Courteous Cycling & “Brand Reputation”

Like it or not, we cyclists tend to get painted with the same brush, so it behooves all of us to remain courteous on the pathways, cycle tracks, and roadways. As ridership numbers continue to increase in Calgary, year-round, more and more drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists are encountering bike riders.

I like to think that Bike Calgary members are the most courteous riders out there, so there is decent chance that this post won’t reach the people it should, but I’m going to try to get this message out anyway. Feel free to share this message (politely) with other cyclist.

Please remember your fellow road and pathway users when you are out and about, and take a few small steps to make their experience with you a little nicer. By simply looking at their interactions with you and other riders through their eyes, it can help adjust our actions. Here are some specific things to keep in mind:

  • Announce your arrival, especially if you will be passing nearby – no one likes to get startled by a fast, quiet rider. We recently received an email from a pedestrian who was startled, and was sending a request to SOMEONE, hoping to avoid that in the future.
  • Consider where and how your lights shine, both front and rear – there are some lights out there that are blinding if aimed too high. I passed one rider in a dark park with a bright light, and as I approached, he just reached down and put his hand partway over his light so it didn’t blind me as we passed. I thought that was a brilliant, simple way to be considerate without having to adjust the beam angle or switch to a lower brightness! Also consider how bright your tail light is, and whether having it blink/flash could be annoying.
  • Follow the rules of the road – and I’m not even talking about the rolling stop or that little segment coasting along on a sidewalk when you’re on that last block to your destination. I’m talking about not granting other road users their right of way, including crosswalks. Yes, I know it takes longer and you’ve got to get moving from a full stop sometimes, but it is safer and doesn’t provide ammunition for that driver or pedestrian to complain about cyclists.
  • Make sure you’ve got space to pass – no one likes that moment of terror as you approach head-on, hoping you’ve got enough space to avoid a collision. Take the extra few seconds to wait for a suitable gap. This is usually only a few seconds. And on the busy summer afternoons, when it can take a minute or two, just think how wonderful it is that all these people are choosing active transport instead of a car!
  • Use 311 for snow and ice issues. When you make it through a sketchy spot and think, “I hope the next rider doesn’t go down on that spot”, consider submitting a 311 request to the City (via phone or on the very handy app). It could save someone from a crash and it provides the City with very useful information on who is using the infrastructure and what they could be doing to make it safer and more useable. 

These suggestions come from my own experience – both as the recipient and the perpetrator of poor behaviour. I’ve made some judgement errors about how much time I had, or an assumption someone else would make room for me. And everyone once in a while, I still make mistakes – it’s amazing what a simple “sorry!” and a wave will do if you realize a little too late that you were in the wrong.

Cycling doesn’t provide the anonymity of being in a car – we cyclists experience the world a little more close up than motorists. That is a great thing, and something that makes it even more important to make every experience a little nicer. Cycling makes most people smile more – share that joy of being out riding with everyone along your route.

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