Bloor West Villager
A Toronto activist wants cyclists on the receiving end of hostile behaviour from drivers to share their negative experiences online.
After a series of hostile interactions with motorists, Astrid Idlewild decided to launch a Tumblr blog dedicated to exposing the actions of aggressive motorists. Now, Idlewild is inviting fellow cyclists who have suffered intimidation and harassment to document their experiences and post them on A Toronto Driver Went After Me! (http://adriverwentafterme.tumblr.com/), in the hopes of exposing notorious drivers.
“The idea is anyone can visit the site and submit something and that way it becomes a collaborative source of content,” said Idlewild on Fri. Dec. 28.
She suggested cyclists make notes of important details such as licence plate numbers and the make and colour of the automobile and to write down the entire experience as soon as possible. She also suggested taking pictures but to be cautious of inciting an angered motorist further.
The site also contains a link to reporting the incident with Toronto Police Services.
In December, Idlewild herself had hostile encounters on two different occasions with irate motorists, each time necessitating contacting the police.
In the first interaction, Idlewild was confronted by a motorist at Concord Avenue and Bloor Street West following his vehicle striking her left arm while she was cycling west. The driver was charged by police.
Her most recent experience took place in mid-December involved a harrowing interaction with an overly aggressive SUV driver near the intersection of Bathurst and Dupont Streets, and inspired her to create the blog, where she posted a full account of the experience where she attempted to fend off the vehicle as it attempted to push her out of the lane.
“His SUV drifted/edged over the broken white line, trying to nudge me rightward. I put out my gloved hand, defensively making contact with his SUV. I was still in the left area of the right lane,” she writes.” This prompted him to sharply veer his SUV rightward, trying to either throw me off road or strike me with his SUV.”
According to Idlewild, cyclists often allow themselves to be bullied because they are not aware of provincial traffic regulations, which permit them to occupy the entire right lane.
“I guess what I’m hoping to do with blogging and Tweeting and documenting is to show there are traffic laws that let cyclists occupy an adequate amount of space and provide a safety buffer,” she said.
Another issue for cyclists is the lack of a comprehensive bike lane network, with existing infrastructure so limited it ends up being confusing to cyclist and motorist alike, said Idlewild, who holds a degree in urban planning from McGill University.
“The approach we’ve taken in Toronto is nothing’s ever been centrally planned or standardized throughout the city in a way that is legible to a cyclist and driver alike,” she said pointing to differences in sharrows, shared lane markings indicating a bicycle can travel in the lane, as a chief source of confusion.
Idlewild, who was formerly a bike courier, said having more bike lanes are important, but equally important is educating motorists of their legal responsibility to share the road with other traffic besides cars.
“It returns to the driver having a belief in their mind they have an entitlement to the road wherever they see fit,” she said. “If they don’t like sharing space with a cyclist that’s when they take advantage of the situation, being a bigger force against a smaller one.”