Friday, November 21, 2008

Why I stopped Bike Commuting

I have been bike commuting for 20+ years. I am a cautious rider who follows the traffic rules, and have enough experience to foresee most potential dangeous stiuations. I have had to stop biking every so often, as the close calls would start to make me too nervous to stay in traffic. Last winter, I had a close call that has kept me off the bike since then.

Yes, the drivers in Halifax are even more aggressive now than say, 5
years ago. Comes with being a bigger, busier city. I used to be a bike
messenger, so it's not the aggressiveness that has put me off the bike. It's the level of distraction. Cell phones are easily the biggest distraction. People do not drive as well when using cellphones. I see a lot of drivers doing odd things and many of them are using cellphones.

Did you know that there are about a dozen car accidents A DAY! in Halifax. That means that someone made enough of a boo-boo to actually dent their car, usually with another car involved. Think about that! That is a lot of accidents in a year.

If bike commuters and pedestrians were as aggressive and distracted as your average driver, the accident rate would sky-rocket. It doesn't because bikers and walkers cannot afford an accident with a car.

To stay alive as a bike commuter, you drive as if you are invisible. But there are many situations in which you just have to believe that the driver is aware of you.

Here is a specific example of an aggressive, distracted driver and why it means I had to stop biking. Quite a few car drivers approach stop signs at cross-streets at a fairly quick rate, hoping to keep on going if the way is at all clear. As an approaching bike rider, I see a car coming at me quite quickly, that will hit me if it doesn't stop. The first rule of biking is that you need to be able to engage the eyes of this driver to have some sense that they (hopefully) have seen you and will actually stop.

Aggressive drivers will see you and make a determination as to whether thay can get out ahead of you. This I accept and can deal with. Distracted drivers are just that...distracted. The driver's head swivels about as it scans the intersection, but you get no sense that they are aware of you. This is very un-nerving to a bike commuter. Add in a few close-calls with such drivers and you start losing your nerve.

Like I said, I am an experienced, cautious bike commuter. I cannot deal with the distraction level of today's drivers. In my experience, a driver using a cell-phone increases my chances of getting killed to the point that I have to stop bike commuting.

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