It started with the traffic circle at Blenheim St. and 8th Ave. I was heading east along the Off-Broadway bike route (aka 8th Ave.) and two vehicles were heading north along Blenheim St. It was dark, but not raining. I was lit up with my reflective riding gear and 5 blinking LED lights: a bright headlight, one in the spokes of my front wheel, a bright omnidirectional on my seat post, and one hanging from each pannier.
In short, the only way you won’t see me at night is by not looking in my direction.
The first vehicle to enter the traffic-circle — a car — did so just before I entered the circle. This is how the circle should work. Yield to traffic already in the circle and if you enter at the same time, yield to the right. The second vehicle was a business pickup truck with ladders on it — perhaps a landscaping, maintenance, or construction vehicle. It was following a car-length or so behind the first north-bound vehicle.
The truck slammed its brakes roughly a few feet away from my rear tire, and I lived to tell the tale. That pesky rule about yielding to traffic already in the traffic circle was completely disregarded. No harm, no foul, right?
Except, it didn’t end there. The driver, clearly ignorant of the rules concerning how to navigate a traffic circle, proceeded to roll down his window and yell profanities at me. Then he turned on to the bike route and followed along behind me, a foot or two behind, gunning his engine, and continuing to yell profanities as we continued down the road.
Yes, it was as fun as it sounds. He eventually tired of it and turned north on Bayswater St. — 3 blocks after he started harassing me.
In Vancouver I often get the feeling that there’s a constant war between pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. Pedestrians hate vehicles and cyclists. Motorists hate pedestrians and cyclists. Cyclists hate pedestrians and motorists. Of course, few people are exclusive to one of these groups, but the rage seems to follow. And truly seems to be rage. Vitriolic, primal rage.
Ever read the comments on mainstream media’s cycling stories’ websites? The same anonymity that fuels those comments seems to drive behaviour out on the streets too. Except, on the streets, the stakes are higher. What’s the distance between harassing a cyclist because of a perceived slight to knocking them down or flat-out running them over?
We often talk about the barriers to having more cyclists riding on our city streets: the behaviour of everyone on the streets is one that I don’t see how we’re going to easily improve.
What’s your take? Is this just a big-city attitude problem, or is there something special about Vancouver?
Last modified: February 1, 2012