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Cars, bikes and snowbanks

March 07, 2011 @ 12:23 By: gordon Category: General

The recent dump of snow reminded me of a story CBC ran last Friday talking about how some cyclists that ride in the winter have been complaining that there are snowbanks in some bike lanes. This is causing them to have to move into the lanes with the rest of the traffic, which is probably deterring some cyclists. I’m not sure this is a Bad Thing.

We get a lot of snow in Ottawa. Consequently, the city’s budget for snow removal runs into the millions each year. Thus, they try to leave the snow at the edges of the roads as long as possible to reduce the number of times they have to send out the fleet of snowblowers and trucks to haul it away. Naturally, this means that in some places its going to impinge on the bike lanes.

I’m not a big fan of winter cycling. I’ll concede that there are some responsible cyclists who ride in a responsible manner in the winter when it’s safe, but I’ve seen my fair share of cyclists in the winter who are not wearing high-visibility clothing and lights and who are riding where it’s not safe for them to be.

As a driver, they cause me concern because if they hit a patch of ice and fall there’s a good chance they’re going to be hit by a car, possibly mine. If I hit the same small patch of ice, the chances are that it won’t affect my safety to the same degree. If the roads are clear then I don’t really have a problem with the cyclists being on the roads in the winter.

This latest dump of snow has resulted in lots of snowbanks on both the main roads and the side streets. In some cases there’s barely enough room for cars to pass, let alone a bicycles and cars together. The cyclists need to exercise a modicum of common sense and choose different routes or perhaps not head out on their bikes if the road conditions are such that it’s not safe for them to be there.

NB: This isn’t to say that drivers do not have an obligation to take care when there are bikes on the road with them, because they do. But the laws of physics are such that when a car and a bike encounter each other, the bike is almost always going to lose.

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