Commuting by bike: Yvonne Bambrick tackles the fear factor

With the spring riding season upon us, cycling consultant Yvonne Bambrick speaks to the CBC's Matt Galloway about her book, which is aimed at teaching cyclists how they can share the streets with cars.
The cycling network proposal would see 525 km of bike lane infrastructure installed across eight of the city's busiest streets. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Is it safe to cycle in a large city like Toronto?

In her new book The Urban Cycling Survival Guide, Toronto cycling advocate Yvonne Bambrick attempts to address the "fear factor" that riders new to bike commuting might feel as they roll through our crowded streets. 

In a conversation with CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Bambrick said it was no mistake to include the word "survival" in the book's title. 

"I wanted to address the fact that people are afraid and nervous about [commuting by bike] but also say, 'Hey, you can do this and here's how.' Yes, it can be scary. There are risks in any mode. A bike is just such a fun way to get around."

For riders worried about attempting a daily ride downtown, Bambrick suggests cyclists first map out their route using a website like RideTheCity.com and then try it out on a weekend, when traffic is lighter. 

Bambrick also addressed the animosity that can flare up when cars and bikes share our congested streets. She says cyclist should take time to learn and follow the rules of the road and understand that under the law, a car and a bike must follow the same rules. 

"When people don't know what you're going to do, they get nervous, when you're nervous you get afraid, when you're afraid sometimes you get angry and it's just this vicious cycle. If you indicate your intentions and ride predictably, you're going to reduce your risk and have a safer, more enjoyable ride."

"This is no us versus them," she added. "There's Torontonians getting where they need to go by various modes. The roads are built for all of us, we all pay for them and we all have a right to use them.

"We are in transition when it comes to making [streets] work better for everybody. In the meantime, we have to make do with what we have and if we're all just trying to be a little conscientious and a little more understanding and a little more patient, we're going to have a city that works better for everybody and I think we are starting to get there."

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