What grinds my gears? The right of way.

What grinds my gears? The right of way.

SLt M.X. Déry, Contributor ~

In this series of commentaries on bicycle safety, I address issues that cyclists face every day from motorists, pedestrians and even other cyclists. Most of what I write about has happened to me personally and are things that constantly grind my gears.

I speak with subject matter experts to back up my complaints and perhaps after I have vented my spleen, cycling to work will be safer for everyone.

More than once a week I have to slow down, stop, or ring my little brass bell because a pedestrian, lacking in situational awareness, has decided to cross the street where they shouldn’t.

Don’t misunderstand me, I give way at crosswalks, as all cyclists must, but that is not what I am discussing here. I’m talking about the worst kind of pedestrian: the jaywalker.

I regularly encounter a jaywalker who, when it is dark and quiet in the morning, decides to cross the street in the middle of nowhere without checking both sides because they don’t hear a car.

With the increase in fully electric cars, cyclists aren’t the only quiet vehicles anymore, so relying on sound for a warning of danger could be deadly.

Joggers, particularly with earbuds, are also often to blame for making the roads a nightmare for cyclists because they use the bike lane despite lacking in wheels, a seat, a frame, a bell… you get what I’m driving at.

According to the Military Police, the top infraction they see committed by pedestrians on base, is jaywalking, which they regularly ticket.

There are designated crosswalks and stop signs all over the base, but I see pedestrians cut across the road daily. To add insult to injury, they often cross in a diagonal pattern and cannot see vehicles approaching in their peripheral vision. Crossing perpendicular to the road isn’t just more efficient, it is safer, since it allows the pedestrian to see both sides of the road.

The problem is most apparent near dockyard general parking, where a host of people cross at random intervals nowhere near a crosswalk.

As pedestrians filter into the base in the morning or flood out at the end of the day, they tend to invade the bike lane as they jostle past each other. Cyclists are supposed to remain in the bike lane, or within one metre of the sidewalk, unless turning left at an incoming intersection.

Stepping off the sidewalk into the bike lane without looking so that you can pass that slow group of friends is hazardous, not only for yourself, but also for me, the guy who is travelling at 25kph in a narrow lane. Avoiding you may mean getting hit by a 2000-lb car, so stay out of my lane.

Situational awareness is key, but it is constantly eroded by handheld devices. I rarely see a cyclist on a smartphone, but pedestrians are often distracted, looking down at their handhelds during the short walk to their car. They step out into the street without looking, bump into people and act bewildered when they are awoken from their zombie-like stupor.

Twice in the last six months, a dog walker was so startled out of their cell phone reverie by their dog barking at me, that they dropped the leash and I was chased down the street by an angry dog.

Luckily, I had enough speed to outrun the small dog, but it could have been much worse. One of my formative memories is returning home from kindergarten, age five, and finding the doorknob to my house covered in blood. Inside, there were blood smears on the walls and blood leading to the bathroom. While delivering newspapers, my older brother had been chased by a dog that was not properly tied up, and he had fallen during the chase, cutting himself quite badly on the road.

You never know when a small moment of inattention can create a chain of events that could be disastrous. Stay off your phone, stay in your lane and cross where appropriate.

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