the airwaves and internet has been abuzz all week with news surrounding the death of toronto-area cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard.
anyone who has ridden a bike on the roads for any length of time will find this situation to be shocking, sad, and not really surprising. we have all had run-ins with irate motorists that can be something simple as drivers yelling the ridiculous standard "Get Off The Road!" (which immediately demonstrates the motorists ignorance of the rules of the road) or the equally stupid "Roads Are For Cars! Paths Are for Bikes!".
sometimes drivers will use their vehicle as a weapon by not giving you space and buzzing you, passing so close you could reach into the vehicle. sometimes drivers will pass you then jam up against the curb trying to prevent you from passing them. really big assholes will swerve their vehicle right at you. really really big assholes will throw things from their moving vehicle as they pass you. personally, i have been spit on, been hit by beer cans, hit by spare change (that hurt alot) and too many beer bottle near misses to count. on every single occasion, i was riding along minding my own business and simply trying to get where i was going.
variations on these incidents have been experienced by probably every single cyclist. every one of these incidents serve to create quite a bit of animosity and mistrust towards motorists. that animosity and anger felt by many cyclists towards motorists can occasionally boil over and explode. personally, i can see why many cyclists lose it and fight back - u-lock justice we'll call it. u-lock justice comes in many forms, and experienced cyclists have their own responses - keying vehicles, smashing taillights or side mirrors, spitting into vehicles - retribution takes many forms. none of it is good, but completely understandable.
the truth is, legislators and administrators still view bicycles/cyclists as second class citizens. dont believe me? see what happens if you have a run-in with a motorist. police rarely side with the cyclist and usually try to find some way to let the motorist off-the-hook. another truth - more cyclists are going to die on canadian roads before we are given the protection we deserve. by protection i mean more designated road space, equal protection under the law, and proper education of motorists (and cyclists) relating to our collective responsibility on the roads.
many motorists see bicycles as pests, merely a insect to be smeared on their windshields at the first opportunity. many motorists see cyclists as second class citizens because they are on bikes and not in a car. motorists see the roads as THEIRS ALONE - not to be shared with other users. dont believe me, read the comments at the end of this news item. or this news item. or this one. or this one.
get the picture?
so, where to go from here?
hopefully this tragic incident will push toronto's city council to finally get on with creating safe bicycling spaces for cyclists. hopefully this incident will inform other cities as to the very real threat that cyclists face almost daily. hopefully no one else needs to die.