SULLIVAN: Expect an uproar if you spin theories on cycling

As predicted, the last column on the risks associated with being a MAMIL (middle-aged male in Lycra) generated more than the usual amount of feedback.

If you’re just joining us, I wrote a piece in memory of Mike McIntosh, an avid North Shore cyclist and road safety advocate who was killed earlier this year trying to avoid being “doored,” one of the more insidious road hazards that cyclists face on a day-to-day basis.

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It’s what happens when someone opens a car door in the path of an oncoming bike. It happens surprisingly often – according to bike advocacy group HUB Cycling, approximately one in seven bike crashes involve being doored.

The incident involving Mike McIntosh resulted in a charge against the motorist, which may or may not be a good thing. If it causes at least one person to think before opening the door on a cyclist, great. But if it contributes to the ongoing war between motorists and cyclists, not so great. As seven per cent of all trips in Metro are on the bike, it’s clear that bikes are here to stay, and we all have to accommodate each other on the Great Commute Through Life.

As someone who’s bi-vehicular, I’m interested in making the road a safer place for everyone. As the cyclist is defenseless in the path of an auto, it makes sense to focus first on keeping cyclists safe. Of course, that breeds animosity on both sides: motorists see cyclists swanning around with an attitude of entitlement, while cyclists think that all motorists want to run them over to serve them right.

Surely that’s not so.

But let’s stay constructive. There is a cure for dooring. Reader Keith Spence wrote in about the “Dutch Reach,” which is how they handle it in the bike-mad Netherlands:

“You open your driver’s door with your right hand which makes you turn and look in your mirror,” reports Keith. I’ve tried it and it’s impossible to open the door into oncoming traffic. Unless you’re doing it on purpose, and that’s a whole other column.

Keith has a long memory of being doored when he was 14, 62 years ago. It’s not something you forget, apparently.

Reader Ron van der Eerden takes me to task for discouraging people who already think cycling is dangerous. “Case in point,” he writes. “…riding in the door zone. Only people with a death wish, and those encouraged by bad advice from MAMILS (editor’s note: ahem) would do so. Never ride in the door zone!!!” His advice is to always ride at least one metre from parked cars, and take up the full lane if necessary.

Hard to argue with the idea of avoiding the door, but my experience is that it’s not always that easy. Quite often, people open their doors right into dedicated bike lanes, which cyclists are encouraged to view as safe places to ride.

It may be, as Ron says, that cyclists are fully entitled by law to take up the full lane, and that impatient motorists are their own problem, but that’s cold comfort to a cyclist with an F-150 breathing down their neck.

It’s not always other vehicles that cause problems for the cyclist. Avril Levy, who says she’s “a [67-year-old] very active senior lady who loves to ride” and proved it by logging 567 kilometres in June, was knocked off her bike on July 1 … by a bumblebee. In her face.

Bruised and battered and with a broken seat, she managed to pedal her bike to Obsession: Bikes where they told her she’d need a new seat. “But I told him all I have is $10 on me. Miraculously, he said I have one for 10 bucks. I love that store.”

Anyway, no bumblebee was about to deter Avril from Canada Day celebrations. She took in the parade, went to Waterfront Park near Lonsdale Quay, and then danced for a couple of hours. A bit sore the next day.

Even though she was wearing sunglasses and helmet, Avril discovered that when the Fickle Finger of Fate decides to descend, it can take any form, from a car door to a bumblebee.

Finally, Leslie Pratt thinks cyclists should all be required to be licensed to ride. “In that way bicycle owners might be less tempted to flaunt (ed. note: flout, please) most of the laws in place, for riding on our public thoroughfares; and thus less apt to get injured.”

Leslie, I don’t know if that will ever happen, but it’s true that as more cyclists take to the road, the need for safety increases at the same time. Here’s a good idea: take a Ride the Road course from HUB. Two hours in a classroom; 2.5 hours on the bike. Let the real experts teach you how to ride safely. Visit bikehub.ca for a list of upcoming courses.

p.sullivan@breakthroughpr.com

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