Congestion Hurts Cyclists

I am not a cyclist, but a motorist. However, I know for a fact that I am the only motorist that personally thanks cyclists whenever I can for risking their lives to leave just a bit more room for me and, of course, our City Councilors, (who should be very glad cyclists can't influence an election).

This just came to me in a personal email from Toronto cyclist-blogger, Darren:

Traffic congestion is a mixed blessing for cyclists. The moments when you're moving along at the same speed as the cars is great, but inevitably the cars have to stop. A long line of cars ahead means either waiting among them or, the more likely choice, and more dangerous, of squeezing up the right side. There's a bit of satisfaction in going faster than the cars, but I think most cyclists know that they're in a dangerous position. Drivers can choose to suddenly pull right or doors can open for passengers to hop out.

The most dangerous aspect, that I've been faced with once, is having an oncoming car make a left turn in front of the cyclist, finding a gap in the stopped cars but not noticing the continuing flow of cyclists. In my case, I was in a bike lane, moving at a good speed, but the same could happen when cyclists move along in the right hand lane which is often used for on street parking.

In the suburbs, I avoid congestion for the most part by going through neighbourhood streets, but there are certain places where you have no choice but to ride on a major arterial. I know cyclists have different opinions on cycling on these roads, but I find it especially frustrating, having to deal with cars either doing 5 km/h as they roll up to a red light, quite often in a long line of cars, or 65 km/h as soon as they see an opening in the traffic.

There are two more aspects of congestion that no cyclist likes. One is the angry and aggressive driver. This doesn't have to be part of congestion, but seems to be connected. When you're just sitting on a bike, the last thing you want is to be tailgated.

The other aspect is the exhaust fumes. The fumes can be horrible as I wait at a red light to cross a major street jammed with cars (like Finch or Steeles Avenues). Once in a while, I wear an anti-pollution mask, something I would have thought was unnecessary in the suburbs of Toronto. I would love to see a reduction in the number of smog days.

I didn't expect to be so long winded, but I hope that gives you a good sense of cycling in a congested city. Most cyclists agree that there's safety in numbers.

Here and here are a couple of somewhat related blog entries.

I have heard that cycling rates have gone up in London significantly since the congestion charges went into place.

You’re right, Darren, they have. I was there in January this year, in the Congestion-Charged core and saw about the same number that I see in Toronto during the summer.

There was no snow in London at the time, so perhaps it was because of Global Warming, instead ;-).

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