Thursday, September 28, 2006

Woman bicyclist critically hurt in collision with van

Click this entry's title for the full article.

I almost had this happen to me once not too long ago. Some drivers do have an unfortunate tendency to underestimate how fast a bicycle can go...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Adventures of Crazy Biker Chick

The above article on blogger (click on the title to read it), posted to Chainguard yesterday, is probably the best article I've ever seen on the problems faced by cyclists interacting with motorists on the road.

I'm going to get this printed out so I can have a few copies on me to hand out to motorists, as appropriate. ;)

Check it out!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Back Seat Cyclists

We've all heard of the "back seat driver." You know. The annoying passenger who makes no bones about telling you exactly what you're doing wrong when you're driving and insists on tell you how they would do it if they were driving. Well, when I decided to start biking instead of driving, I was convinced I'd never have to deal with that foolishness.

Boy, was I wrong.

I have discovered a phenomenon which I like to call the "Back Seat Cyclist." Unlike his "driver" counterpart, of course, he can't sit behind you the whole time and chastise your riding technique, but he can yell out to you from his car window, stop on the road next to you to offer his pearls of wisdom or, worst of all, if he's a co-worker or someone in the neighborhood, he can stop you on the street or in the hall and lecture you about what you're allowed and not allowed to do on the road.

What bugs me about these "back seat cyclists" is that, invariably, they're virtually always drivers who haven't ridden a bike in at least a decade, and even then have never ridden one in traffic. The last time they were on a bicycle was tooling through their neighborhoods like maniacs as kids.

So who the hell are these guys to tell me how to ride a bicycle in traffic?

When I got into work on Friday, one of my supervisors at work said that she heard I'd committed some kind of traffic violation on my bike. When I asked her what she was talking about, she directed me to one of my co-workers nearby who said he saw me signal a right turn by extending my right arm. He said that that wasn't the "proper signal." That the proper signal for a right hand turn was hand up, elbow bent. He also said that I ride too far out into the lane, that I'm supposed to stay to the far right at all times.

First of all, the right hand signal he describes is, in fact, a legitimate signal for right hand turn. However, cyclists in Nova Scotia have the option, if they wish, to simply extend their right arm out the same as they would extend their left arm for a left hand turn. Even the Nova Scotia Bicycle Safety pamphlet gives the extended right arm as a legitimate "Alternate Right Turn Signal" under the law. Yet, he insisted that my way of signaling was illegal.

His defense was that, according to The Nova Scotia Driver's Handbook, a cyclist must use that signal. Well, after doing a little research, I found out that this is, in fact, what it says. However, that's out of date. The Nova Scotia Bicycle Safety pamphlet was created as an insert for the Driver's Handbook to update that and it's since become a permanent part of current editions of the handbook. Yes, there was a time when the extended right arm wasn't recognized as a legitimate right turn signal for cyclists, but it is now.

Personally, I prefer the extended right turn signal for two reasons:
  1. A lot of drivers don't tend to recognize the old signal. They just think I'm waving at them.
  2. Using my right arm allows me to keep my left hand on my handlebars, and since most of my stopping power comes from my front brake, which is operated by the left lever, I prefer not to take that hand off the bars when I can avoid it.

So yes, buddy, it is legal and I have perfectly legitimate reasons for choosing it over the other signal.

As to his other objection, yes the Nova Scotia Driver's Handbook did have a reference about cyclists staying far to the right. Again, however, the Nova Scotia Bicycle Safety pamphlet updated that as well.

Here's a direct quote, taken from the pamphlet:
Make Room For Cyclists - Bicyclists need to ride at least 1 metre away from parked cars to avoid being hit if a door suddenly opens. Bicyclists also need to avoid potholes and debris, and to pass double-parked cars. Bicyclists may occupy as much of a traffic lane as their safety warrants.

On Kings Road, the road on which this guy saw me, the travel lanes are only about 3.5 meters wide. That's just barely enough to accommodate a motor coach or a tractor trailer rig. Simply, those lanes are too narrow for a cyclist and motorist to share safely. Therefore, for my safety, I must occupy the entire lane. To do otherwise is to encourage drivers behind me to share my lane, and there isn't enough room to do so.

Once again, I have the legal right to ride further out into the lane, and I do it so I don't get squeezed off the road.

Once, when I was making a left turn into Blockbuster on Prince Street, I was in the left turn lane and some guy pulled up beside me and said: "Somebody should tell you you're not driving a car." No, somebody should tell you that, as far as the law is concerned, I am considered a "driver." Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act, Section 85 (1):
Every person riding a bicycle or animal upon a highway and every person driving any animal shall be subject to the provisions of this Act applicable to a driver of a vehicle . . .

Obviously, he was in the wrong, but even if he hadn't been, I don't even get why the guy bothered to bug me. He wasn't even in my lane. I wasn't in his way at all. What was his problem, anyway?!

OK. In fairness, I must admit that I, too, have been a "back seat cyclist." I've been known to get after cyclists, particularly those who commit blatant infractions like riding on the sidewalk (which is strictly illegal under Section 171 (2) of the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act). However, I am an experienced cyclist. I know what I'm talking about. I've studied the law regarding cycling.

If these guys who tell me how to ride actually rode bicycles themselves, or at least knew the law they were talking about, it wouldn't bother me so much. What irritates me is that these guys just talk out of their asses as if they know everything when they really have no clue whatsoever.

So. If you're going to try to educate someone on what the law says, more power to you. Just make you know what the law actually says first.

That's all I ask.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rage Against the Chains

Have you ever had a night when you just can't sleep because you have too much stuff going on in your head?

Yup. This is one of those nights.

You know, I'm not even sure, after all this time, if I even still have an audience for this thing, or if I ever had one in the first place. Obviously, I have posted precious little here. At first, I thought maybe it was because I simply didn't have anything to say. Well, maybe that's part of it. I'm a fairly private person. Most of the stuff I really need to say I share only with my loved ones.

Still, there was a time when I had plenty to say about a lot of different subjects. I used to rant about a wide variety of things. Ethical issues. Moral issues. Cyclists' issues. Computers. Films. Writing. There used to be a veritable plethora of things I used to like to talk about in public forums, but lately I just haven't felt like saying much. I'm not sure why. I know I've been depressed, but I've been depressed before and I haven't neglected my online activities, at least not for this long.

It's not just this blog I've been neglecting, either. Check out my E-mail:

As you can see, the first message has been sitting in my inbox since June 4th. I just couldn't be bothered with writing replies lately. Except for announcements of what movies I'm going to on the weekend and the occasional private E-mail, I have hardly touched my E-mail since June. Heck, before I weeded through the messages recently to eliminate anything I didn't want to reply to, there was well in excess of 700 messages in there. Lately, I just haven't felt much like being on the computer. I guess I've had too much on my mind.

Tonight, I found myself tossing and turning in bed, mind racing with a cacophony of worries and frustrations. Anyone who knows me knows I worry about the people I love in my life, and I worry often. Lately, I've been frustrated by the fact that there are now several people in my life, all of whom I love and all of whom have problems that I cannot help with. I hate that feeling, when I know someone I love is in pain and there's nothing I can do about it. I just makes me feel so helpless, like I'm chained down.

That's when an image started to come to me. Me chained against the wall, watching person after person I love getting hurt and not being able to do anything about it.

Whenever I get an image like that in my mind, I know a poem is coming on. So I dashed out to the computer, fired up AppleWorks, and wrote down the first words that came to me: "Rage Against the Chains." That became my title. From there, I just focused on the images in my mind and the feelings in my heart, pounding them into they keyboard until I came up with this:

That pretty much encapsulates the feeling that's been keeping me up tonight.

Now that I've got that out, maybe I can finally get some sleep. A few hours at least.