Bikes Have a Right to the Road
I live in Alberta, and I sometimes ride my bike to work. In Alberta, the traffic act states that bicycles may ride on any road, unless signs are posted banning bicycles. It is stated in the negative in Section 5, paragraph 146 part (3) as “A person shall not operate a cycle on a roadway where signs prohibit its use.”
On my route to work, which unfortunately must include a few busy roads with faster speed limits, there are no signs prohibiting bicycles, so I am allowed by law to ride on the road. I try to stay right to facilitate passing unless the road is too narrow for my safety, and on some road sections the shoulders are as wide as car lanes, so I stay right out of the way of traffic. Where they exist, I take shared-use paths or residential streets instead of main motor-vehicle commuter ways, but there are no bicycle commuter lanes on any roads between the town where I live and the city where I work, so I am stuck using main roads for a few kilometres.
Last night on my way home, after 20 km of riding, I was nearing home in a place where I have to ride on a narrow section of a main road. There were three cars stuck behind me for about 10 seconds, until opposing vehicles went by and there was room for them to pass me. The driver of one of the vehicles rolled down his passenger window and yelled out “road hazard” at me as he passed. With his attention focused on me, he swerved towards the side of the road, and after he passed he straightened out.
In 1500 km of bike commuting in the last year, this was the first intentional negative interaction I experienced with a driver. Most move over a bit, and are respectful of my safety. Some toot and wave or smile, probably because my recumbent bike is odd looking. Some pass very close by, texting or talking on the phone, or adjusting their stereos or just not paying attention, but not too many.
It’s my belief that the “road hazard” guy had it backwards. It was daylight, the weather was clear, and I have bright flashing lights on my bike. I slowed the guy down for ten seconds. The only way I could have caused him problems is if he didn’t see me, but in the conditions last night, if he couldn’t see me, it was only because he was either distracted, too close to the vehicle in front of him, or vision-impaired. In all three cases, he is the road hazard, not me.
The guy was clearly upset about losing valuable time, and I’m sure he has a highly paid $10 per hour job doing something important, so if he wants to look me up, I’ll gladly pay him the 3 cents I owe him for delaying his commute by 10 seconds.