Lots of people don’t feel safe cycling with traffic on busy roads. One solution to this problem is bike lanes, or better still, protected bike lanes, to help keep cyclists separated from motorized traffic. However, when cars start invading bike lanes, even protected bike lanes, you know the problem is starting to get serious.
CBC is reporting that motorists are mistakenly using the protected bike lanes that were recently installed at the intersection of Donald Street and St. Laurent Boulevard. These are short bike lanes that exist where these two roads meet, and are designed to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians to navigate through a dangerous intersection. The entire arrangement is sometimes called a “ protected intersection“.
Motorists are actually driving on the intersection’s protected bike lanes as an easy way of turning from one street to the other. As already suggested in the CBC report, I’m sure that the majority of motorists are doing this unintentionally because they are unfamiliar with protected intersections, and because there are no bike lanes along the local streets, something that would help drivers clue into the fact that these spaces around the intersection are reserved for cyclists.
Unfortunately, I also suspect that a small, but sizable minority of motorists are driving on these bike lanes simply because they can get away with it, or to make a point about what they think about bicycle infrastructure. Nothing illustrates this better than the individual who recently parked his Jaguar smack in the middle of the O’Conner protected bike lane. When challenged about this by a cyclists, the motorist shot back “I identify as a bicycle. What’s your problem?”
On top of this, there are all those drivers of personal vehicles and commercial trucks that think it’s totally appropriate to stop in bike lanes to drop someone off, or to make a delivery. A few years ago Canada Post was reluctant to make a commitment to keep their trucks out of bike lanes. It was as if they saw the decision to stay out of bike lanes as being optional. A few weeks ago, my wife came close to getting hit by a delivery truck that was dashing into a bike lane looking for a temporary parking spot.
There is also the pandemic of drivers who stop in bike lanes in order to text or talk on their cell phones. This is more prevalent on the larger roads in the city’s outskirts. The other day I had to cycle around two cars that had stopped in a bike lane within a few hundred metres of each other while their drivers were busy texting. These motorists seem to think it’s completely natural to block bike lanes this way, and probably see themselves as safe and conscientious drivers who have the good sense to pullover when using a handheld electronic device. They are either oblivious, or couldn’t care less, about blocking a bike lane and forcing cyclists onto what is often a very busy road.
It may be a long way off – but I would like to see the day when driving on a bike lane is considered as irresponsible as driving on a sidewalk, and when stopping in a bike lane would be viewed as ridiculous as parking in the middle of a busy roadway.