Vancouver Cyclists: We Have A Problem

June 9, 2016

[Update June 15: I've been told by someone who spoke to the victim that the cyclist in this incident intentionally inflicted the injury. The victim told the cyclist to dismount from his bike on the bridge. The cyclist stopped, balanced on his pedals and then thrust his bike at the victim. INTENTIONALLY.]

[Update June 14: I guess I touched a nerve: this post has gotten so popular it briefly took my site down this morning, but we're back up! Thanks for visiting.]

[Update June 13: Since this post is going ever so slightly locally viral, I'd like to add a plea that if you are the cyclist involved in this incident, or know the person involved, or have any information relevant to the authorities, please turn yourself in or contact the Crime Stoppers / Tips Line 1-800-222-8477 or, so perhaps some good can come of this.]

Yesterday, on the very clearly marked pedestrian-only bridge that provides access to the marina where I live, a cyclist ignored the signs, mowed down my 84-year-old neighbour, sent him to hospital with a broken hip, and rode off without offering assistance or a care in the world.

In the linked video, I listened to Erin O’Melinn, the Executive Director of HUB Cycling, the local cycling rights organization, state that licensing would be expensive and ineffective. Now, perhaps because this was a short TV interview, she said more that was edited out. But I was really bothered by the fact that she didn't even acknowledge that Vancouver has a cyclist arrogance, rudeness and entitlement problem. You know who she sounds like with a blanket statement like that? The NRA on the issue of gun licensing.

I've been driving cars for 30 years, and motorcycles for 3 years. I've also put over 10,000 km on my bicycle in the last 12 years because I use it to commute to work. And while Vancouver's vehicle driving habits are no bed of roses, the amount of stupidity, carelessness and lack of courtesy I see daily on the part of Vancouver cyclists is appalling. Would licensing be expensive? Most likely. Would it be effective? It won't stop every problem, but it will solve some. As a vehicle driver, I've taken at least 7 different written and practical road tests in my life (due to moves and the types of vehicles I'm licensed for). Those and the courses I've taken have all made me a more courteous and defensive driver. Licensing might not be the answer, but some type of mandatory road sense education should be part of the solution.

I'm FOR more cycling. I'm happy Vancouver is installing more cycling infrastructure. I believe in HUB's mission. But cyclists as a group need to acknowledge we have a fundamental courtesy and road skills problem, and we need to clean our house.

I'll readily acknowledge I'm not a perfect cyclist. I blow through stop signs. But not when there's a car that's reached the cross-street first and has the right of way. But I witness groups of cyclists regularly hold up cross-street traffic on the bike routes by ignoring stops.

I ride on the sidewalk occasionally (mostly on Terminal Ave where the street layout makes it hard to get to my destination without being on the sidewalk, and the traffic speeds. It's a wide sidewalk). But I do it slowly. With a bell. And give the pedestrians a wide berth. And smile. And say thank you when they move aside to let me through.

A cyclist at Quebec and Terminal blew through the red light and nearly mowed me down because he thought, given he was riding through the top of a T, no cars would hit him. He forgot to take into account other bicycles trying to cross to Science World. He never stopped to apologize.

I've watched cyclists go the wrong way through traffic calming roundabouts. Cyclists ride two or more abreast on single lane roads, holding up frustrated drivers behind them. Riders holding a phone to their ear in busy traffic. Riders wearing headphones in traffic. Riders modding their bikes with electric motors, doing 50kph or more while still ignoring traffic rules. Riders failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, even if the cyclist has a stop sign. Riders knocking over and injuring children on the seawall, then yelling at the parents before riding off, refusing to help.

I'm convinced a large percentage of riders do some of these things out of sheer ignorance, because they don't own a car and have never had to learn the full rules of the road. Then there are simply the assholes.

And if you DARE to call a cyclist out on any of this, you invariably get the finger and sworn at. Once, I tried to cross a street as a pedestrian, and spotted a cyclist coming. He had a stop. He was over 30 feet away when I put my foot into the road, thinking I was safe. He blew past so fast, without giving way, that I had to jump back or get hit. When I complained "Hey, stop!" he told me to fuck off, and called me a cunt.

When we've politely asked cyclists on the marina bridge to get off their bikes, they've sworn at us and threatened violence. Or they argue, acting completely offended, claiming that we don't make the rules and they have a perfect right to be there. Really? That bridge is narrow. It's not made for bikes. It's busy. And as the co-op that manages it, we do make the rules. Is that sign not BIG ENOUGH? It's there for a fucking reason. Because otherwise, elderly neighbours get broken hips. My neighbour has MONTHS of recovery ahead of him. I wouldn't be surprised if he had to move, because boats aren't easy when you have mobility issues. His life is irrevocably changed. So I have no patience anymore for cyclists who act like they're god's gift to two wheels.


These aren't isolated incidents. I witness similar things weekly, if not daily, and I'm only one person.

So Vancouver cyclists, as a fellow cyclist, I implore you: acknowledge we have a problem. And I understand: #NotAllCyclists. But there are too many bad apples among us, and something needs to be done. Check your arrogance, rudeness, and entitlement out the door. Shape up, share our spaces more safely, and show some common decency.

To HUB, I understand you run safety courses, but perhaps your core values should include something about basic cycling courtesy as well. Because I see a very great lack of it on the roads out there. We need to do more. We need to be better, and show more empathy to the other people sharing our roads.

Otherwise more people are going to get hurt.


29 comments on “Vancouver Cyclists: We Have A Problem”

  1. I totally agree. The gentleman who was hit and had his hip broken was a neighbour of mine and is a friend. That someone would ignore the signs and ride his bike on the bridge is bad enough - to leave Mike severely injured and just pedal away is criminal. There is a very distinct possibility that Mike will never recover from his injuries and that is tragic.

    I was on the Stanley Park seawall three years ago and a group of cyclist were stopped and chatting and partially blocking the bike path near Siwash Rock. I rang my bell, slowed down and as I got right up to them, one of them turned his front wheel into my path and I crashed. Luckily I was wearing a helmet and gloves, but both my knees and elbows were cut and bleeding. The cyclists got on their bikes and road off without one word of sorry or an offer to help me. I had to walk home. Hub and their supporters can take a flying leap off a short pier. They want the privilege of riding on our streets without sharing any responsibility. We are paying tens of millions of dollars to create bike paths and increase the safety of cyclists throughout Vancouver. I for one think its time we considered licensing and some form of insurance for cyclists. And the Mayor and City Council should clearly and firmly inform the Vancouver Police Department that cyclists are not outside the law and to start enforcing it. Being polite is enough.

  2. Fantastic article!!

    I am not a cyclist. I'm a driver; and just today I had to follow a cyclist which I couldn't pass because of the fact that it was narrow road (until the bike path appeared at the intersection/lights) I had to drive behind her at about 30kms while she was pumping her head back and forth to the music she was listening to. I don't even walk my dogs with music in my ears so that I can be completely aware of my surroundings.

    Or a group of four who rode along side each other whilst I was on the way to the same work site as the incident prior (all False Creek/Granville Island area) My window was open, I ended up pulling aside of them because I had approached a 'round a bout'. I said you should not be spread out all over the road...aaand..I get attitude back.

    I am sick and tired of cyclists running stop signs, cycling on sidewalks when they have no reason to, and acting like they don't have to abide by the rules.

    What is with cyclists?

  3. Thank you for writing this article. With the population explosion going on in our city now, more rules and guidelines HAVE to be enforced. Of course HUB would poo poo it, it's not in their best interest.
    There HAS to be some accountability for the assholes out there. Just like driving a car, rules are put into place for a reason, to save lives and have recourse for injury.
    I stopped riding my cruiser last year because when i tried to go for a ride along the seawall, the bike traffic was so heavy and some riders were very aggressive and it put me right off.
    I am all for Licensing riders. Should be the same rules for cycling as for driving.

  4. I too am an avid cyclist (and less avid driver but I will if I have too...), and agree fully with your observations. I am often thoroughly embarrassed by the behaviour of my fellow cyclists....
    Granted there are a bunch of asshole drivers and pedestrians out there too!
    I'm not sure that licensing is the answer, but accountability is key. If there was actual enforcement, and if cyclists had to identify themselves when pulled over for infractions, and answer to the repercussions of their actions (like perhaps pay all the costs associated with the poor neighbour with the broken hip!), perhaps it may make a difference.

    Although, in the biggest picture, this is a human behavioural problem of arrogance, entitlement, and disrespect... I see it everywhere....

  5. "...a cyclist arrogance, rudeness and entitlement problem."

    Wow, well said. As someone who's cycled extensively here, in Asia, and Ontario his article perfectly voices so many of my frustrations as a year-round cyclist here in Vancouver. I'm not sure if licensing is the answer, but more education and respect is definitely needed to pave the way for a smoother ride.

  6. "...a cyclist arrogance, rudeness and entitlement problem."

    Wow, well said. As someone who's cycled extensively here, in Asia, and Ontario this article perfectly voices so many of my frustrations as a year-round cyclist here in Vancouver. I'm not sure if licensing is the answer, but more education and respect is definitely needed to pave the way for a smoother ride.

  7. Wow. Thank you. You pretty much explained everything I feel about cyclists. I'm not a cyclist myself, but I don't have a problem with people doing it. It's a great outdoor activity. But seriously, what's with the fuckin entitlement? Your part about calling them out and then them giving you the finger and speeding off was spot on. How dare you call out a cyclist who thinks the roads were built for him and him only. Some of them have the nerve to damage your car and go a route you can't drive. Just fleeing away like a *****

    Keep this in mind cyclists....someday, someone is gonna get really pissed off at you and smash you off your bike without caring about the consequence. It won't be worth it for either of you....

  8. I am dismayed to hear this. I live in the hood and I painstakingly give right of way to pedestrians. The motor vehicle act defines the bike as a vehicle. We have rights as cyclists and we have responsibilities. Some people forget the responsibility part of cycling. Very disturbing.

    Would this cyclist behave the same in a car? Maybe. Maybe cycling education should be a part of school curriculum. It's shocking how little youth know about street signage and road rules.

    How do I know this? Because I teach cycling education in schools for children. They are hungry for this information, you could hear a pin drop in the classrooms. HUB could be doing more, but it comes down to funding.

    Back to the speed demons on the Sea Wall, I'm not sure how best to slow them down. education? Signage? Cattle gates?

    My sympathies to the gentleman with the broken hip. I hope the cyclist steps forward

  9. This is a very sad event and my deep sympathies to the injured man. But we should keep things in perspective. Innocent people are killed or injured every day by motor vehicles. I regularly witness rude, aggressive and life threatening behaviour from vehicle drivers every day. Something happens to us when we are surrounded by a metal cage.

    I've been a cycling commuter for 40 years - however I am also a pedestrian and sometimes a car driver. Many of us are use all modes of transportation - let's not categorize ourselves. We are all people getting from A to B.

    But I also witness aggressive and rude behaviour from people on bikes -and I notice it's usually from people dressed in lycra and helmets, racing furiously with angry looks on their faces. Let's work to get rid of the mandatory helmet law and encourage "citizen cycling" as opposed to sports cycling. Let's encourage people to ride slowly on upright bikes on public thoroughfares. Studies show that people ride very differently when they wear helmets. Let's encourage the transportation riding we see in Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

    Licencing bikes is a terrible idea - which is why HUB doesn't support it. In these times of climate change - we are encouraging students to ride to school, rather than being driven in cars. Do we really want every 8 year old kid to get his/her bike licensed? I teach older women to ride - we start off the road and, when they are ready I guide them on to the road. Should each new rider have to go through a licencing process before she takes her first slow ride to the shops? Will this help us to deal with climate change?

  10. That someone would knowingly leave another injured in their wake is a crime! Unfortunately, incidents like this aren't limited to cyclists - the "arrogance, rudeness and entitlement" extends to drivers and pedestrians too... We're simply becoming less connected and less considerate. It's very sad.

  11. Thank you for giving voice to the problem.

    As a pedestrian, I yell and rant at cyclists who ignore red lights, stop signs and prefer sidewalks to the bike lane right next to them.

    The City of Vancouver has these wonderful pocket sized bike route maps. They include info on the routes, city and what is expected of cyclists. The City is very clear that cyclists must follow the rules of the road and the MVA. And these wonderful little maps are free.

    Perhaps one solution is to confiscate the bike until the cyclist has proven they have completed a cyclist-ed type course?

  12. I agree that this is a CRIME!! If it was a vehicle that knocked over this poor man there would be criminal charges and a warrant out for their arrest.. is there security footage?? I'm sure someone must have video this age of selfies and Instagraming every aspect of ones life you would think it's out there! Just saying we live in a world of disrespect and no's sad to think about how society has evolved! :(

  13. Folks, let's step back and identify the the root problem; arrogant, rude and entitled people. They are the same when they are walking and God forbid, when they are behind the wheel of a car. Forcing a bike licence into their wallet is unlike to fix the problem. Training or may not, and enforcement will reduce the symptoms (and I will suppress a small smile when I see them getting a ticket).

  14. I agree that cyclists need to follow the rules, but I also feel that the type of cyclist that would mow a person down and cycle away is not going to be the type of cyclist that would comply with any licensing rules anyway. I also feel like requiring licenses for cyclist would raise the barrier to cycling that is already pretty high in this city (hills, rain, helmet laws, lack of bike sharing programs).

    The OP admits to breaking the rules as a cyclist herself, and describes some rule breaking that even (licensed) drivers do, so I don't actually see licensing helping this situation at all. And what about the pedestrians that walk in the bike lanes, oblivious to the cyclist they just stepped in front of, or the jogger that knocks a person over o the seawall? Should pedestrians need licenses too?

    I agree that there is a sense of entitlement that some cyclists have so I don't disagree with this article completely, but unless there was a police officer at that marina walkway, licensed or not, there would be no repercussions for that cyclist. I feel bad for the injured person and think the cyclist was very irresponsible, but I would not call for licensing over this.

  15. This is absolutely true. I don't cycle due to a bum knee, but I used to love rollerblading the seawall until I got run off the road when a group of 5 cyclists divided and conquered instead of staying to the right and I ended up in St. Paul's with a broken elbow (my first and only break at 28). That said, running an 84 year old man down, breaking his hip, causing years of pain and recovery and possibly even worse is a criminal offence. If a car had been responsible, the driver and his insurance would be paying for the consequences, why shouldn't cyclists responsible for causing injuries be held accountable? A woman's back is broken a few years ago by the arrogance and disregard of cyclists, and as far as I can see it is only getting more congested, less safe, and more entitled. Until cyclists are held accountable for abiding by the laws of the road, and for paying for the consequences of any accidents they cause, I think it is not only foolish to improve the infrastructure but dangerous. Like rewarding a child for screaming in public with ice cream, this will only reinforce bad behaviour. Unfortunately, until someone dies as a result of this problem I doubt there will be any change (if even then!). If I am ever felled again by the arrogance of cyclists you better believe I will pursue legal action for criminal negligence!

  16. I'm sorry to hear about anyone who gets hurt and all my sympathies to this person in particular.

    But there is not a huge problem with cyclists. Pedestrians jay walk, car drivers speed, roll through stop signs, text while driving and drive under impairment. Also cyclists ride on sidewalks, roll through stop signs and sometimes delay cars by ten seconds for riding legally. The thing is most of the consequence comes from car drivers. They kill more people, injure more people and are the cause of all the traffic in the first place.

    In theory walking/transit seems like the best overall by far. But one major incident does not make it a major problem. This sounds like a tragic, avoidable incident but not one to call out a sustainable way to get around.

    1. I am not "calling out a sustainable way to get around". I'm calling out rude, entitled people, some of whom use this way to get around. If you'll note, it's how I get around. Regularly. Bringing the behaviour of people who use other modes of transportation into the argument is a red herring. The "everybody else is just as problematic" argument is weak. We are specifically talking cyclists here, and while the hit & run is one incident, the other problems are numerous and witnessed on a regular basis. We should be doing *something* about them. What it specifically is, I don't know, but some self-reflection on the part of the cycling community wouldn't hurt.

  17. Katrina - none of us are "cyclists" only - we ride our bikes, walk and sometimes drive cars. And who is the "cycling community". Is there are pedestrian community and a car-driving community? It doesn't help to categorize people - we are all humans getting from A to B. Some of us are rude and uncaring and that's a big problem. But when we are in a car, surrounded by a metal case - we are more likely to kill people. In fact this happens every day and we, as a culture accept this horrendously high death toll. That's a HUGE problem!

  18. Thanks a lot for the article and I agree with most of what you have to say. As you said, one of the biggest thing out there is entitlement and ignorance. For a long time I thought about selling my car and going car free and a few weeks ago I made it happen. I was already in the phase of cycling whenever I can, wherever I can so the transition was the last step. When I think of a cyclist I think of how you ride in a club, you use proper hand signals, you merge correctly, be aware of your surroundings and are respectful of other cyclists... even a wave is respectful. When I think of a person who rides a bike, these are the commuters that rip down 10th Ave. thinking they're in the tour, these are the people who just bought a bike, these are the people who can't figure out how to use a roundabout. These are the problem bicycle owners, not cyclists.

  19. In Europe they ride significantly more bikes then us. But guess what? They actually are aware and look out for traffic in font of them. Unlike everything moving in Vancouver. We just follow rules or at least rules we think we know here, I have yet to see anyone watch were the fuck they are going here. I think we should destroy all bike paths. This would make the cyclists respect all other traffic, and would remind drivers to share the road. Right now the city is a joke to bike in. This worked in every city I biked in europe. They just recognized each other on the roads and paths. I'm all for bike paths, especially long distance, but there is no bike path to my house and straight to work and yet every god damn honkin shit mobile on the way thinks I should be on a bike path...

  20. I am very disturbed by the amount of anger posted here. For all we know - the elderly gentleman could have been knocked down by someone who just stole a bike and had too much to drink......we just don't know. But to use this incident to rage against those of us who ride slowly for transportation is very sad. As I have said before - all "cyclists" are pedestrians as well. And, Katrina, would you please respond as to who is in the "cycling community"? Is it someone who drives to work every day and then leaps on a bike to race around the seawall on the weekend? Is it school kids who are learning to ride to school? I ride my bike for many reasons - but one of them is because of the serious issue of climate change - and wanting to do my small bit towards a solution. Isn't this a good thing? Why should I (and people like me) be berated in forums like this?

    1. Mary, to me, "the cycling community" is everyone *local* who rides a bike on the streets or the bike paths for whatever reason. And if you think I am berating the entire community, you have misread my post. I also ride my bike to work because of climate change—I happen to believe it is the defining crisis of our time. I support more cyclists, and making cycling easier. Our cycling and transit infrastructure is getting so good in this city (YAY!) that many of the young people I know are not getting drivers' licenses, because they don't need a car to get around, and THAT'S GREAT. We are on the same side on this issue.
      But the flip side is that with more cyclists riding around, there is more opportunity for conflict, and too many (note: I've been very clear not to say "all") of them ignore or are unaware of the rules, and when those rules are pointed out to them, have a tendency to get self-righteous or go postal. If they are not taking driver's ed, then they cannot even identify, for example, the signs indicating the right way to go about a roundabout.
      We should be reducing the barriers to cycling, but not at the expense of road safety. If you are teaching people to ride, then you are part of the solution and I applaud you. You are the part of the community that I am talking about that is standing up and educating the rest of us. I'm saying we all need, at minimum, more education, but a certain not-small proportion of us also need to do some serious self-examination about their attitudes on the road. And those of us who want to see more and continued courtesy on the roads should be calling out problem cyclists when we see them. If there's a large amount of anger displayed here, it's probably for a reason, and that's what we need to acknowledge. I called HUB to account because they didn't even seem to acknowledge an issue exists to begin with.
      While I don't disagree that cars are a problem, they are not the issue being discussed here. That's a separate rant :-) and I will not be addressing any "But the drivers!" commentary here.

  21. All you need to do is watch Mayor Gregor blow through a red light while making a right turn and almost take out a few pedestrians to understand that there will never be any consequences for cyclists in Vancouver while he is in charge. This is the guy that is head of our Police Board and he doesn't follow the rules of the road so why should other cyclists.

  22. A biker Awareness may be the answer.
    First, there should be a campaign through print, TV, internet and other media about safety, courtesy, road rules and other relevant subjects a biker should know.
    2. Bike education must be part of all school's extra curriculars and be introduced to young students at an age where a student is just about ready to learn to ride a bike.
    3. Registration of bikes, may be important as it can be tied up to being given a briefing on bike road rules if not being provided with a booklet thereof where a written test is given. Passing the test results to receiving the official registration.
    Registration is helpful in terms of insurance ( in case it's needed), accident reports and theft.

  23. Katrina - thanks for your response, and I agree with much that you say. But I don't think categorization of citizens helps. If the "cycling community" is everyone who rides - then shouldn't we label everyone who walks as the "pedestrian community" or those who drive " the driving community". Most of us belong in each "community". The issue is not about "the cycling community" but rudeness, arrogance and dangerous behaviour from ALL of us in society. I know you don't want to address driver behaviour but when I cycle on the 10th Ave bike route and see a man driving an SUV, driving around the traffic circle the wrong way while talking on his cell phone - I don't berate the "driving community". btw when I pointed out how dangerous this was he yelled at me "Fuck off, bitch!" This was a disturbed person - not an indication of "the driving community". And his driving could easily have killed me. We see this driving behaviour every day but categorizing all drivers doesn't help - it sets of "wars" as you can see from some of the comments above.

  24. As a cyclist, driver, and pedestrian, I continue to run into arrogance in all contexts. Cyclists run lights. Cars honk when the don't want to wait behind slow cyclists (which they must, because bicycles are equally vehicles on the road...). Pedestrians berate cyclists who ride on a sidewalk for safety.

    With three modes of transportation must come three distinct zones. It's difficult to imagine the comfort necessary for true civility when a pedestrian shares space with a much faster cyclist. Or when a cyclist must share space with a much faster and more dangerous car.

    None of which, of course, absolves what appears to be a blatant hit-and-run. But all drivers aren't dismissed as hazardous when there is a vehicle collision, so let's not engage in equivalent stereotyping of cyclists.

  25. I commend you Katrina. To take the initiative to post on a topic that shows cyclists in a negative light is the start for change. I ride everyday from downtown to VGH on bike lanes and the roads. Tolerance between cyclists / pedestrians/ cars is not good. Awareness brings change.

    Specifically for this point at the marina, a baracade along the seawall, a swing gate opening either way I think would be a good deterrent something to prevent cyclists from going by easy access for pedestrians. If you have to get off your bike, I think rogue cyclists will go where there is least resistance

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