Monday, August 26, 2013

Cyclists Are People Too!

My husband has been a cyclist for a number of years. He, like many others started cycling for his own reasons but in his endeavour to become fit, he has experienced a lot of hateful people on the road and on paths. He has even been hit by a car.  

He began cycling for physical rehabilitation. He has disc degeneration in his lower spine. For six years, the only way doctors dealt with it was to put him on various types of addictive pain killers and nerve drugs. He was even told by one neurologist that every day he woke up still walking would be the best day of rest of his life. Finally, he received spinal surgery that did work to some degree but not 100%. He's off all the drugs which is nice and now he cycles to make sure he doesn't suffer the same pain as before. He now, however suffers something different. As a cyclist, he's treated like a non-person and we don't understand why.

To be clear, my husband and I are not avid cyclists that insist everyone should get on a bicycle, that cars are not required, that cycling is more environmental and so forth. If you chose to cycle, go for it, we'll even help you. If you don't, that's cool too. The choice is yours.  Just please respect those who choose it as their mode of transportation or method to get healthier or what-have-you.

It's not just drivers that treat my husband like a non-person, it's also police. When he was hit by the car, my husband was riding legally. He was stopped at a red light and when it went green, he was riding straight through. A car turning left turned directly into him. He was wearing bright orange and white and he's 6'2” tall. How do you miss that? Off his bike he kind of stands out. Anyway, my husband was stupid and didn't let me call an ambulance, instead having me bring him to the Urgent Care Centre.  When we got to the Urgent Care Centre, they didn't take his injuries too seriously. They gave him a muscle relaxant and sent us on our way. When we reported this incident to the police, they brushed him off and asked “well really, how much damage could have been done?”

Okay, my first problem with this is, my husband was hit by a car. If a pedestrian were hit by a car, this would have been taken a little more seriously but he's a cyclist so they went straight to potential damage. Second, the wheel on his commuting bike is $300. That'll give you an idea of how much the bike is worth. I don't even want to get into the cost of his road bike. SO, why was he brushed off? Oh right, because for some reason cyclists aren't taken seriously and a bicycle, any bicycle no matter how much they're worth are considered worthless. Bikes range from the $120 you can get anywhere to the high end built to specifications $10,000+ that you have to special order and both ends of the spectrum are treated the same. That's not right. The insurance company that has to replace the bike might have something to say about that.

In Chestermere, I had two separate incidents at two separate times. The first one was on a nice sunny day. I was wearing a white helmet and a white and light blue jersey. A woman driving a minivan hit me with her passenger side mirror and sent me flying into the ditch. When my husband caught up to her and banged on her window, she was startled but opened it. He asked her what she had against me and she didn't know what he was talking about. She had no idea she clipped me. I was fine but still, my heart was going about 300 bpm. I know, I was wearing a heart monitor. Do people have a blind spot for cyclists?

The second incident was less dramatic. Riding through Chestermere again, I maintained 30km/h. I was in the playground zone and a line of cars decided to pass me, that is until the cop following the line put on his lights and the cop off to the side put on his lights. They let me continue on but the line of cars, the entire line that passed me had to stop. From what I understand, they were ticketed for speeding and passing in a playground zone. The reason I know that is because I was with three other cyclists and one of the people following heard what was going on as they caught up to me.

A friend of my husband had a couple of incidents of his own. One day, after work he went to get on his bike to head home. Like my husband’s, his bike is a decent bike, not a bike-shaped object, and someone had changed out all of his good components for cheap ones. The only thing he had to say was the thieves were at least polite enough to leave him his ride home. A few weeks later he was in a bike lane on 10th Street and a car came into the bike lane and he jumped off his bike just in time to watch his front wheel end up under the car. The driver stopped and said “oh, I didn't see you. I was trying to cut off the bike behind you.” The cyclist phoned 911 but they didn't take him seriously because he was only a cyclist and wasn't hurt.

In England, a woman hit a cyclist then bragged about it on twitter. Her tweet read “Definitely knocked a cyclist off earlier - I have right of way he doesn't even pay road tax! #bloodycyclists. ” I don't know what the laws are in England so I can only reference from what I know here.  Cyclists have the right to be on most roads. Deerfoot Trail, I believe is the only road bicycles aren't permitted. What made this woman think she's so special that she could not only hit and run but tweet about it and move forward with her day?  To watch her subsequent interview, she's more sorry about the tweet than about hitting the cyclist. I get the impression she'd take the tweet back more because her career suffered damage, not because she hit a person with her car and left the scene. If she didn't leave, this tweet wouldn't be half as bad. Have your opinion, dislike whoever you want, but a hit and run then saying something like this makes the hit appear deliberate.

I can go on and on about accidents involving cyclists all over the place but there is another article that makes their own points and it's a good read. This article also talks about how police don't take cyclists seriously or even justify crimes against cyclists.  Take a read, it’s worth it.

Sending a Message - What do drivers learn from bicycle accidents?

A couple of the arguments I've heard against cyclists is that they pay no taxes or insurance. These are easy arguments to debunk, at least from my husband's perspective and many others as well. We own two vehicles and two properties. Oh ya, and he works and owns a business. That's a lot of taxes and insurance that he pays. Next!

There are arguments that bikes need to decide whether they are vehicles or not. According to Alberta Transportation, a bicycle that is being ridden is a vehicle. A cyclist must follow the rules of the road like drivers of other vehicles. A bike should never be ridden on the sidewalk. It's not legal unless the person is 14 or under. Do you know how many times a “cyclist” has tried to mow me down when I'm on a sidewalk? I'm not talking the double wide sidewalks but a regular sidewalk. I don't care if kids are on sidewalks, I mean adults that should know better and the best part is, they get angry at me and really, it's in the name, sideWALK.  Cyclists are guilty for deciding if they’re vehicles or not as well, so read the rules.  On the road, bicycles are vehicles.  Be predictable, responsible and respectful.

Also, there are some bike paths next to roads and there are some good points and not so good points to these. The speed limit on a bike path is 20 km/h. I know cyclists that maintain 25km/h and above. That means they'd be speeding on the path and for this, one can get a ticket. The road is more appropriate for these cyclists. So then why do drivers yell at cyclists to get on the sidewalk or bike path when the cyclist is appropriately on the road?

Pedestrians need to respect the paths as well. There are some dedicated paths for walkers and joggers and some marked for bikes. A cyclist can get ticketed for riding on the dedicated walking path but walkers and joggers don't get ticketed for walking on the cycling path. This is a double standard that needs to be fixed. Either these paths are dedicated or they're not and ticketing just cyclists is discrimination.  It would be like ticketing only Mustang drivers because to buy that car means you obviously speed.  Not only that, it's as rude to walk on the dedicated bicycle path as it is to cycle on the walking path. Multi-use paths, well we all have to get along. Even when I ride on those I get frustrated then think to myself “suck it up Buttercup, you chose this route!” (Don't any of you call me Buttercup or it's on!)

Cycling in Calgary - The City of Calgary’s site is pretty good.  Take a look.

Currently in Calgary, there is an increased problem with bike theft and vandalism. My husband's commuting bike was vandalized twice and several bikes were actually stolen from a secure parking lot. It's taken a while, but now the building has security guards down in the “secure” parking lot.  We found out after all this that there are no cameras.  The people who park their cars down here must be so pleased.  The secure parking lot is now a little more secure. I hope it works. Baby steps and all that.

In one article about these bike thefts, it says “invest in a decent bike lock.” That didn't stop the vandalism or the theft of the good bike parts I talked about. Somehow, a cyclist is supposed to protect all the parts that are (somewhat) easily removable. That's not exactly an easy proposition. The only way to guarantee that when you're away from home, is to have a box to lock your bike in. That's not realistic. If something is removable, there is very little you can do to keep it on your bike, and there are a lot of removable pieces on a bike. Maybe if people can bring their bikes up to their office... no. Building managers would hate that.

Looking at various comments about bike theft, people are saying things like “instead of getting a new bike, ride a used bike...” or “People with too much money and wanting to show off with outrageously priced bikes combined with the greed of others, things like this happen...” Does that go for cars, homes, clothing? Say I want that new tablet I've been eyeing? Can we have anything new and awesome, or is it all showing off? There is a purpose to that multi-thousand dollar bike and just because someone doesn't understand why a person would pay for it doesn't make it showy or pretentious. But then again, we could live in a gray world, have the same hairstyle, no tattoos or piercings, drive the same cars and have no definition in our lives. That's what I always think when someone goes off about something expensive, not just bikes. I wonder how much these same people paid for their smart phone? A line from a book I read a long time ago comes to mind when thinking about people who complain about the “excessive” price of an item. “You're broke, aren't you.”

Cyclists need to be taken more seriously and need to be treated like everyone else. I almost feel like I have to start some kind of “equality” campaign. Cyclists Are People Too! Their bikes are actually things worth money and cyclists love their bikes like you love your iphone/ps3/car! Cyclists are actual living breathing people! They could be your husband, or wife. They could even be your own child! You don't know it but your neighbour could be a closet cyclist. You're best friend could be a cyclist. It's too often that I read how a cyclist has to justify their existence.

In all seriousness, the injustice towards cyclists is confusing. It's too often that I read about cyclists being killed on highways because someone ran them down. Cyclists don't get taken seriously when their bike is stolen or damaged. However, when the cyclist is at fault, justice should be comparable to his crime.

I am a cyclist but I don't ride as much as many others. In general, when I'm with cyclists, I'm the support driver. We're in the beginnings of building a team for the purpose of teaching and training. The cyclists for whom I drive ride for charity marathons. Being that I'm responsible for carrying water, Gatorade, tools, a bike rack, first aid stuff, I don't ride with them. This stuff would be way too heavy and I'm just a girl.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an activist and I don't want to sound all activist-like. I really just want to make sure my husband is safe when he's riding his bike. I don't want him and our infant team to be one of these “5 people hit on the highway in Alberta” headlines. I'd like cyclists and drivers to get along and be respectful towards each other. I don't want another story of “before you got here, someone threw a bottle out his car window at us... again.” Please know cyclists are out there and are respectful taxpaying, insurance paying guys like my husband. Also know that when they're not cyclists, they're drivers or pedestrians, they are actual people under those helmets. Trust me, I get how you can mistake them for non-people. I've taken enough photos at marathons to think they're all one person wearing different jerseys, or better yet... clones!

No, not clones, can't think that way... CYCLISTS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

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