By Jordan W. Charness

“Go green!” they say.

“Get more exercise!” they say.

“Cut down on greenhouse gases!” they say.

“Leave your car at home!” they say.

“Bicycle to work!” they say.

Jamie was convinced. He decided that instead of driving to work every day, starting Monday he would take his bicycle to work. He only lived about 10 kilometres from his job and figured that at least on sunny days he could do his part in saving the environment and maybe lose a few pounds at the same time.

He went to the garage and dug out the old bicycle he used when he was a student. It still seemed to be in reasonably good shape and he remembered how to oil the chain and adjust the brakes and generally tune it up. He was also smart enough to go out and buy a new bicycle helmet, and climbed aboard on Sunday to take it on a trial run.

Although he hadn’t actually ridden a bike in about 20 years, he always remembered being told that you can never forget how. After a shaky couple of minutes Jamie remembered what it was like and could indeed ride almost as well as he could back in the old days.

Bicycle riding in many cities has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. With a greater emphasis on bicycle power and the construction of many bike paths, a lot of cities in Canada have become much more cycle friendly.

Jamie stuck to the bike paths as much as he could while riding to work that Monday morning. He knew that according to law he must follow all of the traffic regulations as if he was driving his car. Stop signs really meant stop, and red lights meant the same. He followed the rules of the road and figured that bicycle riding these days would be much safer than when he was a kid.

While riding on a bicycle path on the right hand side of the road he crossed an intersection on a green light and was hit by a car turning right! Fortunately the car was not going very fast and neither was he, and although his bike was ruined he escaped with just a few scrapes, cuts and bruises. He was, however, shocked that this would happen to him. After all, he was crossing the intersection on a green light just as he was supposed to.

The car driver was turning right at the green light just as he was supposed to do as well. It never occurred to him that a bicycle would ride up on his right hand side through his blind spot while he was making the turn. In fact the driver was only vaguely aware that there was a bicycle lane on his right. He knew enough not to drive in it but really could not properly check for bicycle traffic behind and to the right of him.

Unfortunately, this scenario is playing out many times in Canada these days. I’ve read of at least four stories where bicyclists were actually killed by cars in similar situations. Some of the experts are now saying that the design of the bike paths will naturally lead to this type of accident.

The bicyclist is going straight through a green light as he is legally supposed to do. The car driver is in the right hand lane and making a right hand turn on a green light just as he is supposed to do. Bicycles are fast-moving, silent and hard to see coming from that direction. Moreover, drivers turning right are not trained to look in the side view mirror of the right hand side to check for bicycle traffic. Accidents are bound to happen.

It’s only now that city planners are trying to get a handle on how to make sharing the road by both bicyclists and automobiles safe and effective. Until they get it right, it’s up to both drivers and bicyclists to be doubly aware of what the other may be doing.

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