Why bike lanes are good for driv­ers — and ev­ery­one else

Toronto Star - - OPINION - ADAM VAN KOEVERDEN

For many peo­ple who live in Toronto, my­self in­cluded, cycling isn’t a fair-weather ac­tiv­ity, it’s a trans­porta­tion ne­ces­sity.

I’ve been a cy­clist in the city for as long as I’ve lived here, but I also use a car, taxis, Uber, the TTC or a com­bi­na­tion of those to get around. As a driver, I’m in favour of more bike lanes. In my ex­ten­sive trav­els through­out my ca­reer as a pro­fes­sional ath­lete, I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to visit dozens of cities around the world. In fact, I stayed in six of the Econ­o­mist’s Top10 “most liv­able cities” in 2016 alone. It ac­tu­ally wasn’t that hard, given that three of them are in Canada.

Myr­iad fac­tors con­trib­ute to liv­abil­ity, but I can tell you from ex­pe­ri­ence one of the things that makes a city great is the abil­ity to get around with­out driv­ing. Walk­ing streets, prom­e­nades, bike paths and great pub­lic trans­porta­tion cre­ate a health­ier, more ac­tive, more af­ford­able and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly city for ev­ery­one.

In cities such as Ade­laide, Copen­hagen and Am­s­ter­dam a fo­cus on pro­vid­ing safer and more ef­fi­cient so­lu­tions for pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists has lead to their cities be­ing her­alded for hap­pi­ness and qual­ity of life.

Another rea­son I’m a fan of bike lanes as a driver is be­cause I’m afraid of hit­ting a cy­clist, and bike lanes pro­vide a clear bound­ary be­tween where my car should be, and where my friends on two wheels should be.

I’ve been on the re­ceiv­ing end of a bike-on-car col­li­sion enough times to know that the bike never wins.

I’ve been side-swiped twice by taxi cabs pulling a quick U-turn to grab a fare across the street. Once I made it up onto the curb but the other time I ended up on the ground. Luck­ily, nei­ther re­sulted in any more than a scratch.

The worst I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced was at the cruelty of an open­ing truck door. The truck was ac­tu­ally in re­verse. As the driver an­gled into his park­ing spot, I rode by slowly, only to re­ceive his door, which he opened while in mo­tion to check how much room he had. I thought that’s what the mir­ror was for.

I took the top cor­ner of the door on my clav­i­cle, went over the han­dle­bars and ended up in a tan­gled mess in the traf­fic lane. Thank­fully, I didn’t get run over. An am­bu­lance whisked me off to the same hos­pi­tal where I was born for stitches and X-rays. Noth­ing was bro­ken, and I raced at the world cham­pi­onships in Moscow just three weeks later while still scraped and bruised.

I look for signs of driv­ers in ev­ery car as I ride past, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an open­ing door, but some­times they come out of nowhere, while the car is in mo­tion.

I have a strat­egy that I use, when I’m park­ing my own car, that’s easy enough for ev­ery­one to em­ploy and be­comes habit in no time.

Once you’ve parked your car, and you still have your seat belt on, crack the door a bit. As you gather your things, turn off your car and undo your seat belt, that slightly ajar door has alerted cy­clists that you’re about to get out. Now check your mir­ror and over your shoul­der as you open the door into the dan­ger zone. If you see some­one on a bike, just wait a se­cond, they have the right of way.

If you’re a driver frus­trated by cy­clists or bike lanes, try see­ing them each as another car or taxi on the road you’re driv­ing on. They’re tak­ing up less space than you, and no park­ing spots at your des­ti­na­tion.

Re­cently I en­coun­tered an an­gry driver who told me I don’t even pay taxes. Well, yes I do. As a driver and a res­i­dent in the city of Toronto. We all pay for what we use col­lec­tively, and that’s why we get to live in one of the great­est cities in the world.

In clos­ing, I have a per­sonal in­vi­ta­tion to ex­tend. Dur­ing the last may­oral elec­tion, I asked now Mayor John Tory what his pol­icy on bike lanes would be. He said he was in favour of good bike in­fra­struc­ture, and I thanked him for that. So, Mayor Tory, I’d like to in­vite you for a cof­fee on Bloor St. Let’s get on our bikes at city hall and ride in the bike lanes for a cof­fee.

Adam van Koeverden is a four-time Olympian in sprint kayak­ing and world and Olympic cham­pion in K1 1000-me­tre and 500-me­tre. He also is an am­bas­sador for or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Right To Play, the David Suzuki Foun­da­tion and WaterAID. He lives in down­town Toronto with his Egyp­tian street dog, Cairo.

VINCE TALOTTA/TORONTO STAR

Adam van Koeverden writes that one rea­son he’s a big fan of bike lanes is that he’s afraid of hit­ting a cy­clist.

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