I was one of Matt Moore’s jerks the other day

Wherein I counter-rant about Matt Moore's rant about cyclists on ottawacitizen.com

Judge me if you will. Matt Moore – a recent convert to bike commuting – has an item in the Citizen today about how cyclists need to stop being arrogant, stop being whiny victims, take a breath and be heroes. All at the same time apparently.

So Matt, let me tell you my story and see if you might have some sympathy. Seeing as you’re all for the middle ground in all this.

I brazenly broke the law. I rode through an intersection against a red light. As I led out, a big guy on a bigger cruiser-style motor bike leaned on his horn for what seemed like forever.

The light was going to turn soon and I knew he was coming for me so I pushed my neon lycra clad body as hard as I could to get to the left turn lane I needed to reach to get home. I hoped he wasn’t going to chase me.

I knew the light had turned when I heard him leaning on his horn again and the growl of the motor. He just roared past me, yelling “Asshole” loud enough to be heard over the din of wind and engine. I made my turn and carried on.

So here’s where I plead my case to Matt, to mister righteous biker and all the other people who’ve told me to use the path, get off the road, get out of their way etc etc.

It’s an old roadie axiom I learned ages ago when I took an Ottawa Bicycle Club group riding clinic. The instructor was getting tons of questions from us newbies about taking lanes, making turns and he finally said:

“You could be right, but you could be dead.”

You could be right, but you could be dead

That, Matt, is why I ran the red. What’s the law and what’s safe are not always the same thing.

I had pulled into the left side, left turn lane at the intersection of Herzberg and March road in Kanata.

As I usually do when making a left on a wide road designed for tons of car traffic, I claimed the lane, putting me and my bike about where a car’s right front tire would be.

I was first to the stop line but several seconds later, a tractor trailer pulled up on my right, in the middle lane (where left and right turns are permitted) and signalled left.

Then a car pulled up in my lane on my left, between me and the curb. My nemesis on the motor bike pulled up behind the car. Pretty much directly behind me.

I was cornered.

I needed to get over to the far left of March Road southbound so that I could make the left turn lane onto Corkstown Road, about 200m beyond the stoplight. Which meant getting out past the car, the truck and the motorbike.

I tried to imagine what the drivers were thinking. A lot of times drivers hate cyclists because they impede their progress. I figured I would impede their progress if I rode out with them and tried to cross in front. If I didn’t move and waited for them to go by it would be unexpected, dangerous and also driver-progress-impeding.

I could confront the car driver for squeezing me out of the lane. But even if the driver agreed and wanted to do anything about it there would have been another negotiation to undertake with the vehicles behind or beside.

So I looked around. March Road southbound was totally empty of cars. Not a one coming for hundreds of metres in all three lanes. I rolled out against the red, thinking I would not delay them, be ploughed under by a distracted driver or get anyone’s heart rate up by doing some unanticipated maneuver right in front, right behind or in-between their rumbling heap of rubber and steel.

Totally illegal. But it was the safest thing to do.

What’s legal and what’s safe aren’t always the same thing

So here’s my actual point. Trying to mass-psychologize a collection of people in a bazillion different circumstances, ascribe common motives in all these people just because they’re riding bikes will lead to fuzzy thinking like yours, Matt.

Your point seems to be “cyclists should be perfect human beings to all they encounter in all circumstances” then maybe we will get the respect we seek. We’d all like to see better behaviour out on the roads, Matt, but why is the onus on those of us on two self-propelled wheels?

You ascribe all this bad behaviour to all of us without distinguishing what’s done in the name of being safe, what’s done because you’re a douchebag, and what’s done out of ignorance.

It’s far more complicated than your 600 word blame storming missive suggests.

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