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marcus gee

Dear cyclist in dark clothing riding at night without a light:

Do you have a death wish? Don't you know that you are next to invisible when you come tearing out of the gloom? Don't you understand that my car could hit you before I even see you coming?

I honestly don't get it. Bike lights cost a few bucks. They are easy to find and they come in all sorts, from the white flashing kind you can mount on your helmet or handlebars to the red blinking kind that you can attach to your bike seat or seat post. When I was a year-round bike commuter, I used both. Even hanging a little light from your backpack can make you much more visible.

Are you too cool to use one? Are you afraid your friends will sneer at you for thinking about something as banal as your own safety? Or are you simply a little dim?

Maybe there is another explanation. Maybe you are one of those people who think cyclists are a superior breed that doesn't have to lower itself to obeying the rules of the road. Maybe you believe that because cycling is good for the environment and cars are destroying the planet, you have permission from the Earth goddess to act however you please, drivers be damned. Or maybe you just think that because you are young, you are invincible.

You are not. Cycling is a great way to get around the city and mostly a safe way, too, but there are obvious risks to piloting your fragile metal frame among one-ton heaps of hurtling steel.

The least you can do is make sure that drivers can see you. If they can't, you are gambling with your life. A car moving along the street at 30, 40, 50 kilometres can't always stop on a dime when you come out of the darkness dressed, fashionably, all in black. Most times, the driver will see you and manage to avoid running you over. No doubt this is how it has turned out for you before as you dash heedlessly around the darkened city, lord and master of the road, fearing nothing. Perhaps you assume it will always turn out that way. I wouldn't bet on it.

Don't go telling me that when I'm behind the wheel of a car, it's my job to avoid hitting you. I know that already. Those in charge of the bigger, more dangerous vehicles must always be on watch. Drivers have to learn they are not the only ones on the road any more.

The onus is on them to be aware of cyclists, and, when I drive, I am. I check my right-side mirror all the time, especially when I'm turning right. I check my left-side mirror when I'm parked at the curb to avoid "dooring" passing riders. I listen for bike bells. I leave lots of room on the curb side for passing bicycles. These are my responsibilities when I'm in the car and there are cyclists around, which in downtown Toronto is always. I take them seriously.

But you have responsibilities, too. The first is to avoid acting like an idiot. Don't weave in and out of traffic. Don't blast through red lights. Pause, at least, when you come to a stop sign. Don't whiz past open streetcar doors. Don't dodge across the street on the crosswalk at the last minute as if you were a pedestrian.

And, cyclist in dark clothing riding at night without a light, please, please get one. I don't want your death on my hands.

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