Rules of the Road – or lack thereof
It is good to be back.
As mentioned in my previous post, I have been motivated to take keyboard in hand once again thanks to a random incident a couple of weeks ago. Let me set the stage.
So, November 3 was a cool and blustery Tuesday. I had the day off work and decided to go for a bike ride. I headed south-east from Yonge and Eglinton to Pape and Danforth, just for kicks. For anyone who hasn’t ridden in Toronto, any time you are heading south it is all downhill. Conversly, the way home can be a major pain.
So, on the way back home I’m headed uphill with a nasty headwind to boot. As I’m chugging along a gentleman in a silver PT Cruiser slows down next to me, lowers his window and shouts, “Hey buddy, there’s no bike lane here!”
Now, three things entered my mind upon hearing this:
- Good lord, is that Walter Sobchak from the Big Lebowski? No joke, same tinted aviators, same facial hair, but no enormous gun.
- I was too out of breath to hurl a golden insult like, “PT Cruiser, more like PT LOSER!”
- Just how little do most residents know about the rules governing bicyclists and motorists in Toronto?
While initial reaction is to go on rant about drivers, I must remind myself that this is the new, slightly more mature TRR, not the old, snarky Ben Co. So, let’s focus on how well the City of Toronto does in publicizing bicycle laws.
Step 1: Google search: “City of Toronto bicycle laws” – results get me helmet laws, licensing and bike locker applications. Nuts.
Step 2: Ontario Highway Traffic Act – Now I’m getting somewhere. In the Act, a bicycle is clearly defined as a vehicle. So, all rules that apply to a car apply to me on a bike. But what driver would read through legislation? My excuse is that I’m a huge dork.
Step 3: City of Toronto cycling website – Great, now I’ll find it spelled out in black and white that drivers and cyclists should co-exist and share the road, right? Wrong. A casual review (which is all anyone would give) shows me violation fines, licensing (again), bike parking and a number of links I’m too lazy to follow up if I were a driver looking for information.
Step 4: Give up and drive my PT Cruiser to the bar.
So, how am I rewarded if I were a curious driver trying to find out if that schmo in the orange jacket should have been riding north on Laird on November 3?
Not well. In fact, the closest I would have come was the City of Toronto Cycling Safety and Education page. However, not much educating is going on. Most of the material takes a preachy tone, implying that a cyclist is to blame if they are injured (“t is important, therefore, for cyclists to be visible, to ride predictably, to know how traffic works, and to communicate with other road users”).
But finally, when I am about to abandon all hope, I randomly click on the “Campaigns” section and find that there have been a number of public awareness campaigns, including a “Pass Bikes Safely” advertising blitz which happened throughout September, when I was riding the most. I did not see a single one.
What can the City and the Province do better? Educate, educate, educate. Considering the trouble I had to go to find even basic information, it is a fair statement to say this is under-publicized. In terms of driver education, a cursory review of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation’s Driver’s Handbook contains no mention of how to co-exist with cyclists.
So, if the City doesn’t promote this and drivers aren’t taught it, where, exactly, is the education occurring? And WWWSD?*
* What Would Walter Sobchak do?