by Doris Wionzek
If you have ever driven a motor vehicle on a public roadway, please read this – I am talking to you.
Please pay attention to this – this is really important, and many people, both cyclists and automobile drivers, do not understand this:
It is legal for a cyclist to ride in the centre of the lane. If I am riding my bicycle on a narrow road, and especially if I am approaching a curve in the road, and you come up behind me, you will want me to move to the extreme right-hand edge of the pavement to allow you to pass. If I do this, it encourages you to attempt to pass me, whether or not you can see any oncoming traffic. Sometimes, even if you can see an oncoming vehicle, you will attempt to squeeze in between me and the coming car, putting all of us in danger. If, however, I take up space in the lane, it forces you to slow down and wait until you have a clear view of oncoming traffic, move to the left lane, and pass me when it is safe. This also applies when I am going up a hill and you cannot see oncoming traffic. Is it really worth someone’s life for you to arrive at your destination 10 seconds, or even 60 seconds sooner?
I will also take up space in the lane when I am passing parked cars, in order to avoid being ‘doored’.
The following is taken from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website:
The penalty for not leaving a minimum one-metre passing distance is a set fine of $85.00 plus a $5 court fee plus a $20 victim surcharge fine for a total payable of $110.00.
Drivers who contest their ticket by going to court may face a fine of up to $500 if found guilty (fine range is $60 to $500). Upon conviction, two demerit points will also be assigned against the individual’s driver record.
A motorist may, if done safely, and in compliance with the rules of the road, cross the centre line of a roadway in order to pass a cyclist. If this cannot be done, he or she must wait behind the cyclist until it is safe to pass.
One lovely spring day, my husband and I were riding side by side on a quiet country road. The road was flat and straight as far as the eye could see. We heard a horn blowing in the distance behind us. We looked around, and looked at each other, shrugged, and continued. The horn also continued as it got closer. (beep, beeeeep, beep, beep, beeeeeeeeep). Then a motorcycle raced past us with the horn blasting, and coming as close as possible to us without actually hitting us, with the horn continuing for several more seconds. WHY?? As I said, the road was straight and flat – there was absolutely no reason why the driver could not move into the left lane and safely pass us. I have been unable to find a definitive ruling on riding side by side in Ontario, but in some bicycle safety advice, it is actually considered safer for cyclists to ride this way. They will be more visible, and regardless of whether they are riding side by side or in single file, the motor vehicle will still have to cross the centre line to pass safely.
Of course, there are bad cyclists on the roads, just like there are bad vehicle drivers. No further comment.
I will admit, that I have rolled a few stop signs, but I will always slow down and make very sure that it is safe before proceeding into an intersection.
I’m sending out a huge ‘thank-you’ to the many, many, many wonderful drivers out there (you know who you are) who are considerate, patient and respectful. You slow down, move into the left lane, and pass WHEN IT IS SAFE. Sometimes, you even stick your arm out the window and offer a friendly wave. A light tap on the horn is thoughtful, but entirely unnecessary.
When there is a paved shoulder or a bike lane, I will gladly use it and stay out of your way, but in the absence of that dedicated lane, you must SHARE THE ROAD.
It is the law.