A mighty leap

I’ve started running again. I love running. It keeps me fit, and each run is like pushing the old reset button on my mental health. I haven’t really been able to run since I did an Ironman race back in 2014. The Ironman quite literally broke me. But I think I’m finally free from those dark years of not being able to run. This has made me exceedingly happy. 

I was out for a run today on the Iron Horse Trail, and came up to where the trail intersects with West Avenue in Kitchener. It is an uncontrolled crossing. There was traffic coming from my left and from my right, so I stopped on the sidewalk to wait for the road to clear. The driver to my left stopped on the road. I couldn’t see their eyes, so I assumed they were stopping to let me cross. I really dislike when drivers do this. I know they mean well and are trying to be courteous…but it can be really dangerous to the pedestrian if other drivers are not paying attention to what is going on. 

Anyways…the driver to my left stopped. I looked to my right, and that driver came to a stop as well. So I figured it was safe to cross. I started running, and as I was directly in front of the car to my left, the driver accelerated and turned towards me. It was a mighty leap that saved me from being hit. At first I thought the driver was just a psychopathic fuckwad who was trying to “prank” me by pretending to hit me with their vehicle. I was wrong. Once I was clear of the vehicle, I turned and gave them the best WTF posture I could muster. That is when I realized that the driver was not looking at me. They weren’t even looking in my direction. They were fixated on the driveway they were turning into. I looked to see if the passenger had seen me. Nope. They too were fixated on the driveway. 

The driver had no situational awareness in that moment. They were so fixated on where they wanted to go that they didn’t see me. I must point out that this was in full daylight. The road was dry. It was not raining. It was cloudy, so the sun wasn’t in the driver’s eyes. And there was clear visibility. I was also wearing bright clothing. 

So this week’s tally:

  1. I saw a driver run a red light at Caroline and Erb. The light was already red when the driver entered the intersection. They were heading north, too, which put them driving the wrong way on a one-way street. But what was so alarming was that the driver did not stop, but continued on as oncoming drivers frantically swerved to avoid colliding with them. 
  2. I tweeted about this already…but an old man screamed profanities at me for riding my bike on a shared path. And the old man wasn’t even on the path when they screamed at me!
  3. And, as described above, I was almost taken out by an elderly driver who didn’t even see me when I was clearly in their field of vision. 

So what’s the point of my grousing? 

The more I experience KW as a cyclist and pedestrian, I am struck at how the primacy of the vehicle has informed infrastructure decisions that put other users in the way of danger. Bike lanes that orphan cyclists into traffic? Not a problem! Forcing cyclists and pedestrians to cross busy streets at uncontrolled crossings? Can’t see a problem with that! Building shared pathways that all but guarantee cyclists and pedestrians will get pissy with each other? Sounds like a great way to meet other city folk! Also, if you don’t want to get hit by a driver that runs a red light and goes the wrong way on a one-way street, you should just get off the road! We ain’t got time to enforce rules and shit. 

But I digress.

Some people, for many legitimate reasons, do not drive. But KW’s infrastructure does not do a good job reflecting that. And the infrastructure that does allow people to experience their city by foot, skateboard, bike, trike, scooter, or whatever other way, seems poorly designed and built as an afterthought. 

We need to do a better job of making KW accessible to all people, regardless of their chosen mode of transportation. 

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