5 myths about cyclists that drivers need to get over

Cyclists are not (all) rude!

1. Roads are built for cars. Some drivers seem terribly irked by the mere presence of cyclists on T.O.’s byways. Wake up! Rob Ford was wrong – there is no war on the car. And cycling isn’t just a recreational activity. For a growing number of us it’s our mode of transportation, the only economical one for young people with high rent to pay. 

2. Cyclists are rude. They don’t respect the rules of the road. Yada, yada. Easy for drivers to say. But cyclists aren’t out to make motorists’ life difficult, and lots of behaviour that seems cockeyed to motorists is purely evasive – like swerving to avoid a pothole or a sewer grate to keep from ending up sprawled in the middle of the road. If you’ve ever felt the rush of a large vehicle whizzing by at breakneck speed a little too close for comfort, you’ll understand why bikers try to keep a safe distance from those hazards, too. More than 50 per cent of Torontonians ride bikes, yet only a small fraction of road space is available to us. That makes cycling a social justice issue as much as an environmental and anti-congestion one. 

3. Cyclists don’t pay taxes. Ergo, they don’t deserve space on the road. Nothing could be further from the truth. Car drivers are among the groups most subsidized by tax dollars you could argue that they’re paying way less than their fair share for use of the roads. The city, for example, spends approximately $517 million a year maintaining the road network, not including the 400-series highways. That’s roughly $517 for each of the approximately 1 million registered cars in Toronto, dwarfing the $8.5 million spent on cycling infrastructure – about 1 per cent of total spending on transportation. Not only do cyclists pay taxes, they are saving the city a ton of money by not clogging the already overburdened transit system, an estimated $6 million to $7 million in service costs every year.

4. Bikers are courting danger. Where bike-car collisions are concerned, it is not a two-way street. Toronto doesn’t have the most car-bike collisions of any city in Canada (some 42 per 100,000 people) because of reckless cyclists. Motorists are, in fact, the culprits in two-thirds of the roughly 1,200 reported car-bike collisions each year. Their single biggest cause: drivers failing to yield the right of way to cyclists. The most common types of collisions: motorists sideswiping cyclists, motorists door-prizing cyclists, motorists turning into cyclists’ path.

5. If they’re not wearing helmets they shouldn’t be on the road. By law, those under 18 have to wear helmets while cycling. But if you’re an adult not wearing a lid, many drivers assume you’re breaking the law – or asking for trouble. Not wearing a helmet is a complicated issue. Just like motorists like the feeling of freedom on the open road, so, too, do cyclists who prefer to go hatless. For many cycling advocates, helmets send the wrong message – that biking is dangerous. They argue that motorists are instinctively more attentive around cyclists who aren’t wearing one. So it’s a personal choice. Just like deciding to drive a car to work instead of two wheels can be a personal choice. 

With a file from Adam Giambrone.

Don’t miss: 5 myths about motorists cyclists need to get over.

enzom@nowtoronto.com | @enzodimatteo

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