I am the most casual of casual commuter cyclists. Riding into work, I now find the 20 minute walk too long. I have no idea how long into the fall I will ride and don’t know what my cold temperature threshold will be for my fingers and face. The moment I have to start bundling up to stay warm on the cycle into the office might be the sign I will need that walking is the preferred way to go.
I have been cycling into work for most of the summer now; I credit that to my pocket book. I paid for over $170 for a $49.95 tune up – mainly because my bike is old and in the 15 or so years I have had it, it never received the care or attention it deserved/needed. This year I did and thanks to the good folks at Kunstadt Sports on Bank in the Glebe I was ready for a summer of biking. Because of the tune up I feel a lot safer on my bike.
Liz and I have made good use of the bikes this year, Monday to Friday and on weekends. The only (small) sacrifice I have made is not to make the daily stop into Starbucks as I would if I was walking to the office. I have avoided so far (knock on wood) getting stuck in a rain storm, colliding with another bike and I have stayed clear of scratching any cars whether it was my fault or theirs.
Generally I am happy with being able to get around the City of Ottawa on my bike. I haven’t had to worry about cars too much as drivers are as polite to me as I cycle as I am to other cyclists when I am driving. The path system is good, there a missing links and from what I can see Ottawa is trying to make the connections. Some intersections are worrisome; the Wellington St. /Sussex Ave. /Mackenzie Ave. at the Chateau Laurier is nerve rattling. We have made it through there a few times, but seeing how try not to get trapped in that area does make you think twice. There is some confusion in the approach the new lanes along Mackenzie Avenue on the west side of the US Embassy, especially as you come from the National Art Gallery of Canada. I still don’t feel at ease on the O’Connor dual lane, I would have preferred lanes that went with the flow of traffic – south on O’Connor and North on Metcalfe St. or Kent St. These examples aside, Ottawa has been doing a good job.
I am not perfect as a cyclist, however as a driver (of a car) I have a good sense of rules and the reason they need to be followed. Being a good and courteous driver makes for a good and courteous cyclist. I have noticed a few things while in the saddle – these are just observations of how cyclists can do their part to stay alive.
Use hand signals correctly. I recently learned that cyclists can indicate turning right by sticking out their right arm. I still use the left arm method to show I am turning right. On the left and right arm pointing signals I have seen too many cyclists pointing to the ground – is that their way of telling me you are turning right or look out for a pothole? Come on, if you are going to indicate turns that way, do it with conviction! Point with pride!
Follow the traffic lights. Not watching the lights is becoming a problem on the O’Connor Street lanes. Cyclists are running reds, not stale green lights but RED lights! This morning at Laurier and O’Connor an incident was avoided when alert cyclists saw the red light running biker before they headed west on Laurier. If that had been a car, there would have been bike bells ringing and obscene hand gestures and yelling at the car, but we don’t care if a cyclist runs a red?
How about that distracted driving law? We don’t allow drivers to wear ear pods and headphones when driving? Somehow this is okay for cyclists? And one armed cyclists travel around the city because the other hand is holding the phone? The same “put the phone away out of sight” should apply as a safety measure for cyclists as well as motorists. Pulling over to the side to check for a missed call or waiting for a text/email should be the rule for cyclists as it is for motorists.
Finally, why the race on Laurier? I am passed everyday by other cyclists on the Laurier bike lane. What’s the rush? The lanes are wide enough to pass, but sometimes the speed they pass me at is incredible. Is there a speed limit for travelling on city bike lanes? I suspect, serious bike commuters can’t wait for cooler weather when casual commuters me abandon the bikes for pounding the pavement.
Since my days on the old and long forgotten Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee for the City of Ottawa, the bike path network has improved a great deal. The city and NCC are doing their part to make cycling safe and accessible for more casual cyclists and turning them to being more serious about using their bikes to get around. Is it time for cyclists themselves to call out others who they see as being unknowingly reckless or ignorant when cycling in the city?
p.s. don’t get me going about parents that make their kids wear a helmet cycling when they don’t.
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