There’s too much anger on Vancouver’s bike routes, and there’s no excuse for it. For the most part, I’m proud to say that I’ve been a bicycling commuter in this town for 25 years, long before there were almost as many designated bike lanes as there are pot shops. But I don’t want to lord my cycling prowess over you, or shout it in your face.
One of the most positive results of the explosion of bike lines in Vancouver is the physical separation of bikes from cars.
As you’ve likely witnessed, there were way too many conflicts between drivers and riders; drivers often thinking that cyclists were taking wild liberties, straddling the benefits of both cars and pedestrians; that cyclists generally peddle a better-than-everybody-else attitude.
Some cyclists of course think of drivers as clueless slaves to the oil industry, wasting their lives in traffic jams, while cyclists joyfully pedal by, wind in their helmets.
To my disappointment, the anger that often gears up between cyclists and drivers has somehow shifted over to the bike routes when there’s often nary a car in sight.
I take the Adanac cycling thoroughfare to and from work, Monday to Friday, year round. It’s one of the busiest east-west bike arteries in the city. At rush hour, there are often so many cyclists that it really feels like the bicycles have won, that we are the champion commuters. Until we’re not.
Several recent incidents along the bike route have flattened my enthusiasm for commuter cycling.
One was a helmet-less hipster on a leftover fixie (remember them?) who was racing westward down Adanac full speed between Commercial and Clark. An elderly woman was crossing Adanac.
“GET OUT OF THE WAY, YOU F******’ RETARD!”
This is exactly what a young man on a bike yelled at a senior citizen trying to cross the street in Vancouver. The cyclist didn’t slow down. The pedestrian was startled and froze in her tracks.
I was so incensed that I barked at the offending cyclist to ease up and show some respect. He shot me an indignant look and kept on rolling. I apologized to the woman on the jerk’s behalf. She smiled and nodded.
A similar incident happened on Union Street in Strathcona. An older man was crossing Union towards Benny Foods, on a collision course with yet another helmet-less hipster, this time urgently pedalling an old-school 10-speed, likely late for shift at a nearby craft brewery.
The cyclist could have easily avoided the pedestrian, but chose not to. Instead, as if to send a message of pure assholery, the cyclist steered into senior’s path, forcing him to abruptly hold up to save himself from being clipped. It’s clear the pedestrian didn’t see the bike coming.
I caught up to the cyclist.
“That was rude and dangerous.”
“Dude wasn’t paying attention to where he was going.”
“He’s a pedestrian and has the right of way!”
The hipster shot me a look and turned off the bike route in the direction of 18 craft breweries.
Last week, at Adanac and Nanaimo, a young kid on an E.T.-style BMX turned into bike traffic from a side street, slicing in front of several commuter cyclists who had to brake suddenly.
One man, who was possibly five times this kid’s age, took it upon himself to scream at him. “YOU’RE A F****** IDIOT!”
The kid appeared to be fully freaked out.
Look, I’m not trying to come off as some sort of crusading cross between Ed Begley Jr. and Charles Bronson. But, again, I felt my own anger rise up. I caught up to that jerk, too, but this time I chose a philosophical approach: “Why is there so much anger on the bike route?”
“MIND YOUR OWN GODDAMN BUSINESS!”
Is it adrenalin? Work stress? Is the infamous holier-than-thou attitude of the Vancouver cyclist turning on our own kind?
This time it was my turn to turn off the bike route, in more ways than one.
For better or worse, the city has given us hundreds of kilometres of designated bike lanes and routes. If you use them, you owe it to yourself and anyone else who may cross your path to CHILL OUT. This is not the Tour de France. This is commuter cycling through residential neighbourhoods. Don’t give city cycling a bad name. You’ve already beaten the traffic. You’ve won. Be happy. Be nice. And pedal on.