By Marlene Wandel

biking in the city

I’ve been riding my bike to work year-round for the last 17 years. Often, it’s the best part of my day. But now that summer is coming up, and the roads and bike racks will soon be cluttered up with other cyclists, that’s not always the case. Sometimes other people on bikes are the worst. 

I’ve gotten used to sharing the road with cars; we’ve reached an uneasy peace. I know that if vehicles of all wheels follow the basic rules of the road, we all know what to expect from each other, and that keeps us all safe. Sometimes, it seems like the most vulnerable of us out there—those without a big metal carapace protecting us—forget that. Cycling comes with many perks. Picking and choosing which traffic rules to follow is not among them.

Running stop signs, riding the wrong way in the lane, riding with earbuds, and speeding along the sidewalk—it’s all bad cyclist behaviour I see almost every day. Riding at night with no lights and no reflective gear basically turns you into wildlife on the road, and we all know what happens to deer at dusk. Much as some vehicle drivers may be irritated by cyclists, they don’t actually literally want to hit one. No one is ever going to deliberately hit a cyclist because the last one pissed them off, but they might not be as inclined to yield that one-metre space to which a cyclist is entitled.

Cycling is wonderfully and frustratingly accessible. Anyone can pick up a bike and ride up the road, with full rights and responsibilities as a vehicle under the Highway Traffic Act, with nary a skill testing question or brake inspection. We might be unlicensed and uninsured, and we definitely are vulnerable to injury, so the onus is on all of us to do our part to keep the peace on the road. Consider every time you get on your bike that you are an ambassador, a representative of the body of cyclists in the city. It doesn’t take expensive gear, just an effort to make yourself visible and predictable by following the rules and signaling intent before zipping across lanes (and to be fair, the majority of cyclists in Thunder Bay know this).

In a perfect world, extensive cycling infrastructure would make this whole thing moot. This winter in Minneapolis I accidentally drove my vehicle in the bike lane for a couple of seconds. It was so wide and paved and lovely, I thought it was the road.  We may not have much of that yet, but being Canadian and all, what we do have are manners, and if we are all polite to each other out there, it will all be okay.

And to whoever keeps locking up a bike at the bike rack at my workplace and then leaving it there for a year until it has to be cut off so other people can lock up their bikes–stop it. That’s really bugging me.