Yesterday I decided to try riding on the road from Bowness to downtown instead of using the adjacent and parallel bikepath, in order to see what would happen in the way of motorist aggression. I've posted my GPS tracklog on mtbguru.com.
Okay, it was a Saturday afternoon with light traffic, not a rush hour populated with stressed-out commuters, but I counted more than 40 cars that passed me on Memorial Drive, starting the count at Shaganappi Trail and ending at 10 St NW. Not one of the motorists honked a horn at me or came too close for my liking. I was surprised, actually.
I always ride with a glasses-mounted rear-view mirror so I was able to continually monitor the approaching traffic while I rode at least 1m from the curb (both to avoid rough pavement and to give me room to dodge if needed). I noticed that many drivers actually changed lanes as they approached, or moved half-way into the other lane.
So will I now start riding on Memorial Drive instead of using the adjacent bikepaths? Well, no. Even though I was riding a cross bike and could maintain close to 30 km/h (into a moderate SE headwind), I felt quite vulnerable on the stretch of road east of Crowchild Trail where the speed limit is 70 km/h. The lanes aren't particularly wide so I'm definitely affecting other traffic along that section. Even though no one acted aggressively against me, the situation was probably atypical. I can't say I was relaxed during that ride.
On the other hand, when I ride on the bikepaths I never have to worry about being struck from behind and killed or injured by a motor vehicle (if you ride on the roads and don't have this concept somewhere in the back of your mind you may not be playing with a full deck). And really, what did I gain by riding on Memorial Drive? At an average speed of 30 km/h, that 10 km/h trip would take 20 minutes. On the pathway, where I could realistically average 25 km/h without fear of getting a speeding ticket (slowing for other users as appropriate, of course), that trip would take 24 minutes. Four minutes extra seems like a cheap price to pay for the peace of mind I get on the pathway.
What's your take on this choice?