road, thinking I was safe. He blew past so fast, without giving way, that I had to jump back or get hit. When I complained “Hey, stop!” he told me to fuck off, and called me a cunt.
When we’ve politely asked cyclists on the marina bridge to get off their bikes, they’ve sworn at us and threatened violence. Or they argue, acting completely offended, claiming that we don’t make the rules and they have a perfect right to be there. Really? That bridge is narrow. It’s not made for bikes. It’s busy. And as the co-op that manages it, we do make the rules. Is that sign not BIG ENOUGH? It’s there for a fucking reason. Because otherwise, elderly neighbours get broken hips. My neighbour has MONTHS of recovery ahead of him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had to move, because boats aren’t easy when you have mobility issues. His life is irrevocably changed. So I have no patience anymore for cyclists who act like they’re god’s gift to two wheels.
These aren’t isolated incidents. I witness similar things weekly, if not daily, and I’m only one person.
So Vancouver cyclists, as a fellow cyclist, I implore you: acknowledge we have a problem. And I understand: #NotAllCyclists. But there are too many bad apples among us, and something needs to be done. Check your arrogance, rudeness, and entitlement out the door. Shape up, share our spaces more safely, and show some common decency.
To HUB, I understand you run safety courses, but perhaps your core values should include something about basic cycling courtesy as well. Because I see a very great lack of it on the roads out there. We need to do more. We need to be better, and show more empathy to the other people sharing our roads.
Otherwise more people are going to get hurt.