Cycling provides me with an ultimate sense of freedom. It’s an absolute joy to hop on my bike and feel like I could go anywhere while connecting with my city in an active way. Unfortunately, cycling in my home city of Toronto can be risky and each time I head out, I wonder if I’ll keep safe.
I’ve been hit three times in the past year while riding my bike. Once I was struck from behind while waiting to make a left turn. Another time, a truck backed up unexpectedly, crushing my front wheel, pinning me between my bike and a pole while people on the sidewalk screamed at the driver to stop. And of course, I’ve also been awarded the infamous ‘door prize.’ As a passenger door swung open into my lane, I was unable to stop in time and plowed right into the top corner of the door, being struck in the chest right over my heart.
And while these experiences have been terrifying, I know that by not getting back on my bike, I leave the rest of the cycling community to fend for themselves. To keep safe we need more cyclists on the road. We need better attitudes about biking. We all need to be more respectful – both drivers and cyclists alike. We all need to follow the rules of the road. And we need infrastructure that keeps drivers, cyclists and pedestrians safe.
I will never stop riding. But I hope that someday I can stop being fearful for my life each time I head out the door on two wheels.
To make cycling safer in Toronto, I’ve launched the Rob Ford Rides the City Challenge to ask our city’s notoriously bike-adverse Mayor to take a spin on our wheels for the day. Join the challenge here!
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i love cycling as a freedom also
I think this post highlights the worst fears of non-cyclists. They can imagine being crushed by a truck; they don’t want to risk their lives for the feeling of freedom that bikes give.
Instead of using civic duty as the driving force behind sticking to cycling, it would be better to assure non-cyclists that a patient and vigilant cyclist can go accident-free, even with the mediocre biking infrastructure that we currently have. People should be able to take up biking without having to muster up courage to face crushing trucks.
As a cyclist who commutes to work 9/12 months, in addition to biking for recreation, I can assure non-cyclists that it is possible to avoid accidents. You don’t have to fear for your life every time you push off.
Thanks for your comments Denise. It’s certainly true that you can ride in the city accident free but unfortunately I was subjected to some serious bad luck in the past year. In all three cases there was little I could have done to avoid the situation. It really was just bad luck and in these cases, an issue of drivers not expecting or being aware of cyclists sharing the road. I am quite vigilant in regards to signalling, ringing my bell, having proper reflective gear and lights, and making eye contact with drivers to make sure they see me.
But nevertheless, accidents happen and unfortunately, Toronto has more cyclist collisions than any other city in Canada so my experiences are not necessarily unusual. And of course, sharing my experiences is, in no way, intended to scare people off cycling! In fact, the more cyclists we have on the roads the safer it will be as cyclists become an expected and respected part of traffic. Improved infrastructure would have only done so much to prevent the accidents that I’ve been involved in. Improvements in ‘shared road’ culture would have really made the difference and this involves both cyclists and drivers being more conscientious and aware.