Tonight, on my bicycle commute home from work, I was hit by a van. That’s it and its driver, below:
Now, let me be upfront: I wasn’t hurt, the bike wasn’t damaged.
However, the incident is typical of the sort of thing that I’ve encountered in 14 years of bike commuting in Vancouver.
This time it was above mentioned van going the wrong way through a traffic circle. The City of Vancouver uses traffic circles as traffic calming measures on bike routes and in other areas. A traffic circle is a small circle with a single lane that goes around it in the middle of an intersection, often used to replace 2-way or 4-way stops. Traffic circles are to be treated the same way as roundabouts: Slow down, yield to traffic already in the circle, yield to traffic to your right about to enter the circle, and enter the circle when you deem safe. Traffic flow is COUNTER-CLOCKWISE.
In my opinion, they are largely a failure when used on the bike routes. My experience is that most motorists speed through too fast, typically treating the traffic circle as a chicane. They almost never yield to traffic on their left, particularly cyclists. And occasionally they go the wrong way through the traffic circle. By occasionally, I mean that I typically see it at least once a week.
In short, I hate the traffic circles. They are only slightly less dangerous than 2-way stops on the bike routes where the cross-traffic has the stop signs. Those are dangerous because often motorists assume that the cyclists have stop signs too, and cross through the intersection while the bikes are bearing down on them at 30 kph.
This evening, it was a van. It was wet, but not particularly dark. I wear a bright orange jacket and had a strobe headlight and tail-light going because of the rain. The van was travelling north on Blenheim St in Kitsilano about to turn left on 8th Ave, which is the Off-Broadway bike route.
The van took the traffic circle reasonably slowly, thankfully. Unfortunately, he took the traffic circle in the wrong direction, choosing to turn left through the oncoming lane. Unfortunately I was in that oncoming lane.
I saw the van begin to take the illegal turn, hesitate, go a bit further and then come to a stop with me inches from its front bumper. By this point I had gone from “Oh no, he isn’t!” to letting out some reasonably offensive and not very creative expletives.
After looking at me, the driver did something that shocked me. He put his foot on the accelerator and proceeded to bump me out of the way with the van. He literally hit the front tire of my bike and used his vehicle to push me. I was shocked. And raging. My tirade continued and I slammed my left hand into his drivers-side window and rear window as he pushed me out of the way and drove by.
I couldn’t believe it. Shocked. The bike wasn’t damaged, I wasn’t hurt, but WHAT THE FUCK?
He pulled over to the curb on the north side of the street and got out of his van. And started coming towards me. After having just been assaulted with his vehicle, I wasn’t going to stick around to see what else he was going to do, so I got on my bike and headed down the bike route. I noticed a car that had pulled over and observed the whole thing. The driver, apparently seeing that I wasn’t hurt, drove off.
I hadn’t quite made it down another block when I decided to turn around and at least take a photo of the van and its license plate. As it happened, the driver was back in the van. He got out as I took the photo and started coming at me again. Again, given the fact that he’d already tried to drive over me, I put space between us. We were having a bit of a conversation at that point, mainly me venting at him.
And here it turned a bit surreal. Somehow we ended up reasonably close to each other and dude just wanted to talk. He apologized and seemed contrite. He was also clearly stupid, saying he tried to drive over me because he had no other option. What was he going to do? Back up into traffic? Not a word a lie, that was his reasoning. I don’t understand how backing up into non-existent traffic is worse than running over a cyclist.
And he didn’t like my language, tone, or the fact I had beat on his windows.
But he did say he was sorry. He apologized many times. He didn’t see me he said. He saw I had lights, bright jacket, etc, all his fault. He swore that he saw that he did something stupid and wasn’t going to do it again.
And, somehow, over the course of the 5 or so minutes we were talking, he managed to calm me down a few notches. We’d also drawn a bit of a looky-loo crowd.
In the end, I just drove off. Coursing with adrenaline, dripping wet, fury still coursing through my veins, but no longer leaking out of my mouth.
So. Motorists: Slow down, yield to traffic already in the circle, yield to traffic to your right about to enter the circle, and enter the circle when you deem safe. Traffic flow is COUNTER-CLOCKWISE.
Don’t be stupid. Next time, the cyclist you don’t see mightn’t be unhurt.
Some helpful links: