GUEST POST: an open letter from one Toronto cyclist to another

Editor’s Note: Toronto cyclist Emma Woolley recently posted an open letter to her fellow cyclists on her Tumblr. Spring’s here, we’ve seen some bad biking on the streets (and off the streets) of Toronto, so perhaps a little reminder. Photo by Canoe too.

An open letter to my fellow cyclists

[Note: Most people who read this will already be aware of these things. I’ll probably be preaching to the choir. But I had to get it out anyway. And I don’t care if it sounds like a lecture. You know how it is.]

This morning was like any other. I sat stopped at a red light while cyclist after cyclist blew past me. I reminded each one of them that the light was red. Some told me they knew, others shrugged, one girl gave me the thumbs-up, and another girl gave me the finger. I asked a woman who had informed me that she knew the light was red (quite indignantly, might I add), if she knew what she was supposed to do at a red light. “Of course I fucking know. Who are you, the bike police?” She sped up.

I wish I could say that cyclists who break the rules of the road are in the minority, but I really don’t think they are. Maybe the split is 50/50. But in my experience, more cyclists carelessly zoom through intersections, and fail to signal or pass properly, than those who do not. I have never seen people travel with such reckless abandon (aside from a good chunk of pedestrians, and excessive speeding). This is something I am constantly Hulking out over and complaining about. By the time I get to work I am so incensed by the carelessness of others that my days are always off to a bad start. Why do cyclists feel that they’re above the law in almost every single situation? Why the sense of entitlement and “because I can?” There’s a widespread attitude that we don’t have to follow the rules simply because we’re not in a car. It’s unsafe and quite frankly, stupid.

It’d be easier not to care. I’m reminded of this every time I mention a bike jerk incident and someone says something like: “Well, to each their own” or “If they break the rules, it’ll be their fault when they get hurt.” Well, duh. But disregarding rules of the road and overall safety affects everyone, drivers included, and in two main ways: Safety and image.

On safety

It’s funny for me to talk about safety, someone who has been hit by cars more often than a person a should. But I was always doing everything right: crossing when I should, keeping an eye out for doors, et cetera. But things happen. We can’t always avoid them, but we can do our best.

I don’t care what anyone says: Road rules exist for very important reasons. Everyone knows them. Whether we’re driving or cycling, we depend on others to follow them so that we can move along efficiently and avoid accidents. We expect cars to signal when they’re turning right so that we can either make our presence known or pass them on the left. Cars expect us to signal so that they know where we’re going and you know, not hit us. Whether you like it or not, safety on the road isn’t just about you, it’s the actions of others. That’s how it works. And many cyclists seem to just not give a shit.


Answer me this: If you are a cyclist who goes through reds, streetcar stops, and stop signs, why do you do it? If you are so committed to the more physically active way of getting around, why are you so opposed to stopping and having to start up again? Is it that you’re in a rush? Because stopping for a minute at a light or sign isn’t going to set you back very far.

I’m of the mind that everyone should stop at red lights. Period. All it takes is one pedestrian, or a fast car, or another unseen cyclist, to result in disaster. For stop signs, I would actually advocate for them being used as yield signs for cyclists, but until then, I implore you to at least slow down and look both ways. I have watched cyclists not do this and narrowly avoid being hit by cars. I have watched cyclists do this and collide with one another. Use your brain.

Paying fucking attention

Listen, you have to look left when you’re turning right. Just because you’re entering a bike lane, it doesn’t mean you can just ride onto it because SOMEONE ELSE MIGHT BE COMING and hey, maybe they can’t hit the brakes fast enough. And if they can, maybe they’ll end up with a broken face and it’ll be your fault. Not that you’d care, I guess. (Can you tell that I’m feeling particularly vitriolic about this one?)

Music. If you are listening to it, you better be even more aware than cyclists who are not. You can’t hear warning bells. You can’t hear people saying “on your left.” You can’t hear vehicles approaching. Get some mirrors and/or look around all the time. Or listen on a low volume. Whatevs.

(I saw a hipster cyclist on his fixie with an earbud in one ear and his phone in the other. He was also smoking a cigarette. I’m not going to lie, I was kind of impressed until he started having steering issues.)

If you are swerving to avoid the various potholes and debris we cyclists are often forced to ride in on the sides of these lovely city roads, LOOK AROUND YOU FIRST. Don’t assume that there’s no one there.

Signalling and miscellany

Not signalling makes you at jerk. It also makes you a prime candidate for getting hit by a car or another cyclist. As I said above, riding and driving safely depends on anticipating the actions of others.

If you are going to spit, please make sure you are far enough away from other cyclists. (I was hit by a nice gob before. And the dude responsible yelled at ME. Ayup.)

If you cannot steer a bicycle, do not ride one until you can.

Stay off the fucking sidewalks. Seriously.

When streetcar doors are open, it means you stop. You don’t inch forward or weave around people. Don’t be a jackass.

Drunk? You probably shouldn’t ride. Consider walking.

On the cyclist image

Many of the infractions I’ve touched on above put tremendous stress on everyone on the road. It makes me despise my fellow cyclists (when really I truly love you all, in a way). They contribute to the negative stereotype that cyclists are just assholes who think they and they alone own the road (which actually seems kind of true for many of us).

I can’t stress how bad this is for driver-cyclist relations. It’s unfortunate enough that there is an us-vs-them mentality on both sides, let alone that many of us are fueling attitudes that encourage it. Sure, some drivers hate us simply for being on the road and being “in their way.” But many I’ve talked to are bitter that so many cyclists disregard the rules that everyone else has to follow. Sometime last week I was stopped at a red and had a nice conversation with a woman in a mini van, which started with her saying: “I’m surprised you actually stopped.” Another cyclist rolled up and joined in. (Faith!)

In order for everyone to get along better and respect cyclists as road travellers, we have to “play their game.” And to you know, do our best to stay alive and uninjured.

We all have to share the roads. We have to be considerate whether in lanes or bike lanes. Otherwise, I really don’t think anything gets better. So please, please please please, stop being such jerks.


  1. Excellent and honest.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I hope you are heard.

  2. There is a third element to the rules of the road. That is efficiency. Most of the rules make it easier for everyone to get around slightly faster. When people break the rules it makes their trip slightly faster at the expense of someone else’s. If everybody made it easier for each other we’d all get there faster.

    Sure, i’ll cycle through a red light. But what i never do is make someone else stop for me while i am doing something stupid. Stop and check the do whatever doesn’t hurt or impede someone else.

    And seriously, talking on cell phones on a bike, go fuck yourself!

  3. I’ll admit to running a few red lights, but only early on weekend mornings when there’s no one around…

    Things that should be added to the ‘Signalling’ section – get a fucking bell. And use it. And use lights at night.

  4. Cyclists will pass right turning traffic (with the signal on) on the right, then yell at the driver when they almost get hit. Wait, or pass on the left, dumbass.

    Motorists will often turn right from the centre lane, rather than merging into the bike lane. Turn from the bike lane, jackass.

  5. As in all things, balance is key. Yes – the rules of the road are important and can save your life. You shouldn’t blow through red lights with a line of cyclists patiently waiting at the curb. That makes you look like a douche, because you’re being a douche.

    That said, there’s always a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Stopping at every single stop sign on a completely deserted street is your prerogative, but don’t get snappy at me if I (carefully) glide through, like most cars do.

    Use your capacity for common sense – don’t do anything on the road (or anywhere else in the city for that matter) that will impede on someone else.

  6. I think (from noticing the way I myself change my attitudes when on my bike) that one factor that makes a disproportionate number of cyclists into aggressive drivers is the desire to conserve momentum. Pedestrians and cars can start up from a stopped position without much effort – but for cyclists, there’s that little bit of extra effort involved. It’s not really that much, and it there’s no justification for using it as an excuse, but subconsciously I think cyclists try to avoid coming to a complete stop as much as possible, and that makes us more aggressive than we would otherwise be.

    That doesn’t explain not signalling, not even slowing down and yielding at stop signs, cycling on sidewalks, and other behaviours, of course.

  7. If that photo is from the past 10 years, then kudos to the photographer for catching all of that amazing stuck in the 80s fashion in one place!

  8. “In order for everyone to get along better and respect cyclists as road travellers, we have to ‘play their game.'” 
    This argument is very popular. Distilled: “If I obey the law, I’ll be respected.” I can’t figure out why this argument gets so much traction. Can anyone give me any examples when this tactic has proved successful? I mean, any marginalized, disenfranchised, disrespected, etc. group has gained acceptance, respect, etc. by subjecting themselves to the ‘letter’ of the law?

  9. The only time I cycle through red lights, or see others doing it is when the light is at a T intersection, and the stem of the T is on the other side of the road. There is no possibility of through traffic. I check for pedestrians and stop if there are any, but if not, why stop when your “lane” has no crossing or entering traffic? They should simply amend the traffic rules so the stop if for the car lanes, and the cycle lane becomes a flashing orange.

  10. you really need to just mind your own business. if you are just compelled to stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, however, then stand with a radar gun out on the street and wag your finger at all the speeding motorists, or stand at a stop sign and do the same for all the drivers who don’t stop.

    the smugness quotient is high around here!

  11. Excellent post and agre with you on all points – sometimes I believe, sadly, that cyclists are their own worst enemy.

    I would like to add cyclists who jump the que at red lights only to start off in a high gear (thus, making you and most everyone they have jumped over have to pull out into traffic in order to (re)pass them after every light).

    as for those who don’t stop at red lights because of the ‘momentum’ excuse – this is another reason they make low gears, please use them (you shouldn’t have to stand up in order to fight inertia). I’ll concede for those intersections where the dots don’t seem to work and you go from pedestrian-to hand-back to pedestrian signal over and over again (i’m looking at you dufferin mall exit)

  12. Would you be willing to do a side by side test of how long a trip takes following rules vs. breaking them? I predict the difference would be pretty big if both people have the same normal riding speed.

    This isn’t about being pedantic or following rules for the sake of following rules – people who ignore stop lights, don’t signal, don’t pay attention to their surroundings, ride on sidewalks, ride the wrong way on one-way streets, etc, make it more dangerous for everyone else. Flying past a stop sign on a quiet street at an off hour isn’t the same as blowing through a red light with traffic coming – bikes and cars. When i’m riding on a one-way street and someone is coming at me head on, riding on their, it’s a game of chicken I don’t want to play. The issue is more about respect for other people on the road than just about wagging your finger at people not following the rules.

  14. Great post, Emma! 

    I live in Toronto and bike only occasionally, mostly because I am still kind of afraid of the jackass cyclists who abandon the rules and do whatever they like. I walk almost everywhere I go in this city and I have been almost hit or actually tapped by just as many careless bikers as I have been by cars. It happens all the time. I always try to tell myself that most Toronto cyclists are the kind, thoughtful, rule-abiding type that I tend to know, but I’m starting to realize this really isn’t the case.

    Today I was walking through a park and a cyclist cussed me out for being “in his way,” zoomed past me and then gave me the finger. He was both smoking and talking on a cell phone. Last I checked, sidewalks and pathways are for foot traffic, not vehicles. 

    So to Peter Smith above me and others like him: How is a matter of public and personal safety not Emma’s business (or mine, for what matter)?

  15. RE: Mark’s comment –

    “”In order for everyone to get along better and respect cyclists as road travellers, we have to ‘play their game.'”
    This argument is very popular. Distilled: “If I obey the law, I’ll be respected.” I can’t figure out why this argument gets so much traction. Can anyone give me any examples when this tactic has proved successful? I mean, any marginalized, disenfranchised, disrespected, etc. group has gained acceptance, respect, etc. by subjecting themselves to the ‘letter’ of the law?”

    While cyclists are still second-class citizens on the road, I don’t think that asking that we follow rules instated for safety reasons is a bad thing. Nor am I saying that we should follow every single law in existence. What I am saying is that being mindful of everyone’s safety does earn respect, IMHO, because traffic rules *are* about flow and safety. They’re not about rights.

    I really wouldn’t compare this to the struggles of marginalized or oppressed groups because it adds a layer of complexity that I don’t think is necessary here.


  16. Well, I think Emma is trying to make this a clear question about what is right and what is wrong, but unfortunately the reality is a messy grey, as always. In real world, I have never seen a cyclist who just blast through a busy intersection without checking (presumably those who do are in grave pretty soon), nor have I seen a cyclist who religiously come to a full stop at every stop sign (I guess he/she will find cycling such a hassle and gives up quickly). Everybody sits somewhere in between, some more aggressive, some more cautious. That makes it really hard to draw a clear line between right vs. wrong and everybody pretty decides for him/herself. Here is my line, I am not saying what I am doing is right, but that is what I am comfortable with. Bottom line, I do break rules from time to time, but whenever I do, I am responsible for the safety of everyone involved (myself included), and I make sure that nobody is put in any danger by my action. So yes, I roll through Stop sign, sometime even without slowing down, when I am absolutely sure there is nobody crossing, no car approaching etc.; I do ride in reverse direction on one-way street, but I always yield to oncoming traffic; I do ride on side walk (mostly to get to the next intersection on a busy one way street) but I ride slowly and stops to yield to pedestrians; I occasionally even ride through red light, mostly through the few T-intersections on College when nobody is crossing. Sometimes there are still people unhappy with what I do, once a pedestrian yelled at me on the sidewalk, even though I stopped 3 meters from him to let him pass, but oh well, it is his right to express his displeasure, it is my right to turn a deaf ear.

  17. Melissa,

    while I totally agree with you that the cyclist who gave you finger was a jackass, but I think you are wrong about park path is reserved for pedestrians. Bikes are allowed on park path, but cyclist should always yield to pedestrians.

  18. “a cyclist cussed me out for being “in his way,” zoomed past me and then gave me the finger. He was both smoking and talking on a cell phone. ”

    How easily a random bunch of people who happen to choose a mode of transportation on a given day get lumped as “cyclists”. What do I have in common with some random jackass, or that old chinese man, or that high school kid, or that homeless lady?

    It’s almost as good as the time the Star fixer criticized “the cycling community” for not cleaning up rusty Supercycles from College St. post-and-rings.

  19. Nag and whine all you want, if you want to play Bike Morality Police then don’t be surprised if you get the finger. Not all drivers respect the rules of the road, not all pedestrians respect the law, and certainly not all cyclists will respect their roll in the mix…

  20. As a cyclist, I will admit to running a few red lights or stop signs, providing they look to make sure it’s safe. But I do have a problem with cyclists wizzing past streetcar doors that are opening. Also have a major problem with cyclists who think it OK to ride their bikes on a subway platform. Maybe they don’t care about their on safety, but what about the safety of other passengers? We all break the rules. And sometimes it makes sense to. But rather than asking ourselves whether we can get away with it, we need to ask ourselves whether we are setting a good example. The children really are watching us.

  21. I’m of the general agreement about the spirit of the law, more than the letter. The article’s lanugage is a bit angry but I agree with 95% of it.

    Stop signs are often placed as traffic-calming measures, to discourage motor traffic, even though every MUTCD (the traffic engineer’s manual of signs, lights and pavement markings) published in North America say stop signs should not be used that way.

    The same is true with the maze of residential one-way streets – they never took cyclists in thought, they were meant to keep out through cars. Vancouver uses low-speed traffic circles and humps to accomplish the same goal.

    So I have no problem with cyclists who treat 4-way stops as yields, no problem with cyclists going the wrong way (carefully!) on a residental side street.

    But I draw the line at open streetcar doors, red lights (at the very least, they should be treated as “flashing reds”, as motorists are “supposed” to do when making a right on red), and the agressive behaviour that is sadly too common. Sadly, almost the only enforcement of unsafe cyclist behaviours are lousy media-friendly blitzes where tickets are easy and plentiful and strictly to the letter of the law (such as not making those full-and-complete stops at empty all-way stops) and not against those out there that could be made examples of.

  22. I heartily endorse this article. As a new Bixi user in the city, I’ve become even more sensitive to the behaviour of other cyclists. Not a day goes by when one doesn’t blow past me at a red light, or ride past blithely ignoring stop signs. These aren’t the equivalent of ‘rolling stops’ or a careful yield, either… they’re sailing through full speed. And don’t get me started on the tough guys who ride on the sidewalks in my neighbourhood.

  23. RE. T-intersections – as a cyclist, I get pretty annoyed when I am approaching a T intersection to turn left on a green light, only to get blindsided from the right by a cyclist going right through the intersection against the red light. Sure I’ve been able to avoid them, but I shouldn’t have to worry about that – there are enough other hassles out there.

    Even at a T-intersection when they’re along the flat side, a cyclist had to be ready to yield both to pedestrians and to turning cyclists if the light is red. Just because a cyclisst is not going to get hit by a car doesn’t mean they don’t have to at least stop momentarily so they can yield if necessary to people who have the right of way.

  24. Answer me this: If you are a cyclist who goes through reds, streetcar stops, and stop signs, why do you do it?

    Ok, I’ll bite. I often do go through red lights and stop signs here in Manhattan, and I’ll tell you why. That traffic infrastructure was designed 100% for cars. Cars have different needs, and different theories of traffic management, than bikes and I don’t think it is fair to apply 100% of these rules to bikers. Cars only lose time when they stop, not muscle power. Bikes respond to gravity more than cars. And so on.

    Two anecdotal examples: in New York there is a “green wave” at most times that lets you travel the one-way arterials at 30 mph in a car. Works best in light traffic, of course, but it’s freaking amazing. Imagine traveling up Spadina/Avenue Rd from the waterfront to Lawrence without ever hitting a red light. The problem is, bikes don’t move at 30 mph so you end up hitting nonstop reds instead of nonstop greens. Given that there is a traffic signal every 200 ft in Manhattan, this gets pretty annoying, fast.

    Second example – Central Park here has traffic signals on its main paved loop. This loop has been phased out of use for cars over the years and is now only open to cars at rush hour. But on evenings, or weekends, when there are no cars, the signals still function as red-yellow-green, rather than, say, flashing yellow. This is moronic, since the loop becomes a high speed bike and blading loop at those times, and there is a completely different set of needs for traffic management in order to allow pedestrians to cross without unduly impeding the bikers. Obviously 99.999% of all cyclists ignore the lights, which led to some media attention recently when cops started handing out tickets.

    Now, if I am in a car, I would never dream of cheating a light or even a stop sign at 2 am in the morning with no one in sight. Would never do it. But it’s just not fair to expect that of a biker unless you redesign the system to fairly accommodate their needs as well. When I travel the (simply fabulous, drool all you want Toronto) Hudson River Greenway here, with its fully separated high-speed bike lanes, I obey all bike traffic signals because they were designed with bikers in mind. Ergo, bikers respect them.

    If Toronto were to design traffic signals and separated lanes that respected biker needs (i.e. California Roll on residential bike lane streets, dedicated bike signals on major streets or arterials, etc.) then I would expect more people to obey them.

  25. As a pedestrian, I see the stupidity of both motorists and cyclists, and they have a lot in common — they think that they are more important than other people on the road. Motorists are getting testy thanks to congestion and the general rat race of 21st century Toronto, and I suspect that some of the same factors infect the cycling community.

    It’s amusing to read the idea that you can breeze through places where there “shouldn’t” be any conflicting moves. Yes, just like I should be able to step off the sidewalk on a green light at a T intersection without having to be sure I’m not run over by some bozo who treats it as a “flashing orange”. Getting off (or on) streetcars, I am already used to watching out for motorists, but cyclists add extra fun (especially when the stop is at a T intersection).

    As a transit advocate, I find myself thinking ill of cyclists because so many of them are badly behaved to pedestrians. That’s not a “rational” way to approach the debate, but it’s the combined effect of encountering so many thoughtless cyclists.

    There’s a place for cycling in the urban fabric, but when you get your exclusive, protected lanes, remember that there are still places where pedestrians and other traffic will have the right-of-way to cross them. I’m sorry that it’s harder to slow down and stop than just breeze through, but those are the rules we all agree on for using the road.

  26. So, you have “been hit by cars more often than a person a should” but consider yourself competent to give advice on cycling safety because you were always doing what you “should”? Hilarious! Might it not occur to you that it is not the blind compliance with the rules of the road but rather an understanding of how traffic actually works that keeps one out of trouble? There are tons of perfectly legal practices that are actually extremely dangerous and tons of completely safe illegal behaviours (in many circumstances running a red light is actually much safer than waiting for the green). So long as you don’t understand this important fact, you’ll continue get hit by cars… and be surprised by it, since you were following the rules… *sigh*

  27. “If I obey the law, I’ll be respected.” I can’t figure out why this argument gets so much traction. Can anyone give me any examples when this tactic has proved successful? I mean, any marginalized, disenfranchised, disrespected, etc. group has gained acceptance, respect, etc. by subjecting themselves to the ‘letter’ of the law?”

    Those who wish to dismiss and condemn cyclists (or drivers) for being law-breakers will not be moved to accept or respect them simply by the mere fact of obeying the law. They will often move on to other reasons for disrespecting and condemning them.
    As a cyclist, my approach to stop signs is to slow down as much as is necessary to stop momentarily – very momentarily, at times – to be able to check for traffic from all directions. It’s as much as or more than I’ve seen some drivers do in the same place, at the same time. A nod, a wave, a smile and a word of thanks go a long way towards defusing or facilitating interactions with drivers and pedestrians. Kindness is disarming.

  28. I cycle to work daily and have felt the annoyance you feel with our fellow cyclers. I commend you for daring to comment on the cycling behaviour of others, as too often English Canadians are far too passive, except when childishly giving the finger to others who would dare imply they may be wrong. There’s a lot of asshole drivers, and sadly there are a lot of asshole cyclists who feel entitled to disregard others around them. The basic rules of the road (which also apply to us) are not only meant to keep us safe, but those around us as well. A little basic respect for all would be greatly appreciated.

    I can’t help but think our cycling culture is the way it is due to the lack of a cycling infrastructure, as cycling in Toronto is an act of bravery most won’t get involved in. My girlfriend would love to cycle, but not in Toronto, as would a mutual Dutch friend with years of daily cycling experience. Unfortunately we’re left with loads of daredevils without the masses who would cycle but don’t due to safety, both perceived and real. Maybe cycling infrastructure, ie separated lanes, would initiate more pedaling, which may result in greater self-regulation and policing, but until then its continued self-indulgent ignorance by a surprisingly large minority.

  29. Bravo ! Excellent article. Cyclists have every right to use the roads as do motorists. But, it is very disappointing when people expect others to obey the rules, but do not follow them themselves. We all know of drivers that break the law, that are nuisances to others, are jerks, et cetera et cetara.

    But when cyclists ignore the law, it just re-inforces the perception that they are irresponsible. It’s worse when we compare cyclists with motorists and pedestrians. Compared with drivers, the cyclists will lose out everytime. Cars are heavier and protect the driver and the cyclist has no protection. Rightfully so, that drivers must respect the cyclist and give them enough room. Compared with pedestrians, cyclists become the “car” in that situation – they will win out almost always. Speed,momentum, etc will hurt those who travel at a slower pace. Cyclists owe pedestrian respect and room to move. To do otherwise is to become hypocrites. When you break the law, you put yourself and others at risk. Confronting a car and you’re the one in a hospital bed (if you’re lucky). Confronting a pedestrian and they’ll end up in the hospital (if they’re lucky). By the way, for all those rude and arrogant cyclists, you’ll be happy to know that you’ll still be able to use your finger in the hospital – probably it will be the only piece of you that you can use !

  30. I like to cycle fast and will not always stop at a red light.

    1) I always try to be considerate of all other traffic (car, bike, pedestrian), which not only means not hitting, but also not intimidating others, especially pedestrians (i.e. never ride on sidewalks, always stop when streetcar doors are open).

    2) As soon as I do not follow the rules, it is MY obligation to make sure I don’t get into anyone’s way.

  31. My point above, which was dismissed by ‘Emma’ (the author?), was that obeying the law ‘to the letter’ will not make anyone safer nor improve cyclists’ ‘image.’ 

    Anyway, it’s kinda funny that the author says she’s been hit by cars when following the law, then argues that following the law will make it safer for cyclists! Your evidence proves the opposite of your argument. 

    Taking the article’s evidence (not the arguments or the staggering amount of hyperbole) and our own experiences cycling, I think the conclusion is that many of the rules of the road need to be tweaked to account for cycling. This wouldn’t be much different than when the rules of the road were changed when more and more cars began using streets (and pretty much the rules we still have).

    For example, in other jurisdictions, they’ve changed the law regarding stop-signs: cyclists are to treat them as yield signs. That doesn’t mean they can “blow through” them (whatever that means), but that if there’s no other traffic around, they can proceed without coming to a full stop. Some trot out the ‘momentum’ argument, but it’s really about aligning the letter of the law with the spirit of the laws. In Toronto, I don’t think this could apply to every stop-sign but it could to many, decided on a case-by-case basis.

    Similarly, I think many residential one-way streets could have a sign under to the one-way arrow that says “cyclists excepted. Cyclists must yield to on-coming traffic.” This would be permitting behaviour that already occurs and isn’t dangerous. There’s no evidence of crashes occurring in these situations. Most residential one-way streets are wide enough and were made one-way to limit motor traffic.

    Related is how the police enforce current rules – I often see police surveilling the intersection of Beverley and Baldwin, ticketing cyclists who don’t come to a complete stop. But this has nothing to do with safety – there haven’t been any crashes there. So, if this intersection doesn’t have a history of car-bike collisions, why do the police enforce the stop-sign rule here?  

  32. Ah, the eternal contraversy. Much of the matter is down to a co-operative vs competitive attitude. The more you see the roads as a jungle where the law of the jungle prevails, the more selfish you will be, of course and so the opposite applies.
    More than once a dedicated cyclist will tell me with a big grin that they simply have no idea what the actual rules of the road are, which of course reflects the marginal status of the bicycle in our culture: even those fully engaged in biking have no cultural basis to make the effort to know the rules of the road – just more complicating information in an evermore rulebound world so forget it and plow onward.
    Another cultural norm – most people on bikes don’t realize that they can communicate with other road users, from peds to dump trucks, in a constructive way, ie, waving others through 4-way stops or right turns. By actually overriding your mute, marginal status you take control of the situation, not through basic opportunism but by giving someone else a break/acknowledgement. This will neither a) waste terrible amounts of time or b) endanger you – quite the opposite. this behaviour presupposes being visible and predictable – in fact you become both by making that eye contact and that offer.
    In the law of the jungle, you lay waste to whoever is weaker than you, and sneak past whoever is stronger if you can – we all know what that looks like. But I’m with the blogger – instead of hostile opportunism, a rules-based co-operative attitude is best for you and everyone else.

  33. Was the person who yelled at you after spitting on you:
    – kinda heavy set?
    – riding a black Specialized single speed?
    – with a vertically-oriented rear light?

    Did they accuse you af riding too close, despite the fact that you were very far behind them?

    If you answered yes to these questions, then the same person spat in my face while biking along College last autumn. Blech. Sorry, I had to get that out of my system.

  34. If I want to be part of the “smart cyclists who break the rules” club then I suppose I’ll have to start this comment with the following…

    “I’m a cyclist who runs the odd red light…but I’m not one of those asshole rule-breaking cyclists…”

    But that would be a lie. The fact is I have certainly been a red-light running, sidewalk hopping, t-intersection blazing, thinking I have a right “because cars are armoured and I’m not” Toronto cyclist. 

    Back when I lived in Parkdale and regularly rode to work in the Distillery, I would blow through that t-intersection in front of Harbourfront every morning. Sure, if there was a granny crossing the street I’d hit the brakes and bleed off that sweet, sweet momentum; but not because I’m a perfect citizen, I’d just rather not kill a granny.

    But none of the above is meant to be an endorsement for rule-breaking. I have a responsibility to change and there are a few sound reasons for doing so:

    1) While I can account for my own adeptness on a bike, situational awareness and dedication to personal safety, I have no interest in validating anyone else’s bad behaviour. And I’m sure that when other cyclists see me run that t-intersection on Queen’s Quay it makes them feel a little bit better about doing it themselves. Sadly, despite the inane ramblings of the Objectivists, a man is not and can not be an island unto themselves…especially when living in a city.

    2) I cannot account for the behaviour of others, nor can I predict how it will effect me. So while I might feel good about running that t-intersection, I have no way to predict if one of the buses that unloads on the east side of Harbourfront will see the red light I’m running and use it as an opportunity to pull out. Until such a time as I have X-Men-like psychic powers and can predict the actions of my fellow men/women, it behooves me to act more carefully. Thankfully, the traffic laws can provide me with a framework to do just that.

    And finally…I absolutely do not want to be a part of any self-righteous cyclists attempts to justify their bad behaviour. Nor do I want my actions to possibly associate myself with the smug (threw that in for you, Shawn), helmet-hating arsewads of the various city’s various cycling associations who seem to believe that the only path to greater cycling safety is increased regulations on automobiles and adding in the odd painted line on a street, like Jarvis for example. All the while, the cycling orgs refuse to admit that cyclists need to set the example for good behaviour and lawfulness. So long as drivers can point out the lawlessness of cyclists, there will be no justification for cyclists to sit on the high-dandyhorse.

    It’s a pretty obvious glass houses/stones analogy…

  35. So, you have “been hit by cars more often than a person a should” but consider yourself competent to give advice on cycling safety because you were always doing what you “should”? Hilarious! Might it not occur to you that it is not the blind compliance with the rules of the road but rather an understanding of how traffic actually works that keeps one out of trouble? There are tons of perfectly legal practices that are actually extremely dangerous and tons of completely safe illegal behaviours


    Exactly what I was thinking. While I can relate to some of the annoyances detailed above, you might want to look at yourself in the mirror first, coz you don’t seem to be in any position to give advice, contempt or even attitude to any other cyclist.
    BTW there is a study done in the UK which demonstrated that the higher number of females involved in bike-truck accidents was because they followed the driving laws to the letter. Same reason explains why 80% of cyclists are men, and those who never get involved in any accidents are those who have completely disregarded the law and developped instead a good set of street smart skills.
    So baby, you just ain’t nobody to lecture anyone.

    I personally will only respect the letter of the law when everyone else does:

    – Pedestrians stop stepping down on bike lanes right in front of you (where you have not time to break) without looking or yakking out on a cell phone

    – Pedestrians stop walking their dogs, doing their jogging, pushing their strollers, cruising around on electric wheelchairs in the freaking bike lanes (why the fuck do you think some cyclists end up on the sidewalk: coz the lanes are full of pedestrians!!)

    – Drivers actually do stop at stop signs

    – Drivers do actually stop yakking out on cell phones, especially when turning into freaking bike lanes

    – Drivers actually stop running red lights themselves

    – Drivers do actually respect speed limits both in town and on the highways (Has anyone every attempted this exploit, and how many seconds before another car smashed into your ass?)

    – Drivers actually stop honking aways like the assholes they are just because someone is taking a second too much to cross the stop sign or pulling off at the red light

    – Cops actually do start enforcing the law on the most dangerous and polluting road users: car drivers!! instead of shitting in their pants and harrassing cyclists like the cowards they are.

    PLEASE NOTE how nobody ever seems to find that the 1,2 millions car deaths, the fucking speeding bullshit, the cell/texting bullshit, the running stop signs bullshit, the honking bullshit REFLECTS BADLY on other drivers…

    Double standards?
    Give us all a break with the cheap finger wagging.


  36. Should have read “pulling off at the GREEN light

  37. Where I live in Montreal, no one obeys the rules of the road. This has resulted in anarchy at a lot of downtown intersections. Likewise, the popularity of bixi over the last 3 years has put a lot of crappy, sometimes drunk cyclists on the road. RESULT: CARS SLOWED DOWN. What a disaster, eh Emma. Cars driving slower.

  38. Hey, I’m in Montreal too!!
    Sweet, sweet, sweet anarchy!!!
    Don’t we love those bixis? Not when they woble like drunk noodles, criss-crossing in the lane for 5km, and then wham! suddenly braking like morons right in front of you and you end up with your head up their asses…

    But some of them are so ferociously and madly unconscious, driving into intersections like divas without looking anywhere and emerging untouched on the other side, fearless and beaming with joy, all on their cell phones, all listening to music, always carrying a pal or a girlfriend with them, I have seen some holding up umbrellas in the rain, I even saw one reading a book…
    … You end up feeling like you are in Europe… lots of them are Europeans anyways…
    It has definitely changed Montreal’s biking face. Nothing ever happens to them, everyone else is doing the watching out for them!!!
    It is hilarious really, and drivers have had to suck it up.
    Add to that the price of gas, and all the sudden, no more bitching about cyclists or bike lanes…
    Everybody is projecting themselves to 5$/litre and after all these cyclists are not that bad after all.

    Bottom line, if Toronto’s cyclists hate each other so much that they would rather cut each other’s throats than gang up to beat down the car culture, then maybe Toronto’s biking culture is still at the spermatozoidal stage…

  39. I want to take the briefest moment to point out the puerility and fatuousness of the following comment (found above):

    “I personally will only respect the letter of the law when everyone else does”

    While easily deemed ridiculous, the comment is also (in all probability) untrue. 

    Barring the above commenter being an uncaught murderer, thief, rapist, embezzler, etc…it’s reasonable to assume that while other people wantonly break the law, Anna manages to restrain herself. Perhaps not when it comes to observance of the Highway Traffic Act; but in general, I think we can assume that Anna isn’t out killing children, stealing from old ladies or torching garages simply because other people are for some reason possessed to commit unspeakable acts of criminality. Of course her statement isn’t necessarily a call to action, it does infer that she might commit a crime if one was visited upon her. Nonetheless, she’s probably not killing anyone…yet.

    What’s much more likely is that Anna quite wrongly thinks that personal responsibility begins with others. She’s not alone. Tragically, it seems to be common practice for modern folks to ignore their culpability both for their own actions and for the way in which their actions might reinforcement the poor behaviour of others. It all seems to be based on the egregious notion that one only has to act civilly in the face of civility. I think Gandhi had something to say about that…


    We must in the end return to this macho notion that “if you f**k with me, I’ll f**k with you right back” and assert that it is both silly and gutless. Silly because it’s childish, irresponsible and not conducive to the civilized cohabitation of human beings and gutless because it only applies to the easy-to-break rules like running red lights on a bike or talking on one’s phone while driving. Ask Anna or anyone like her to apply this brand of tough-guy/gal nonsense to the serious stuff and they might retain the bluster, but they’ll quickly forgo the action.

  40. To Anna & Chephy:

    I knew somehow my mentioning of being hit by cars would be used to discredit me, regardless of how ridiculous it is, but let me break it down for you. In 3 out of 4 incidents I was a crossing pedestrian, and in 1 I was doored. I shared this to make the point that accidents happen and the law/rules aren’t a 100% guarantee.

    While I’d love to gripe on about motorists, I’m not going to. I refuse to feed into the us vs them attitude prevalent in this thread. I took a critical look at fellow cyclists because it’s necessary and happens so rarely. That doesn’t mean I don’t have other complaints. This was a personal and targeted letter, after all, and I doubt anyone would be happy if I wrote letters to drivers and pedestrians as well. I’m sure this would have happened anyway, because many cyclists really dislike it when we criticize cycling. I get it, but I will never agree that we need to “take down car culture” because there will always be motorists. Instead of hating them, I prefer to engage and work toward mutual respect (though I do find myself shouting at some errant drivers) or “focus on what’s really dangerous” because everyone is responsible for safety. Pointing fingers, being defensive, and absolving blame gets us nowhere, methinks.

    Of course there are many concerns regarding drivers and pedestrians, this was just not letter.

  41. @EMMA: “I refuse to feed into the us vs them attitude prevalent in this thread”. If that attitude seems so prevalent in this thread, then maybe there is something you are not getting, simply because you and those like you do not want to understand. It is not a question of us vs. them, it is a question of human nature. Those in cars, are made of exactly the same stuff as those on foot or on bicycles. Those reckless cyclists that you are bitching so much about would have made similarly reckless drivers: better having these dudes on bikes than behind wheels if you see what I mean, consider yourself lucky that they chose the bicycle. So there is no us and no them. Rather there are dangerous vehicles and safe vehicles. Cars and dangerous, bikes are safe, period. Cars kill, they are dangerous weapons left totally unchecked. And there are way too many of them. And they pollute. Is this something you can wrap your brains around? So the problem is the cars, not the folks driving them. Those should be shifted away from this type of transportation and toward other type of transportation: bikes, train, metro, foot, horse, whatever, but not cars. And if the carrot does not work, than the stick should. And before you start bitching about the stick part, you can relax, we will not have to do anything about it: Peak oil will handle this for us. We need only sit and watch. “Pointing fingers, being defensive, and absolving blame gets us nowhere, methinks.” Which must be the reason why you took the time to write this long vociferously bitchy letter to your fellow cyclists, isn’t it?


  42. @JOSHUA: You are not getting the point. The point is there is no reason in the world for cyclists to be held to a higher set of standard, especially when they are the users with the least dangerous vehicles.

  43. You’ve articulated a lot of the things I feel while biking. Just wanted to say, though, that you need to take better care of yourself emotionally. Arriving at your destination furious and adrenalized because you’ve been chastising other bikers and they’re not paying attention is a no-win situation.

    It’s much better to write articles like this — or maybe pursue getting the city to fund bike safety tv commercials? — than to vent your anger while on the road.

  44. The CAN-BIKE courses (which are excellent, by the way) stress four principles for safe and effective driving.  They’re worth reiterating here.

    1. Maneuverability.  Make sure you always have a way out of wherever you are.
    2. Visibility.  Make sure other road users can see you, day or night.  They’re not going to hit you on purpose.
    3. Predictability.  Help other road users know what you’re going to do next, so they can plan their own actions.  Following the rules of the road helps a lot with this.
    4. Communication.  Make eye contact with other road users.  Signal turns and stops.  As one of the other commenters suggested, don’t be afraid to let someone else go ahead of you at a four-way stop.  Civility goes a long way.

    The mnemonic is MVP-C, which suggests that cyclists are the most valuable people.  I don’t know that that’s true–everyone out there is pretty valuable.  We’re all just people after all.

  45. Anna, would you like to know how many times I — as a pedestrian — have nearly been cut down by a bike blowing through a stop sign or red light?  Least dangerous, maybe, but still hazardous when not following the rules of the road.

  46. I am both a pedestrian and a motorist on Queens Quay on a regular basis (walking to work or driving out of town). On one of the busiest streets in Toronto for both pedestrians and bikes I see way to much disregard for the rules of the road. (1) Can bikes please look for pedestrians crossing Queens Quay at Spadina. I have actually been hit by a bike that did not stop for the traffic light (I was then sworn at and she tried to leave….I sat on her bike and called 911…I wish she was arrested for a hit and run but the police are even more unfriendly to pedestrians than they are to bikes). (2) Can bikes be more cautious at 4 way stops. In particular Stadium Rd (where Queens Quay ends and the bike trail begins). Over 1/2 of all bikes do not stop for this intersection (including a stop sign on the bike trail). Motorists follow the alternating rule of a all-way stop sign so why can’t bikes? (3) There is another 3 all-way stop between Stadium and Bathurst. Even if you are going straight through remember to look for pedestrians.

  47. Pointing the finger at another mode of transport and saying the fact that they’re more dangerous than you are doesn’t excuse your own danger to others. No form of transportation is inherently safer or more dangerous than the way in which it is used and to pretend otherwise is relativist self-delusion.

  48. You haven’t been knocked down yet. The second knockdown changes everything

  49. @ Rachel’s suggestion that we “pursue getting the city to fund bike safety tv commercials”: I don’t watch TV at all. How can I be propagandized into the appropriate behavior patterns that Emma desires? And why do you think it’s a good idea to manipulate human behavior to suit a machine (the automobile)?

  50. I can’t tell you how many times cyclists have passed me on the inside lane. On the inside? Are you kidding?? Idiots. Another one of the issues here is that many Torontonians don’t drive or have never learned how to drive. They don’t have a clue about the road rules, but don’t think they need to know them because they’re cycling. Again – idiots.

  51. As with most bad (read: illegal) behaviour, people need to feel the repercussions of doing the wrong thing. They need to be fined and held to account (just like drivers do for fucking around on the roads). Frankly, neither cyclists nor drivers get slammed often enough for being douches.

  52. There are fundamental problems with the whole traffic system in this city.

    The first one is that design is often now done for cars first and pedestrians last with bicycles lost in the middle. Why is it that the streets that seem to work best are the ones designed over 100 years ago when pedestrians were the most common travellers? If we start designing from the the most vulnerable traveller first, we’d have more civilized roads.

    The next one is to clean up the travelling laws — especially where they are not consistent across the city. Bikes do not belong on sidewalks but the law has a huge loophole about wheel size which only encourages cyclists to take over pedestrian areas by riding small-wheeled bikes. And when they’re on sidewalks 1. Pedestrians have nowhere to go but onto the street and 2. cars are more likely to hit cyclists because they’re not expecting them to be shooting off the sidewalks. So time to clean up the laws and take the confusion about age/wheel diameter out of the mix. Ban all bikes on the sidewalks or arterial roads, where the speed of the road is over 40 KM/h. If you don’t feel confident to ride on a busy road, then you don’t belong on that road at all.

    It’s also time for all cyclists over 12 to be licensed if they want to ride on arterial roads. Cyclists are operating vehicles that, when carelessly ridden can cause damage and injury to others. There’s no excuse for failing to carry something that identifies the operator.

    Then let’s get the police actually responding to traffic infractions. Stop turning a blind eye and protect the safety of those who are most vulnerable on the street. I’m sick of hearing the police appear in the media blaming pedestrians and cyclists when they should be maintaining the laws to protect them.

  53. I’ll admit to both running stop signs (but I only do that on un-busy residential streets, and I DO look both ways), as well as riding occasionally on the sidewalk.

    Why do I ride on the sidewalk sometimes? Because I’m afraid of the cars on the busier streets! When I do so, I mind the pedestrians (it should be their turf, I agree, esp. ’cause I often walk too), and if they’re ambling slowly ahead of me, I’ll either pop off onto the road again, or just endure and barely pedal/kinda walk with my bike.

    I recently moved up here from Windsor, and I was kinda surprised (and really impressed and pleased, actually) with the respect I was getting from cars on the road. I actually felt SAFE AND COMFORTABLE on both Bloor (most of it) and Yonge! Our major streets in Windsor were not like that… The cars there will run you down! Maybe it has to do with less cyclists (less cyclists = less people) or maybe it has to do with the fact that we’re right across the boarder from Detroit and so we get a lot of terrible drivers from there coming over… I don’t know.

    But… Mostly, I feel safe!

    What worried me most while riding along Bloor downtown, was when OTHER cyclists passed me to my left, whizzing by all of a sudden. Wish they could have said “hey!” or rank a bell or honked or something. An “excuse me” would be even nicer.

    Otherwise, I generally follow the rules. I always, ALWAYS stop for lights, and train bars.

  54. Hey, this is for you, H – Back home in Windsor, before I moved here, the police down there WERE giving tickets to cyclists who ran red lights. It at least happened one time on the busy intersection of Lauzon Rd. and Tecumseh Rd. E.

    If TO PD aren’t also doing that, then they should… And I agree the bikewheel size thing is confusing. I think it’s supposed to be 24′ and under wheels are “okay” on sidewalks – what I used to ride until my bike was stolen while at work (back in Windsor) and I had to downgrade to my Dad’s older bike (which is 26′).

    I think having a license is kind of silly, though.

    Just have kids in gradeschool take the same kind of bike tests the Optimists run, and that scouts run.

  55. The Highway Safety Act is a sacred covenant between commoners and the rule-making Elites. To disrespect that behavioral rules inclued in it is akin to a revolutionary act against the powerful forces that guide us in our industrial complexity. Running a red light or stop sign, or not having the proper reflectors on your bike, is the equivalent of a declaration of revolution against the powers that be. Those who engage in such subversive activities deserve to receive the full force of the law.
    /anality extremus

  56. Way to go Emma. Great post. You know I would agree with it just for the stance it makes, but the way you have put it and laid it all out makes so much sense.
    I know you probably didn’t write this looking for any approval from anyone, but you have my sincere thanks!

  57. Thanks Emma – this all needs to be said and understood by my fellow cyclists . The attitude of Peter above reflects a myopic view that one’s own behaviour has no effect on others, whereas Emma points out quite clearly how poor behaviour by some degrades the respect for all cyclists. 
    There is an underlying sanctimonious self-righteousness on the part of many cyclists which they seem to believe places them above the law, but is ultimately self-defeating. It also masks what is essentially rude, selfish behaviour. 

    See you on the roads!

  58. Thanks Anna, for the precise illustration of the sanctimonious self-righteousness I mention above!

  59. While it is true that you can do things safely that are illegal and that nobody likes a lecture, rules serve a purpose on their own aside from demarcating a line between safe and unsafe. If people follow them, their behaviour is predictable. Why would you want to be predictable? So the cars know when and where to look. Following rules in and of themselves can (theoretically) promote safety.

  60. Reckless biking is my right! Because cars are machines (unlike bicycles, which can be plucked fully-formed off of any local velocipede tree), so we should never, ever acknowledge or permit that they affect human behaviour or create risks.

    My biking comes first! Always! Forever! Even when I’m running reds or stop signs! (Even when I can come up with a half-assed excuse for doing so! Because, I mean, all those cyclists who *do* hit pedestrians and motorists at intersections… they totally saw the obstacle coming and just ignored it, right? …right?)

    Besides, if other people want to behave dangerously, then that makes my own dangerous behaviour totally okay. The only appropriate response to reckless behaviour on the part of crazy people driving 50-kilometre-per-hour death machines constructed entirely of metal is to become reckless and crazy myself. That’ll make everything better!

    Also, as a cyclist, I am oppressed. This is really a class struggle, you see. I cannot afford to drive, therefore it is my Marx-given right to exact revenge upon unsuspecting, bourgeois pedestrians. If they would stop engaging in the classist, racist, sexist, expensive and otherwise-awful act of walking from place to place, the world would be so much more equitable.

    And, anyway, the whole system is flawed. Until traffic management is brought more in line with what I would personally find to be most convenient, it is my right to screw with the system at will. I have decided that I do not approve of stop signs and crosswalks, so I simply ignore them. But stay the $%^%$ out of my #$%#$ing bike lane, or I will CUT you!

    Most importantly of all, as a cyclist, I know for a fact that every cyclist on the road blows every stop sign and red light all the time always. And I also know for a fact that drivers don’t stop, either. Never ever ever. Just ignore the ones who don’t: they don’t count. (Freakin’ Sunday drivers, gettin’ in the way of the professionals…)

    In summation, you can’t tell me what to do! You aren’t my parents! My parents are DEAD!

  61. Well said. Many motorist are also cyclist and aren’t interested in killing, maiming, or hurting anyone. I am wondering if the sense of entitlement comes from the narrative that the cyclist lobby uses in its advocacy. “I am saving the planet so stopping at this red light is an insignificant infraction relative to my planet-saving mode of transportation “

  62. You might have the right of way on the bicycle but a car masses over 10 times the weight of you and your conveyance. So having the right of way doesn’t mean anything if you are hit and killed by a car or other motor vehicle. Follow the rules and pay attention (cars and cycles) and everyone will survive the trip.

  63. People that break the traffic LAWS and ride like jerks results in ll cyclist being painted with the same brush. Drivers stop respecting cyclists and it creates a dangerous mixture on the road.

    I always try to follow the traffic laws while riding and have often pointed out to other riders that they are breaking laws and their actions put all cyclists at risk.

    I am glad that Emma has brought this to the general public, it opens up the conversation and might motorists understand that not all cyclists are irresponsible.

    As for John Holland’s comment about ‘Portland Stop’, great if you are in Portland, but adopting rules from other regions or countries really is not realistic. Traffic rules set a protocol that is intended to create a safer road environment, taking and following random laws that others do not know is not an example of safe or responsible actions.


  64. I support Emma’s position. Look, as a group We have to start training MV drivers by the example that we exhibit on the road. The message We have been giving them is inconsistent – they don’t know what to expect of us…if you raised your kids like this they’d be confused too!

    In traffic, being consistent and predictable… works and by doing so We enable others to anticipate and act accordingly. Clear message = Clear Reception = successful interactions.

    Read PAPPY’s letter his is the only letter to mention the word ‘predictable – he sounds like he is an old geezer like me!
    Ride all year round in the Hammer.

  65. And lights! Please PLEASE use lights!! Drivers absolutely cannot see bikers in the dark, and those reflectors that come attached to petals or seats do not count. Neither do those stupid single LED blinkers – I have no clue why a bike store would sell this as a bike light. Talk about a false sense of security. Ridiculous.

  66. @Shawn Micallef
    I obey the rules of the road. All of them except for the stop sign one. I only stop for most stop signs, but I am amazed at the goodwill expressed by drivers when they come across a cyclist who knows how to ride their bike in a nonthreatening, polite way that makes sense in the context of the normal flow of car traffic.

    Would I be willing to go against a cyclist who disobeys all the rules of the road to see who gets their faster? I do it every damn day, and most of the time, I’m getting there faster. I’m 45, and I can’t ride like a maniac, but I do ride briskly, and I always say something to cyclists who blow the lights or weave around cars, or pass long lineups of waiting cyclists, and I’m usually greeted by profanity, or a “Mind your own business.” In any case, I’d be willing to stack my lawful commute from Danforth and Logan to Bloor and Dufferin in morning rush hour against anybody else’s unlawful one. And I bet that we’d either arrive about the same time or me sooner, if the person was an average cyclist, or me less that 5 minutes (yes, 300 short seconds!) behind my competitor.

    Just because you don’t produce GHGs or particulate emmisions, you aren’t automatically better than car drivers. Obey the flipping law.

    The gauntlet is thrown.

  67. Good stuff, Emma. It really shouldn’t have to be a point of discussion. Everyone MUST obey the rules of the road, period. Here’s the thing. If a motorist runs a red light, it’s always possible for him/her to be identified by ‘phoning in the licence plate. Not so with cyclists (and I’m one, by the way), so the bad ones career recklessly on the road with impunity. Why should it be any different for cyclists? So, I propose that ALL users of the road be licenced, including cyclists. Each bike would have a plate. Perhaps we should also include a road test to ensure people have a clue about what riding a bike on the road entails. Perhaps then the idiots who give all cyclists a bad name will think twice about running red lights. That assumes, of course, that they think at all!

  68. Heard you on the radio. A lot of this stuff pisses me off. It’s true that car drivers and pedestrians piss me off too. But all the same, it’s my job to not physically interact with them. To me it is a Zen-like to practice patience and acceptance when it come to traffic lights, street car doors, right turning cars, cars parked in the bike lanes, cars driving in bike lanes. I am on the same side (car-free urban transport) as streetcar riders and I don’t want to scare them or endanger their safety as they enter or exit the streetcar.

    What is with this thing that some people do? At a red light they turn right, do a U-turn, come back to the intersection and turn right again to continue. Is that fooling anybody? Thank God car drivers are too stupid to have hit upon this blindingly ingenious strategy for circumventing the inconvenience of actually pausing your frantic journey for 30 seconds until the light changes.

    I try hard to not be judgmental but when I see a cyclist blow through a red light at full speed with his/her helmet hanging off a loop on their backpack I have a hard time not making a mental note as to the possibility that they really believe that they do not need to actually wear the thing on their noggin to protect their noodle. The Darwinian implications are manifest.

  69. Well said. I think you could substitute “member of the me-first generation” for the word cyclist to have a more accurate picture. It strikes me that if we all took just a little of our own time to think of our impact on others, we might live in a more gracious world. Thanks Emma, for starting the dialogue.

  70. A great post. I think I’ve mumbled all of this to myself on my rides into work over the years. I’ve been hit twice in the last five years and both times were by other cyclists who were “being efficient.”

    I think a part of the problem can be traced to the flow of endorphins to the brain. Riding is pleasurable and reminds people of that initial surge of childhood freedom.

    And I have to add another piece of advice: ride in a straight line! Swooping back and forth is just irritating and makes it hard to get by.

  71. Here are my rules of the road.

    1. 4-way stops: the first vehicle to the intersection is the first through it. That can cause problems when a cautious motorist (most of them) want to wait for me to cross first, even if he/she got there first, and I wave them through.

    2. way stops: don’t stop is there is no car in the cross street anywhere near the intersection.

    3. stop lights – always stop on red, then go through when there are no cars within a block of the intersection.

    4. riding on sidewalks: pedestrians always have the right-of-way – and they can sometimes do “unexpected” things, like stop or suddenly change direction. So I ride sllowly and cautiously when there is anyone else on the sidewlk. On the other hand, much of the time sidewalks where I ride have no pedestrians. If there is car traffic on the road, it is safer and more courteous to motorists for me to be on an empty sidewalk rather than taking up road space that the cars need. On some streets, it is much more dangerous for me, and more inconvenient for drivers, to be riding on a busy road – I avoid them where I can, but sometimes there is no alternative to that street.

    In general, I have seen little bad behaviour either by cyclists or drivers, whether obeying the letter of the law or not. Drivers usually are quite cautious when passing a cyclist, often to the point of interfering with other car traffic. And I have even seen police cyclists (in pairs) go through stop signs without stopping.

  72. I cycle every day and also find it frustrating when cyclists break the rules. However, there is nothing more annoying than a holier-than-thou cyclist shouting the rules at you. I can’t believe that you are surprised when people that you shout at don’t thank you for it. Imagine how that affects their day? It doesn’t feel good to be shouted at.

  73. Great post. 

    Scanning through the comments I noticed one in particular that I felt I needed to respond to.

    One person said that cars should be turning right from the bike lane. This is huge mistake! Cars should be turning right from the car lane.

    On streets where there is a bike lane – like College St. – bikes have the right of way to travel through the intersection on a green. Right turning cars should stay in their lane and turn right when the bike lane is clear, the same way that cars wait for crossing pedestrians instead of driving up on the sidewalk to make a right turn.

    On streets without a bike lane, cyclists should move to the left of the car and continue through the intersection to allow right turning cars to make their turn.

    “Accidents” happen when people fight for space. Suggesting that cars should cut off cyclists to make their right turn is inviting disaster. 

  74. The good news for the more sanctimonious bike drivers here is that “it’s okay to be reckless because someone else is behaving worse” is in fact a perfectly legitimate defense.

    It worked in R. v Bryant.

  75. SPOT ON. I Ride across the city nearly every day and this is exactly what I see. There are many bad drivers and bad pedestrians but as a committed cyclist I am ashamed to say that bad cyclists are far greater in number.

    I am afraid that until more cops are placed at stop lights to hand out tickets for:

    1) Cyclists & Motorists running lights
    2) Pedestrians ignoring crossing signals
    3) Streetcar passengers entering the road before the streetcar stops.

    Things will stay the way they are. Using headphones while cycling on urban roads should made illegal……. sorry.

  76. I have enough problems with remembering the rules of the road that are listed in the Highway Traffic Act without then having to add everyone’s own rules. As I am unable to read minds I only request the following of drivers of both cars and cycles. Follow the rules as layed out in the HTA! Signal all turns (even in parking lots), stop before turning right on a red (also realize that turning right on a red does not mean you have the right of way, you don’t) and pay attention to what you are doing. To cyclists specifically; if you are on your cycle you are a vehicle and as such subject to the same rules as a car. If you are walking beside your cycle you now are a pedestrian. Crosswalks are for pedestrians, not vehicles, walk your cycle across the crosswalk if you expect cars to stop for you. This also applies to e-bikes.
    Just a inquiry, why are cyclists not required to carry liability insurance?

  77. Robert> No, no no no. Cars need to get into the bike lane to turn right. It isn’t cutting off bikes, or preventing them from proceeding through, it’s sharing the road. When the car is in the bike lane, it prevents one from zipping in, getting pinched. The bike can go to the left and around. This is why the solid line is broken approaching the intersections.

  78. “However, there is nothing more annoying than a holier-than-thou cyclist shouting the rules at you.”

    I dunno. I’d be a little more vexed by colliding with another bike and splitting my skull open on the pavement because I ran a red light while not wearing a helmet.

  79. A reply to Robert regarding right turning cars. Bikes lanes often have dotted lines when approaching major intersections. These are designed so that cars can merge into the bike lane to turn right.

    The city’s official position is that bikes pass right-turning cars on the left, not on the right.

    You can see what I mean on this page:

  80. great post, with some really good points… for more, check out my blog on the subject (I hate repeating myself)

  81. @LIZ

    If you don’t want other cyclists shouting sanctimony at you, then here’s my proposition: you obey the flipping rules of the road and I’ll keep my damn yap shut when I pass you after you obeyed the rules of the road. Maybe I’ll say good morning, actually. It’s a lot nicer hearing “Good morning,” when you’re being passed than,”On your left!”

  82. LIZ–sorry, I don’t mean to sound combative. I meant my tone flippantly rather than angrily. It read angrily. Sorry.


    While I agree that there are too many poor bike riders, and that we need more bike riders to ride well with others, I don’t think following every road rule is the way forward.  I consider myself a polite and responsible cyclist, but I break laws everyday.   Here’s why:

    1)Stopping takes too much energy.  Unlike the author, I am not riding for exercise.  I’m trying to get somewhere in the most responsible manner.  At each stop sign, I slow down to about the speed of a pedestrian.  That enables me to stop if needed.  I stop if there is anyone else using the intersection. At a slow speed, I can stop a bike in less than 2 feet.  The energy it would take to come to a full stop and start again simply isn’t justified by the negligible change in safety that stopping would add.  

    2) Lights at T intersections are also often stops without any safety benefit.  When I’m travelling at the top of a T intersection, I often see no point in waiting for the light.   When there is enough space to claim a sort of virtual or real bike lane along the top of the T, it makes no sense for me to wait for the light.  Of course, I will stop for pedestrians.  But if there are none, I feel no need to wait for the light when there is no safety or courtesy that is added.  And if  the author berated me for travelling through on the red light, I would consider her action to be sanctimonious. 

    3) Similarly, it makes no sense for me to wait through the no-turn-on-red lights when turning right onto the Overlea bridge for example.  There is no safety benefit in following this law so I slow and continue through when I can do so safely and socially.

    4) Travelling the wrong way on a one way street helps avoid the door prize.  On quiet residential streets with car parking, I find it very helpful to go against the traffic on one-way streets.  By travelling adjacent to parked cars, I’m able to see into windshields and ensure that passengers are not about to open doors.  Thus I can travel more closely to cars than I could safely manage when going in the same direction as traffic, leaving more room for motorists.  Of course, the downside is that I have to be mindful of the fact that no one is expecting this approach at intersections.  

    So, I think there are ways to be a courteous and safe cyclist without following every road law to the letter.  

  84. Ring your bells when you are passing! The few cycling lanes that we have are narrow enough as it is, we don’t need masses of metal, rubber and flesh sneaking up in the little space that exists for safe passage.

  85. re: riding the wrong way on one-way streets; i’m a cyclist myself and have almost creamed a couple cyclists doing this; it is really stupid because the car driver is NOT expecting to see anyone coming the wrong direction on a one-way street, DUH! and if you ride on the sidewalk the wrong direction you’re REALLY asking for it. use your brains if you want to survive cycling in the city.

  86. Liz –

    Totally. I haven’t come up with a better way of discussing it and I realize the comments are really self-righteous and not the best way to engage with other cyclists. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

    I tried having less impassioned discussions with cyclists and was also dismissed. It’s also difficult to strike up a conversation with strangers in a rush to get somewhere. These aren’t excuses for coming across as smug and holier-than-thou, but they’re factors to my approach. Them and irritation.

    For the record, I don’t shout rules at everyone. Sometimes I don’t say anything and reserve comments for the worst offenders. Sometimes I say things like “you’re supposed to stop” or ask if someone knows they’re supposed to stop, but I reserve real holier-than-thou shouting for those lacking attentiveness and common sense (not checking blind spots, being on the phone, et cetera).

    I dunno. Given as popular (if that’s even the right word) this post has become, I wish I’d been a little less lecturing and given more thought to the tone of my letter, going beyond unadulterated irritation and anger and positioning my views more as pleas. I also wish I’d brought up the fact that a lack of bike infrastructure contributes to cyclist behaviour and attitudes. There’s a lot that wasn’t included, like my gripes with pedestrians and motorists, but I have those too.

    Anyway, I’m glad we’re having this discussion. I’m not sure what the solutions are yet, but thanks for reading & commenting.

  87. Couldn’t agree more. Like Big (in Facebook terms). I would add, “Ride on the correct side of the frickin street!”

    One who stops.

    Just sayin.

  88. I believe this letter is more destructive to the cycling community than beneficial. There are dicks who ride bikes, and there are dicks who drive cars.  

    For a cyclist to paint the entire cycling community as a villain is really unfortunate.  We have enough of a PR nightmare without throwing stones at each other.

    As an aside, I’ve been riding my bike around the city (daily, year round) for 5 years, and while I’ve had my fair share of falls, I’m not sure what’s going on for the author to have experienced being hit multiple times, spat on, and witness to so many crashes. Seems like a highly unusual concentration of unfortunate events. Perhaps she could learn from her own “rules” of the road namely “pay fucking attention”.

  89. **Disclaimer** that last paragraph came out more hostile than intended. I’m speaking more to the importance of paying attention to where traffic is around you – not simply obeying the law or “being nice”. 

    It’s important to know that you’re coming up on a right turn intersection; to slow down when coming up behind a car in the right lane and look for tell-tale signs like angled wheels, and where the driver is looking.  It’s important to slow down when you’re trapped between dense traffic and parked cars – to keep your eyes 3 or 4 cars ahead looking for drivers who could be exiting their vehicles, or turning out of a space.  

    If you’re driving straight though an intersection in a bike lane, *you* should be looking for that cyclist turning right – they probably can’t see you over the SUV to their right. 

  90. This letter makes me very angry — angry that you beat me to it! I’ve been composing this in my head for the 20 years I’ve been commuting by bike in this city. Car drivers are anything but blameless, but my safety has been threatened far more often by my fellow cyclists blowing through stop signs and cutting me off, T-boning me as I make a right turn while they’re blasting along the sidewalk pretending to be pedestrians, passing me and pulling back over so quickly they clip my front wheel. I’ve seen the enemy, and he is us.

  91. I stop at red light and obey all traffic laws minus a few really slow rolling stop on quiet street’s stop sign.

    I follow the rules because I want to make a good example for others, and honestly in the beginner I was a bit angry when seeing other reckless cyclists. But nowadays I tell myself they must have a really tight schedule and in a very serious hurry. I also tell myself they are at least better than a reckless driver in a SUV.

    Just cheer up, really

  92. I’m a Danforth regular and agree with pretty much all of it. My favorite scene was a helmetless, lightless fixie dude at dusk in rush hour. He had an earbud dangling, a phone on the free ear and was riding no hands. Just to make it complete he also had no brakes. My sympathy for whoever runs him over.
    And that’s another item I would add… brakes are really necessary. I mean, really! Also it might be nice not to scream at drivers and thump on their cars so their next wish is to run me over. Maybe even thank them when they stop for you as often happens.

  93. Emma, Awesome letter. You are right on with how cyclist should be riding. I would like to add the fact that the Highway Traffic Act requires cyclists to obey the rules of the road just like cars. I have been cycling since 1968 and stictly obeying the rules of the road and it has never got me in trouble, not once – touch wood. I have cycled in Montreal, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, Toronto and Hamilton. For the cyclist who thinks that just because he is on a sparsely travelled road, he does not have to stop a stop signs or traffic lights. Well all your doing is giving the entire cycling community a bad reputation because someone in their front yard or going for a walk saw you doing your fucking stupid efficiency stunt. Stop. Starting up again will build your leg muscules. Better yet improve your technique by practicing track stands, if you even know what that is. The only cyclist I respect, is the guy going up HWY 2 in Hamilton on his very expensive bike and sharp riding clothes stopped at Rousseau and Wilson Street doing a track stand while he was waiting for the light to change. Congratulations Emma, you are now the second cyclist I respect. Good on you for your stand on proper cycling etiquette and obeying the rules of the road. Happy riding. I truly hope tomorrow is a better day by the time you get to work.

  94. I drive a car and ride a bike. I think the most dangerous thing is bikers passing on the right when drivers are trying to turn right. Honestly, I think it is out of ignorance of the law ( and commen sense). Some public service announcements might be helpful. Education is the key.

  95. I heard no self-righteousness, Emma, just honest and frank analysis.

    Your tone was reasonable and polite [well, a little spice for emphasis], and given the convoluted depths of self-justification demonstrated by the critics above, perhaps less restraint is required.

  96. I heard about Emma’s letter, and was really looking forward to listening in to yesterday’s chat but unfortunately missed it. I did however take the time to read your letter and other’s comments.
    I drive to work every morning, mostly along Queen Street East into downtown. However, I am a cyclist too. But you will never find me riding my bike to work or attempting to ride my bike with my daughter on a child’s seat on the streets of Toronto. This is mostly because of the fear and frustration I feel each morning riding alongside many careless cyclists who really do not follow the rules of the road and seem to think they own the road, with little regard for the cars, simply because they believe drivers alone should be responsible for their safety. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few cyclists who try, even a few wearing helmets.

    I do think more bike lanes are important for the infrastructure of Toronto and am a supporter, however, it frustrates me to no end that so many cyclists are giving the biking community a bad name which is not necessarily helping the cause. 

    Anyway, your letter and the comments written have shown me that I am not alone in my frustration, so thanks. It helps a little to know I am not alone. Hoping some people, even a couple, will take note and see how their behaviour affects others. 


  97. @ Emma

    “I haven’t come up with a better way of discussing it and I realize the comments are really self-righteous and not the best way to engage with other cyclists.”

    Man! At last.
    Especially when you might want to consider that some some of these cyclists can have significantly more biking experience than you and are not simply trying to loose their cellulite. They MAY know or have a reason for what they are doing.

    “I wish I’d been a little less lecturing and given more thought to the tone of my letter”

    Yes baby coz nobody needs any cheap lecturing from some unexperienced cyclist.

    Lots of the comments in this post seem to come from cyclists who donned their helmets and sat their butts on their bikes at the 25th hour. If you are that uncomfortable cycling around that you feel you need to aggress every other cyclists out there, maybe you should keep practicing on that cul-de-sac before you hop into real traffic.

    “I also wish I’d brought up the fact that a lack of bike infrastructure contributes to cyclist behaviour and attitudes.”

    Halleluyah, someone just had an epiphany!!
    As I am not a total bitch, believe it or not, here are two awesome blogs from people who actually know what they are talking about, people who did not wake up the day before the morrow next… Their archives are treasuries. (A fellow of yours)

    Particularly hilarious are random commentators in this post lecturing here on “safety” measures and “legalities” without having any freaking idea of what they are talking about. Folks really need to stick their heads out of their foetus-like torontonian bike environment and explore what is going on in places with real bike cultures: In most cities (Paris etc. and recently Montreal) you can bike against traffic in secondary streets. Lots of places have allowed not stopping at stop signs if the coast is clear. Lots of places are allowing bikes to treat red lights as stop signs when safe to do so.
    That goes for the whinning about behaviours that are perfectly normal.

    So for the flippantly flippers and other newbies, keep practicing on that bixi in that driveway. One day it will come. Only remember you are just nobody to lecture anyone. Keep your bitching to yourself or advocate for better infrastucture, especially in Toronto’s substandard environment.


  98. Can’t think of anything worse than (generally) passing right-turning cars by swerving left around them in front of other traffic. Stay on the right, wait behind them if there’s no room and pull a bit in front of them if they are stopped. Make eye contact, watch their wheels and give them room to turn right on the red. Maybe just wait for them to turn if they were there first. It’s worked for me so far.
    And some of you need to relax a bit — just a bit aggressive and exactly the self-righteous attitude that seems to afflict a certain bike crowd. And by the way, who said bikes are not dangerous? I guarantee that if my 300 lbs of man, machine and stuff collides with a pedestrian or bike while going 20k someone will be badly hurt in addition to me.

  99. Anna, 

    You don’t need to be a cyclist to worry about your own safety and public safety. If the bikers that were mentioned in this post were so experienced, and knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t have looked like jackasses out on the road. Unless being a jackass is the experience you are talking about. 

    The infrastructure is definitely not good enough in Toronto but that doesn’t justify the behaviours that were mentioned by many people here. At least have the decency to admit to what’s wrong, all of what’s wrong.. both infrastructure and the behaviour of some bikers. 

    “Lots of places have allowed not stopping at stop signs if the coast is clear.” — you yourself said “ALLOWED” not made up rules by random bikers. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Toronto is not Paris so if you want to follow the rules in Paris, leave Toronto. 

    Also, if you are so against others bitching, stop bitching yourself first. 

  100. Well said Emma.
    A friend of mine got his collarbone broken when he was cycling the right way up a one-way street and an idiot cyclist came around the corner and hit him going the wrong way. And being frightened of riding on the street is no excuse for riding on a sidewalk – it’s just not safe for pedestrians. Scares me silly to be walking on a sidewalk and passed from behind by a cyclist who assumes that I’m going to continue to walk in a straight line.

  101. @ AD

    The bitchy tone was set up straight from the start by Emma in her public letter “from one toronto cyclist to another”. I am just following along.
    It is full of cursing, incredibly rude, ignorant and idiotic, especially for someone as unexperienced.
    Next time she can write more useful stuff that would actually contribute something to the cycling community or keep her thoughts in her own little private diary if she cannot take rebuttals.

    Now, are some of these people jackasses? of course!! I said SOME were experienced (check the dictionnary as to what that word means). For the others, please adjust your glasses dear AD and REREAD what I already wrote:
    “Those reckless cyclists that you are bitching so much about would have made similarly reckless drivers: better having these dudes on bikes than behind wheels if you see what I mean, consider yourself lucky that they chose the bicycle.”

    Now should they be fined at all? Why not, but again, if their behaviour is explained by a mega lack of infrastructure, the end result of such policies will be less and less cyclists. Maybe that’s what YOU want after all.

    “Toronto is not Paris so if you want to follow the rules in Paris, leave Toronto.”
    As I clearly stated earlier that I was in Montreal, this is further proof that you are just a random wannabe, stepping randomly into discussions to make random comments.


  102. @ Heather

    Coming back from jogging this morning I saw this older lady on a Bixi on the sidewalk, biking even slower that I could walk.
    Wow, now THIS is criminal, quick, someone get the police!!!

    I asked her if she needed help, she looked sooo lost!
    Turns out she was on a bike lane, one of these white painted bullshit lanes not even wider than the handlebar with cute little cyclist figure sticks painted in them… i.e. sub-standard infrastructure (yes, Montreal does have quite of lot of that too).
    Anyways, she saw it on her city map and thought it might be a nice ride.

    Turned out that the street is a 4 lanes car boulevard, so she hated her ride with cars squeezing you at every intersection so they can turn right. But the best happened when the freaking cycle lane stopped all of the sudden, right in the middle of nowhere!! How fucking dangerous is that type of stupid urban planning?

    Now, to all the lecturers: what was she supposed to do? Start wrestling with the traffic, weaving in and out, left and right like some 20 years old hardass?
    Truth is she would not have survived. So she wisely decided that being on the sidewalk was safer for her. And I wholeheartedly agreed.

    So too bad Heather if you are having a heart attack everytime someone passes you on a bike on a sidewalk. Harden up.

    I prefer to see kids, newbies, grannies, handicapped folks, on their bikes rather that in cars, or on their couches watching junk TV… The benefits to society are just too great.
    So if that means they do it on the sidewalk, I will not be so selfish as to cheaply wag my finger at them, just because it scares me, when I perfectly know they would risk their lives on the road.
    Oh but thinking of the greater good is too pinko I guess, or rather too marxist, right “Edgy Cyclist”?

    I do walk around too, and yes, assholes have rolled on my toes too, but still… I don’t see a problem in sucking it up until critical cycling mass is achieved, and optimal infrastructure is obtained.

    Intellectual laziness will always point toward individual responsibility. Thinking about structural problems and lack of infrastructure demands lot more brainpower.


    PS: BTW, I have had COPS (i.e., the police, REAL police officers) here recommend me to get on the sidewalk when traffic got so wooly that cars started dragging their fat asses straight in the middle of the bike lane to rat-run each other. When I pointed the irony one said “better illegal and still pedaling than legal in a wheelchair”.

  103. RAH RAH !
    Finally a cyclist who actually wants to stay alive and stay fit. As a long time driver and cyclist, I experience more asshole moves from drivers and cyclists in a day than I care to mention. It takes a split second to to end a life on the road with one wrong move or disregard of road rules. What has happened to MANNERS on the road. This every man for him self has to end. Emma, please run for Mayor for the next election – with your passion and ethics this city would run like a dream!!!!

  104. All in all, I think Ms. Woolley is basically correct. There are enough cyclists who act like their motoring brethren and display their arrogant attitudes on a bike and probably do the same when in their cars. Bottom line some people are nice and some are not and we manifest ourselves when we are on the road on 2 wheels or 4.
    I have gone through lights and stop signs but only at quiet intersections, not major roads. I like to move along briskly but not recklessly. I do it for the freedom it gives me to move along faster then cars and not get stuck in traffic.
    When I am in my car, I see enough moron cyclists, especially the ones who hog a lane and slow traffic, those ones are asking as some day one irate driver will snap and the offending biker will become a hood ornament.
    We must all share the road, that means us bikers too.

  105. I was trying to be nice but it didn’t seem to work so I’ll be direct: Anna, you need to relax a bit — just a bit aggressive and a great example of the self-righteous attitude that afflicts a certain bike crowd. Emma seemed to get it pretty much right — sounds experienced to me. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians all make mistakes and keeping out of accidents takes predictability and defensiveness. Betting on everyone else doing the right thing is a losing proposition.

  106. I can’t for the life of me figure out what Anna wants out of this conversation. And that’s frustrating, because she’s burned a lot of ink and a lot of time to accomplish nothing, other than perhaps calling Emma some names. If in fact that is the point, then Anna is a troll and anyone who interacts with Anna is a troll-baiter; a comment-crime nearly as bad as being the troll yourself.

    Maybe Anna is out for anarchy.
    Maybe Anna is tired of people telling her what to do.
    Maybe Anna was once run over by a bike and a car at the same time and hates both cyclists and cars equally.
    Maybe one or both of the aforementioned vehicles was driven by Emma.


    Maybe Anna is just a bored polemicist who’s gotten caught in an argument and instead of bailing out, she’s doubled down on the nonsense in the hope that every one else will quit and she’ll be left victorious.

    Whatever the case, what’s perfectly clear is that very little few new ideas have been added to this discussion in a while (that includes this post) and the thread has been reduced to mud throwing and drivel.

    Which brings me to my point…my latest contribution to the conversation…

    It’s time to close these comments.

    Oh…and Go Habs Go. (why not, eh)

  107. @ Joshua

    You’re right, it is time to close this as obviously it is not going anywhere.
    People always get stuck on the surface of things instead of getting to the roots of the matter… well, human nature as well I guess.

    Too bad for the cycling community that ignorant morons get to spread their misguided thoughts and are getting unwarranted media coverage, when real, more experienced people who have provided thoughtful analysis and research as to why the state of things in cycling is the way it is.

    Too bad so sad… Remaining on superficial idiotic discussion about how he and she are not respecting the law is a regression.

    Maybe this can explain better the problem with legalities:

    And this can explain why substandard infratructure causes bad behaviour and such behaviour can only corrected when such infrastucture is fixed:

    But hey, again, we can all ignore the real issues here and keep pretending it is a jackass problem…

    This post was mud throwing since the very beginning.


    PS: I don’t follow hockey, but thanks anyways!

  108. Thank You!
    From someone who was hit on what was supposed to be a recreational ride by another cyclist! It was from behind and he was traveling at top speed. I woke up at the emergency room with a concussion, broken ribs and a broken pelvis and it took many months of recuperation.

  109. Emma, if you lived in Washington, D.C, I’d suggest we go for a ride together and then I’ll take you to lunch. We see eye-to-eye on this.
    I love to ride, I’ve been riding for 30 plus years, but my “fellow cyclists” drive me crazy every single day. In my area, I’d say 99 percent of people on bikes do not follow the rules. I just don’t get it. Life is stressful enough, why do they have to add to the stress?

  110. Emma, in spite of some of the comments here, you’re mostly right.
    I’ll bet I was cycling obeying the ROTR and generally riding in a vehicular manner before most of these commenters were born.
    Most of my near misses and conflicts on the road have not been from motorists but from cyclists who either don’t know their arse from a hole in the ground or they just don’t care.
    I have a video up. I was riding on the Danforth in a vehicular manner and giving myself lots of room and traffic was relating well. In fact it was so safe it was boring to look at until 1:53 when I almost crashed into a gutterbuny who cut me off. People like this need compulsory education or stay off the road.

  111. On the matter of safety, you mention having been hit by cars, so yes it is funny for you to be talking about safety. I personally have never been hit by a car (unless you count the times when I’ve deliberately nosed the front wheel of my old beater in front of people inattentively pulling out of parking lots and driveways as a wake-up call). I also run red lights and stop signs fairly frequently. Why? Because they verge on useless. I can’t count on a traffic signal to stop me from getting hit by a car when I’ve got a green light, so I have to assess how safe it is to ride through an intersection every time I come to one. The condition of the traffic signal becomes just one of the many pieces of information that I consider when approaching an intersection. Not surprisingly, just like it’s sometimes unsafe to proceed through an intersection on a green light, sometimes it’s also safe to pass through on a red.

    While following the rules is roughly safer than breaking the rules, the simple fact of the matter is that safety and rule-following are two different, and sometimes competing criteria, and I’d rather base my decisions on the safety criterion. It’s kept me out of any significant collisions for the last 50,000km or so, and I expect it to continue to do so.

  112. It seems that the only way that dangerous cycling actually affects the author is when a cyclist (a) doesn’t look left when turning right, and (b) doesn’t look both ways when going through an intersection. Those are valid criticisms. As for the rest of it, judgmental nonsense.

    The rules of the road were made to facilitate efficient and safe automobile transportation. At the same time, unnecessary quantities of automobiles clog our cities, pollute the air, and kill pedestrians and cyclists. Most single occupants of vehicles shouldn’t be on the road — the occupants should be walking, cycling, or taking public transit. Cars are a scourge on the city. By breaking the rules of this regime I am undermining it. For every driver who is scared or intimidated by cyclists, that may be one more driver who decides to keep their car out of the city. The counterargument is that the driver will become part of Rob Ford anti-cycling culture. But if they’re in their car, they’re already de facto part of that culture.

    Down with cars!

  113. As a cyclist I try to obey the rules of the road. Partly because I want to avoid traffic tickets, partly because I believe it makes me safer, and partly because I believe I can achieve excellence as a cyclist. Maybe not all the time, or even often, but I can have rides that have in their elegance and economy of motion a real beauty and poetry. I know very well that I can never achieve that behind the wheel of a car; as a motorist, I can at best hope to do the least possible harm. So when I see a spandex rocket contemptuously blaze through a red light, I can’t help thinking: you can do better. We as a cycling culture can do better than this.

    But I don’t fool myself that doing better will get me respect from drivers, and on this point, I absolutely part company with Emma: everyone does not know the rules of the road. Just about every really unpleasant encounter I have had with drivers has involved someone’s absolute ignorance of the rules of the road. I once had a driver blaze past me, and when I informed him that he had passed my most unsafely, he started to tell me I didn’t have the right to ride on the road at all. Every cyclist who makes enough vehicular left turns in this city will encounter a motorist who raves incoherently at us to the effect that cyclists should always stay on the right. In fact, cyclists who plan to turn left use left lane just as cars do, and we have, as always, discretion to move into the left lane when we have a safe opportunity. The list goes on, but the basic problem remains: too many road users do not know the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, and instead have a hazy cloud of impressions made up of their wishes, things friends have told them, and what Officer Friendly told their third grade class many years ago. And because motorists have the two tonne steel bombs, their ignorance can have serious consequences.

  114. We can all site numerous examples of dimwits and daredevils taking their liberties on sidewalks, boardwalks and cross walks. But in my view, riding a bike in any modern, big city is a privilege that we’d all like to see evolve into an inalienable right. Riding responsibility only helps that effort.

    Careless, reckless and thoughtless cycling just pisses off people and postpones the day when the bike is the best choice on city streets. Stay the course and be the change you want to see in the world (Gandhi). Most importantly, be safe out here.

  115. I completely agree with everything you’re saying. Well written, well placed cursing. Love it.

    Not sure if this is correct or not, but a friend of mine nearly got a ticket for being drunk on his bike. I think he was threatened with the stop sign ticket, but the officer informed him he could make a case for DUI as well. Just sayin’. 

  116. Wow. A lot of what I’m reading in these comments is about ‘me, me, me’. That’s a problem with this city, in general. Me-itis. But that’s another rant for another day.

    Emma’s post makes a lot of sense – and is a good ‘reminder’ to those driving cars as well! Being a mother who travels everywhere on foot and with a stroller, I can tell you, there are many folks – whether ‘officially’ cyclists or not – who have absolutely zero regard for anyone on the road but themselves. I remember crossing at a crosswalk one day, pointing to indicate my intentions, while carrying my babe in a sling. Not one, not two, but three people-on-bikes whizzed past us in rapid succession, narrowly avoiding a collision. And yes, they saw me – they just didn’t care. And no, this was not a lone incident. If you really think about it, even those of you who refuse to see what the issues with running reds on bikes might be, it is a bona fide epidemic.

    So, a suggestion – or maybe a plea – why don’t you take a moment and think of somebody other than yourself?! Look around. Pay attention. Be considerate. It’s really not that difficult and might make someone’s day start off much nicer.

  117. Hope this message goes through but I have something to say. There is an instance where a biker HAS to go through a red light. I am talking about the pressure sensors that are at the traffic lights that detects when a car is there. As a biker, those sensors never respond to the weight of the bike and me. I sit there for 10 minutes and the lights doesn’t change – I therefore go through the red light. Unless of course there was a car next to me to trigger the sensor or a pedestrian that pushed the button.

  118. I’ve been biking daily in downtown TO for 13 years, winter and summer. I think this post is spot-on. Good job Emma.

  119. Until I came to Toronto I never was concerned with cyclists. Maybe it’s the big city, or the lack of drivers license holders or just plain ignorance. I don’t know. What I do know, is that respect for the rules of the road do not apply to at least 50% of cyclists (if not more). I bike, drive and walk…..and no matter which activity I am doing, when I see cyclists, they are A)riding on the wrong side of the road B)not stopping at lights C)have the headphones on D)Talking on the cell E)Not wearing a helmet F)not signalling G)Driving on the sidewalk H)Riding through cross walks
    It’s unfortunate, and it’s only getting worse. I like to bike. I obey the rules. I was taught from an early age, that was just the thing to do. I don’t know why it’s such a problem for so many people. I like that the cops are clamping down…it’s about time. Ticket them til they learn. I really don’t care cause I follow the rules. 🙂

  120. Wow love this article!!! All the things I have been too scared to voice outloud. As a pedestrian I am so annoyed by the fact that on a daily basis I have to share the side walk with cyclists who are racing on it. Especially on streets that have a freaking bike lane?! Also the number of bikers who race through red light and make turns when the walk signal is on, is beyonfd dangerous and frustrating. Kudoos to you for having the guts to write this and thanks very much!

  121. Oh wow this was like looking into a literary mirror! I wrote about the same issues, in similar tones, on my blog! ( I’m so tired of cyclists feeling like they own the road, and I think they forget how vulnerable to cars they really are.

  122. I have used my 5 bikes as my main mode of transportation and exercise 12 months a year in Toronto for almost 20 years. In a typical year, the are only 10-20 days I will not ride because of weather. I have never been in an accident (knock on wood), but have seen lots. Some thoughts:

    – the “rules of the road” and the “road infrastructure” have been designed to place cars first, and often do not make sense / are not practical for cyclists (I am not meaning to moan about this as much as just stating an important fact)
    – as more cyclists have hit the streets, things have actually gotten more dangerous for everyone on the road, especially given the lack of support for cycling
    – if rules do not generally make sense, people will not follow them no matter what you do
    – this does not mean that cyclists should be ‘kings of the road”, but until the infrastructure and rules evolve things will remain unnecessarily dangerous
    – Toronto’s cycling infrastructure is woeful when compared to NYC and many European cities, I have biked a lot in NYC and while not perfect it is clear they have invested a lot in infrastructure at least
    – the most important tenets of the road (when driving or cycling) are to be aware and considerate of others around you, and that by going a little slower you will arrive negligibly (minutes often, even in a car) later but much more alive
    – I am not sure which is more broken, the investment in biking infrastructure or the current rules that treat bikes as cars… there seems to be slightly more inertia behind increasing infrastructure, but I think evolving the rules is important as well (although likely very hard to achieve, especially under the current administration… not that that should be an excuse to not start trying)

    When biking, I will almost never stop at a stop sign if there is no other traffic. I respect red lights ~95% of the time. 

    I think that your effort to chastise others would be better invested in supporting meaningful change in the rules and infrastructure, as opposed to supporting by association the current broken system. I am not defending or excusing inconsiderate cyclists (or drivers for that matter), but rather trying to steer you towards a better return on your investment of time and angst.

    I would be interested in hearing more about the existing cycling advocacy groups.

    Ride happy, with consideration and awareness!

  123. I agree. That’s about it. I used to ride my bike in the city but I put it away forever because it was too dangerous and I’m absolutely convinced that it got this way because of the attitudes of bad cyclists making drivers not give a shit about any cyclist. I mean, honking and veering toward me when I’m riding totally legally on the road and not being a PITA in any way? That guy obviously has a problem with cyclists, and I bet there is a reason why, and I wasn’t it. My petal clipped the sidewalk and I almost took a header in front of another car.

    And riding on the sidewalk? SO DANGEROUS!! I have almost hit many a cyclist this way. People turning in cars are not looking for someone moving at that speed on the sidewalk, nor should they be.

  124. I can’t believe some of the comments on here. If automobile drivers hadn’t been renewing licenses and plates every year, cyclists wouldn’t even have a road left to drive on….yet a large number of them seem to resent drivers for even being on the road in the first place.
    On the whole, there are WAY more cars on the roads than cyclists…and yet there are WAY more cyclists breaking laws than drivers. This is a fact. I drive 2 hours per day and have amassed quite the mental list of statistics.

    Yes, every group of people has bad eggs but a recent study by the Star has shown MORE THAN 50% of cyclists they studied in a one hour period broke the law. If more than 50% of cars blew through red lights, stop signs, and lanes without signalling….there would be absolute chaos so you have to agree that based on that information, I am right.

    Cars pull up to ‘vacant’ red lights all the time but you don’t see them just decide it’s safe and go through. In fact, in 30 years I have never seen more than 5 automobiles purposely blow a fully red light just because no one else was coming. I could find 5 bikes in an HOUR who would, easily. The law is the law; just like I have gotten speeding tickets for going EIGHT KM/H over the limit, cyclists deserve to be held to the same standards. I don’t care how ‘less dangerous’ you think your vehicle is. A person on a bike is at least around 200 pounds of force slamming into your unprotected pedestrian body at 30km/h. If you think that’s not dangerous, then please allow me to test on you.

    There are some very well written responses here from motorists and cyclists alike (and some absolutely disgraceful, embarassing ones, Anna) but the fact remains that there will always be bad drivers, bad pedestrians, and bad cyclists. In general the bad drivers are just ignorant….whereas the bad pedestrians and cyclists are almost exclusively doing it on purpose due to laziness and a sense of entitlement. No one expects perfect roads. We just ask that you at least try.

  125. I agree with 99% of everything said… but some anger-fuelled advice came across as just impossible nonsense, though, like

    “If you cannot steer a bicycle, do not ride one until you can.”

    Like the bike gods will one day bestow upon you skillful steering if you’re patient.

    So, so close. Write an article like this once the anger has bubbled over just a bit more.

  126. Emma, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s like you wrote my thoughts for me.

    The only thing I would also add are the cyclists who ride the wrong way down a one-way street. Dangerous! Especially the ones who do it at night. With no helmet. Or light.

    I encountered a cyclist the other night who ran a red light, then rode weaving back and forth on the road, so I couldn’t pass her. She had no light and no helmet, and it was nighttime.

    Cyclists like this are an embarrassment to us all.

  127. The letter is spot on, but I’ll add something: right or wrong, you’re on a bike, they’re in a car. Guess who is better protected from stupid mistakes by either party? It’s not the one on the bike. Good driving schools teach defensive driving on the basis that the other guy on the road isn’t paying attention, cyclists would do well to heed that concept because right or wrong doesn’t change you from being a smear on the road.

  128. I agree with those that have made comments defending the use of judgement in navigating an infrastructure designed predominantly to optimalise automobile travel.

    There was an excellent article that pointed out that we need less “cyclists” and more “people that ride bikes”.

    I am a person who rides a bike… everyday in fact.

    This article is written from one cyclist to another, an elite group in which I do not subscribe or pretend to understand the foibles.

    How many people that walk everyday similarly do not adhere to the rules designed for automobiles?

    This article is the equivilent of a call to arms for “Pedestrians” not to stray from the sidewalks.

    More generally, anyone crossing the road while distracted by headphones or mobile conversation is liable for natural selection to take its course.

  129. Respect can be earned. Residents of Haiti and New Orleans supposedly *HAD* to loot stores for survival: food, water, diapers, trainers, jewelry, designer togs, TV sets etc.. Both complained at lack of government aid. Japanese quake/flood survivors queued up for hours at stores to get a ration of 6 items. They sacrificed and volunteered to help each other. Guess which people earned my respect? Another example are Gypsies. They are known in Europe for pickpocketing, stealing, not paying taxes, not educating children, and generally not adhering to rules of civilized society. Respect is commensurate.

    Motorcyclists for decades have been encouraged to gain respect from auto drivers by not using racing (or no) mufflers, not lane splitting, not doing wheelies and other bike messenger-like tricks on the street, and wearing helmets. It has helped. I break the law for safety only by speeding ahead to an open spot in traffic. Chatting or texting isn’t even an issue for motorcyclists like it is for car drivers and bicyclists. Bicyclists, strangely still debate earning respect. I think even bicyclists laugh at those riding recumbents!

    Motorsport racers are encouraged not to practice racing or use racing equipment on public streets in order to preserve respect. Bicyclists do the opposite, dressing in racing gear, using racing pedals/shoes that make obeying traffic laws more difficult, and riding fixed-gear track bikes, often without those pesky, ugly, brakes.

    Appropriate questions for the Jay Lenno show: What are sideWALKS and crossWALKS for? Hint, not operating a vehicle! Want to be treated like a pedestrian? Dismount and become a pedestrian!

    By all standards, the bicycle is increasingly perceived as a child’s toy because its many users display the attitude and behaviors of children. Only training wheels differentiate the very young from those with teen attitudes.

    Cyclists need a funding model beyond lobbying government for handouts. Users of other transport pay user fees: gas taxes, tolls, bus fare, subway fare, plane fare, ferry fare, lift tickets, swimming fees to fund lifeguards and water purity. Even amusement park rides have fares and one ends where starting! In the 1800’s or so, private companies funded most waterway canals and railways, paid for by user fees and not government subsidy. If bicycling has any worth, users will cough up commensurate toll or other payments towards construction and maintenance. There was a bicycling fad in the 1970’s, we may just be in another temporary one. Bike facilities are no more effective in driving increased utilization than wide sidewalks are for pedestrians.

  130. I hope that Emma is happy and proud to be associated to that recent crack down on her “fellow cyclists”.–police-launch-crackdown-on-cyclists-who-don-t-stop

    Good job girl, if your really wanted to advance the cause of cycling, you could not have come up with a better move. Soon enough you’ll be quoted in the automobile section of newsrags.

    BTW what about you simply join them (i.e. the police), they sure need a hand with all these renegades…


  131. Anna> Police have routinely been doing crack downs like this every now and then. To suggest one article did it is absurd.

  132. Cyclists,

    You are not above the law.  If you do something illegal, you deserve to be ticketed.  Similarly, if a motorist does something illegal, they also deserve a citation.  If you think a law is unfair, then you should certainly strive to have it changed for the better, but if you don’t follow existing laws, nobody will have any incentive to change them for your sake, since you make it clear you will break them as you see fit, anyway.

    One of the things that’s repeated over and over to new drivers is that your use of the road is a privilege, not a right.  It is made clear that abuse of that privilege will result in losing it.  I think that this is something that everyone who drives a vehicle on public roads should be held to.  Getting on the road is dangerous enough, no matter what vehicle you choose.  If you can’t follow the rules, you have no business putting yourself and others at further risk by jumping into the mix.

Comments are closed.