Having just come back from a cycling trip in Canada, it was with heavy heart that I read about this cyclist’s death on the road in Manitoba.
I know this sort of thing happens all the time, and cycling deaths can occur without the aid of cars, but after riding 1000 km to get to my hometown last month, I was struck once again by the obvious – you have a better chance of biting it on big, fast roads, than you do on small, quiet ones.
My route to Gaspé began (once we got out of Montreal) on secondary roads that started out rolling through suburbs, then farming/tourist towns. The speed limit was low for the most part and there were no 18-wheelers. There was also usually a shoulder to ride on. I felt safe for 500 km or so.
But then, around Rimouski I think, the highway to my south ended, and I immediately started to get banged around by the walls of air that large trucks blow in front of the them, both coming and going. The road – still well shouldered – became faster (90 kph) and busier and I started to feel less relaxed. More than once I wondered how easy it would be for a vehicle behind me to not notice me (maybe he/she is texting…) and drift into ‘my’ shoulder. Occasionally there was no shoulder at all (very occasionally) and that ‘drift’ didn’t have to be very big at all anymore.
I never felt really afraid, but since I don’t ride roads like this much in France, it made me happy of where I live.
Many cyclists get angry with drivers, whom they see as ‘hating cyclists’ (some element of truth, I think) or ‘resenting them’ (ditto), but lots of accidents can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the piece of earth the bike and car are rolling along is not very perfectly designed for both a high-speed, steel-encased driver, and a totally-exposed, slow-moving bike rider. Drivers make mistakes, just as cyclists do, especially on long-haul highways like I was riding along in Canada. But it’s probably in our (the cyclist) interest to be more attentive than the people driving those rolling missiles behind us. They will win every time.