Hey Mr. SUV are you really going to squeeze a cyclist?

Earlier this year the Ontario government passed The Making Ontario Roads Safer Act & starting in September motorist will be fined $85 for not maintaining, when possible, a one meter distance when passing a cyclist on the road.

Well ABOUT TIME!!

Although, as a cyclists in my opinion the fine should be higher as $85 is not going to deter drivers from continuing the highly dangerous practice of passing cyclists with inches of spaces just to save a few seconds. If I sound a bit angry about this, it’s because I have had one too many incidences with motorist passing me too close & too fast.

If circumstances had been different, I could have died last week because a motorist needed to save a few seconds.

“It’s hell out there boys & girls” 

Because of Toronto’s horrid bike infrastructure there is not direct bike lane route from my home in the Annex, to my office at Bloor & Church.  I have three options:

  1. Take the “East bike route” (it is not even a bike lane) in the Annex & merge onto Bloor from St. George.
  2. Take Dupont Street, which is a death trap for cyclists in my opinion.
  3. Take Harbord, but I would still have to merge with traffic to get around Queens Park & it is a bit out of my way.

Whatever route I choose, I will have to eventually merge into car traffic so Bloor Street become the quickest route.  Biking this route is not for the faint of heart. Motorist drive fast, some impatiently & others aggressively. But I know this route, I know where the pot holes are, where to expect parked cars & where motorist can get “tricky”.

On Thursday August 13th I was biking home from work.  It was around 5:30 pm when I got to the intersection at Bloor & Avenue. With no bike lane & sharrows ending at this point, cyclist share this stretch of Bloor with cars.

Bloor & Avenue

The thing about this intersection, is that just west of Avenue Road there is condo construction with a temporary concrete highway barrier that has been obstructing about 50% of the right-hand lane for at least a year.  It has become a staple of Bloor that vehicular commuters know you need to watch for.

This construction reduces the amount of space available for motorists & cyclists to safety share the right hand lane to zero.  A motorist & a cyclist cannot both be on this stretch of Bloor.   This is how traffic flow usually goes:

Now that you have this background, let’s go back to last Thursday.

As the light turned green on the westbound traffic I took off & went through the intersection. I normally stay to the right when crossing the intersection to allow faster moving traffic to pass me, but then start to take the full road as I near the concrete barrier.

As I cross Avenue Road, a few things happen:

  1. As it is rush hour, there is a steady stream of traffic in the left-hand lane.
  2. A Black SUV comes speeding up behind me. (This car was not beside me at the intersection but at least 2 cars behind.)
  3. The Black SUV drives right next to me as I near the concrete barrier. There are now only centimeters separating us & the driver says to me out of his open passenger window “stay close!”

This happened in seconds & I quickly realize I have nowhere to go.  I can’t pass the SUV as he is going too fast & not yielding to let me pass.  I remember looking at the driver as he came up next to me (“stay close!”), looking ahead I realized there was not enough room for to fit between the SUV & the concrete.

Two thoughts flashed through my mind:

  1. “If I keep going, I was definitely going to get squeezed between an SUV & a concrete barrier.  It was really going to hurt & I wasn’t going to be walking away.”
  2. “If I stop, I may get hit by a car from behind & I may die.”

I braked, not knowing if there was another car behind me or having time to signal.  I just make it.  I slow enough to get behind the SUV & there is nobody behind me.

I yell at Mr. SUV, “You asshole!  Why would you do that?? Why would you do that?? Why??” 

An Angry Cyclists is Born

I was pretty shaken up after this incident as I knew I had come close to a serious (if not fatal) collision caused by an irresponsible driver, who was not following any rules of logic or law when passing a cyclist. I have never been so angry in my life at the callousness of a motorist towards a cyclists.  For the rest of the ride home I looked at every car as a machine of death & every driver as a potential threat to my life.

I went back to Bloor & Avenue the next day,  I needed to see the exact spot again in a calm frame of mind.  However being there made me angry again.   It is so obvious that there is no safe way to pass a cyclists on this part of the road & I couldn’t fathom what the drivers had been thinking.  Why did he think it was a good idea to pass me? Where did he think I was going to go? Why didn’t he just wait?

Click on the images below to see them in full screen. 

“Why would you do that?” 

The sad thing is, this experience is not unique for a Toronto cyclist.  This is probably not even the most dangerous or frightening experience.  It is pretty common on the streets to see an SUV speeding past you.  Drivers squeezing you off the road is the norm.  Police ignoring the one-meter passing rule is the norm.

But, dangerous driving shouldn’t be the norm.  Excusing dangerous driving shouldn’t be the norm.  Victim blaming people who have been hurt or killed shouldn’t be the norm.   Enabling the killing of people on the streets of Toronto shouldn’t be the norm.

So, why would you do that? Why would you make this the norm?

One thought on “Hey Mr. SUV are you really going to squeeze a cyclist?

  1. hamish wilson says:

    I’m glad you’re just badly rattled, not smeared. Having a near-harm experience has made a few activists, including Nancy Smith Lea now of TCAT. Somehow – the police don’t seem to care soo much when great momentum is used to threaten and intimidate when its atop four wheels, but try swinging your U-lock to have a tiny bit of similar momentum.

    Bloor should be safer for biking by now. To quote from the 1992 study 711.72097135 M13 – Bloor/Danforth was the most popular bicycle route according to the 1990 Bike to Work Survey. It is an ideal route due to the fact that there are few street car track crossings, it is the most direct east-west route that spans the entire City, it has a flat gradient and has excellent potential for utilization…” And they didn’t get into how a bikeway would provide subway relief, nor how copious off-street parking exists atop the subway, so it isn’t just best for Caronto, but it’s best in Ontario… And if the car drivers want to go fast, take the subway; or a bike.

    This segment of Bloor is appallingly rough too, and how come the City can sign an off-road trail with Rough pavement signs but avoids suchlike on Bloor? Or any signage about sharing a tight lane with cyclists? We may well be sold out again by the City etc. when they get around to rebuilding this part of Bloor sometime soon because they have gotten away with it in the Yorkvile area, and also further west along Bloor, west of Bathurst, including the ignoring of Places to Grow 3.2.2 and 3.2.3.

    Thanks for this great post and the pictures too; will try to cite/forward.

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