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War of the wheels

Around here, it's cyclists. And I hate to break it to everyone, but as gas prices continue to rise, there are going to be more bikes, not fewer, out there.

I’d love to chalk up the vitriol all around me to a long hot summer, but we all know I’d be lying. Maybe it’s talk of a looming fall election (both here and beneath us) that is forcing people to pick a side – any side – dig in their heels and clap their hands over their ears.

All I know for certain is that while I’m watching politicians do a calculated waltz to the middle ground, the real people are preparing to duke it out on just about anything.

Around here, it’s cyclists. And I hate to break it to everyone, but as gas prices continue to rise, there are going to be more bikes, not fewer, out there. I’m thinking that the rush to smaller cars must have a lot of cyclists breathing a little easier, too. There can’t be anything worse than a driver in a Navigator babbling on a cellphone as she sips a latté while cutting you off.

What I find curious is that many, many of us are both.

Most cyclists I know hold driver’s licences, and many drivers I know have a bike in the garage. So where are all these dual citizenship holders when the claws come out?

This is a quote from a Letter to the Editor of my local paper about cyclists: “There is not a cyclist alive who could maintain a valid driver’s licence if the rules of the road were enforced. Cyclists are not anything more than recreational vehicle operators … These so-called road warriors have no place on roadways.”

Oy. Now, I know from experience that the more idiotic the line, the more likely to earn a spot on the coveted Letters Page. But please. Is this really a good starting point for a comprehensive discussion on the future of our shared roads?

I would prefer cyclists obeyed the law. The worst offenders are allergic to stop signs. Just like the worst drivers. Hey, you two-wheeled wonders – cut it out.

I won’t let my sons ride on the busy streets around us. Doesn’t matter if there are bike lanes or not, if there is contact, a bike loses. Every time. And in our car-giddy society, too many drivers still believe the car is king. These are the same drivers that are always shocked – shocked, I tell you – when a pedestrian tries to use a crosswalk. Do not crowd someone walking. It is rude. They usually hate motorcycles, too. Bicycles are just the worst combination of all the things they hate.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and declare that all cyclists indeed know the rules of the road. And that many are licensed drivers. You want more respect? Use the rules. Stop when you’re supposed to. Make eye contact with drivers.

And drivers? Acknowledge those riders that are taking a car off the road and easing congestion. Get used to bikes, scooters, mopeds and all the other conveyances that will be hitting the road in the near future.

As with most contentious issues, you can bitch about it, or you can do something. Hopefully, enough drivers trying to change will meet up with enough cyclists doing the same – and the warrior label can be left to the video games.

Lorraine Sommerfeld’s column appears Saturday in Wheels and Mondays in Living. www.lorraineonline.ca

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