I've been thinking about bad drivers this week

Some I saw, some I’m glad I didn’t.  The ones I saw were all in the space of a couple of kilometers.  I was riding home from work, in a dedicated bike lane (but with no barrier between me and the traffic, so it begs the question of what “dedicated” means). An older van made a right turn on a red in front of me and stopped.  I did too, just in time.  A newer SUV eased out from a stop sign and started to creep into the intersection.  At the last minute the driver saw me and stopped, waving apologetically. A brand new vehicle was parked in the bike lane; the driver was texting.  I yelled at them to get out of my lane. A Wheeltrans bus ran a stop sign right in front of me, apparently trying to drum up business.  He was within a half-metre of succeeding. 

Earlier in the day I watched a young woman ride into a lamppost because she was riding on the sidewalk and a pedestrian stepped in front of her.  We stopped to make sure she was okay.  She shouldn’t have been riding on the sidewalk (and certainly not as quickly as she was going).  Many cyclists help to create our bad reputation.  At risk of sounding self-righteous, I am well-armoured, have bright strobing lights front and back at all times, never run red lights and stop in a safe place when the traffic isn’t moving. I try not to antagonise drivers, we do share the road.

None of what happened on that short stretch will come as any surprise to anyone who rides in the city.  Most of my fellow riders would just shrug their shoulders, it’s all in the day’s ride.  Safety is something we can’t take for granted.

The bad drivers I didn’t see never showed up, and we’re all glad.  The city was prepared for them just in case.  I try to go to the cenotaph service every November 11, and went to Old City Hall this year.  As usual it was moving time, especially as this year I watched the cadets and thought about how young those we remember every year were when they died.  As I walked over to the service from the streetcar stop I wondered why there were city dumptrucks blocking the road.  As I got closer to the ceremony I saw they were parked on every street a block away.  Enclosing an area where there would be a crowd of respectful people silently remembering.  We were potential targets.

I don’t think anyone has deliberately targeted me on a bike.  And maybe it never occurred to anyone to drive a truck into a crowd last Saturday morning while we were standing with bowed heads.  But sometimes you have to ride as if you are a target, and sometimes it does occur to someone to drive a truck into a crowd.

Jesus said to be as innocent as doves and wise as serpents.  We never have lived in a carefree world, although I have that experience in moments when I am riding. But there is a weight of regret and sorrow and humiliation we acknowledge every Remembrance Day.  And somewhere in the psyche of an intentionally dangerous driver there is a perception of that sad trinity.

We do not just prepare for moments of helplessness.  We advocate for better and safer (and more) bike lanes.  By having regard for everyone and seeking economic balance we advocate for a justice that takes away the reason for some stranger to deliberately harm us.  Serpents and doves are not helpless, they evolve, with grace, to demand more carefree moments for everyone.