My Pledge

Disclaimer: First person accounts are rare on this site. First person opinion pieces have never really had a place. But, as a driver and a cyclist this one seems hard not to have an opinion on.

The news of a local municipality enforcing single file cycling amongst group riding cyclists has elicited some polarizing responses on local media.

Cyclists are no different then motorists - there are good ones, and there are bad ones. For every good cyclist I encounter, I witness just as many irresponsible ones in any given day - same as a motorist.

Cyclists are on a short leash in terms of tolerance when it comes to automobile drivers. Motorists are in their vehicles with the general purpose of direct and quick transport from point A to point B. Life is hectic and fraught with deadlines - I personally view my cars as being an indispensable tool. The errands of life can seem like endless necessities. My car makes those manageable. As a motorist my mindset is distinct, "I have this and this and this to do in this amount of time". Things that impede those efficient travels are nuisances.

As a cyclist though, even when commuting, I deem this my leisure time. Stopping or slowing along the way on multi-use transport networks, roadways, etc. is softened by the simple fact that I'm participating in my chosen recreational activity. I'm generally more tolerant of my surroundings, even with the person who just buzzed and chopped me in their pickup truck, then shot me the finger to illustrate the fact they despise my presence on the road.

In my heart of hearts I believe the single file legislation is outdated, completely unsafe, and will one day be written to relfect the needs of cyclists just as they were to ensure the safety and visibility of motorcyclists. My goal as a cyclist is to make sure traffic sees me, slows, and goes around me. Not near me or through me.

I will therefore always ride two abreast to maintain my safety, always cognisant of those times that I need to yield to vehicle traffic in a true act of 'sharing the road'. 

No one wants to create an unsafe situation, intentionally anger other road users, or be ticketed, but the safety of myself and others around me is what's paramount. When I ride I know my 16 lbs of transportaion materials can't compete with a half tonne piece of combustible mobility, and I try to remember the same when I'm behind the wheel of my car approaching other road users.

Below is the Windsor Star article in full:

From obscene gestures and phrases to nearly being run off the road by irate motorists, cyclists have seen it all. As one cyclist put it, every time he heads out on his bike, he hopes to make it back home in one piece.

For that reason, you’ll often see a group of cyclists on county roads riding two abreast. Most cyclists have discovered that when they ride in single file, motorists will not move over. Drivers come close to clipping them, then speed away, honking their horns and yelling.

But local police officers don’t agree. In fact, Amherstburg police have started taking a stand against groups that refuse to ride single file. Cyclists have been pulled over and warned if they don’t ride single file, they will be ticketed.

Under the Highway Traffic Act, bicycles must travel in the right-hand lane or as close as practical to the right edge of the road, except when preparing to turn left or when passing another vehicle. The HTA makes no mention of prohibiting cyclists from riding two abreast.

Amherstburg is one of few communities that has a bylaw to address cyclists. The town’s bylaw specifically says “all persons operating a bicycle or ebike upon a roadway shall ride in single file.”

Amherstburg police Sgt. Jim Saxon admits cycling groups have been pulled over and reminded of the town’s bylaw. So far, no tickets have been issued. He said his concern is that the cyclists don’t want to move over for traffic, and someone is going to get killed.

A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday morning, a group of eight cyclists was pulled over on a concession road in Amherstburg. One cyclist said the officer told the group they were “obstructing traffic” by riding two abreast. The group was stunned; it was a Sunday morning and there was no traffic, which was the primary reason they chose that road.

Dan Scott, criminal lawyer and avid cyclist, said he supports the two-abreast formation when out on the roads. He points out, however, that under the Amherstburg bylaw, OPP can and will ticket riders.

But that doesn’t deter Scott. “It is dangerous to ride single file. By riding two abreast we are more visible. If you are riding single file cars don’t see you as easily and they don’t go around us. We make a point of riding on roads where traffic is minimal and if we do ride on busy roads, we are only on them for short periods of time,” he said.

Cyclists may not always stop completely at stop signs but as Scott explained, imagine a group of 30 riders, each stopping at an intersection. Most motorists wouldn’t want to wait for everyone to cross.

“Honestly, we don’t ride to be idiots,” he said. “We really ride respectfully. In fact we are more respectful of cars than cars are of us.”

Word is spreading like wildfire through the cycling community. Some groups aren’t riding in Amherstburg to avoid being targeted by police, while others are falling into single-file formation as soon as they hit the town limits.

“Really, Amherstburg needs to be careful about the message they are sending to the cyclists,” said Tom Omstead, who, along with his wife Sue, helped organize Share the Road-Essex County, which promotes safe cycling.

“Cycling is one of the fastest growing areas in tourism. A lot of bike rides are being organized and especially in the Amherstburg area, where they are promoting the wine tours. Amherstburg does not want to become known as unfriendly to cyclists.”

Scott agrees. He said the town’s bylaw will have an effect on the community’s economic interests, especially the wine tours, which favour the group setting.

Tom said motorists and cyclists can share the road by simply being courteous. “If you are blocking traffic riding in a pack then you need to get in single file. If a car can’t get by a group, that is really annoying.”

Sue said cyclists have to be smart when they ride and in a way that does not “arouse even the most aggressive driver.” 
Cyclists don’t like motorists anymore than motorists like cyclists, but regardless, both must share the road. And don’t think for a minute that cyclists don’t realize they have created some of the problems. Some cyclists refuse to move over and let traffic pass, while others are often seen flying through red lights or stop signs. 

We’ve all seen those irate drivers, hitting the steering wheel and honking over the smallest situations. Just don’t give them any reason to be angry, and use common sense when you’re on your bike, said Sue. “Cyclists just have to make sure they don’t block the road. Motorists and cyclists need to remember they are both sharing the road.”

The consensus with most cyclists is bylaw or no bylaw, they will continue to ride two abreast because they feel it is the safest way to be seen and avoided on the roadways. And, let’s face it: In car versus bicycle, we all know who wins the battle.


  1. Well said Adam.

    I think for the most part, the drivers we encounter when we ride are safe and courteous. I don't generally feel that everyone's trying to run me off the road; most people feel we have a right to be there.
    What we're dealing with is a minority... selfish drivers who treat others with a lack of respect in the rest of their lives as well.
    Simple choice: ride 2-up, or ride single file with a meter of space to your right.

  2. Jeff,

    I think that is a valid point. 2 up is an option, but single file with a buffer to your right is legitimate as well (due to obstacles, poor road conditions - via the HTA).

    I do wish to highlight the sometimes arrogant riding styles of cyclists though when we tend to ride 3 or 4 wide.

    As cyclists we do know that 'echelons' are integral to riding dynamics which mean that we sometimes spread wide across a road. However, motorists don't care about the wind patterns we face. If crosswinds mean we need to echelon, then we as cyclists need to make sure we restrict our road use when vehicles approach from behind or head on. Plain and simple.

    Great point on the drivers minority. I think it echoes the cycling minority as well.

    As cyclists/bike riders, I think that there is still a ton of education needed regionally to educate those that ride. I want to be consideedr a vehicle on the road and I conduct myself accordingly.

  3. Absolutely.

    There are new riders around all the time. We've got an obligation to teach them. Sometimes we should be laying down the law.

    Everybody needs to follow the rules of the road... stopping for stop signs and red lights, giving right-of-way, signalling etc. Little things too, like waving when a driver passes you safely. Every time drivers see cyclists behaving like that it's a bit more deposited into our credibility bank.

    As for echelons, don't cross the centre line. As a driver I'm pretty sure most people can deal with that.

  4. Great dialogue. Well written post. Relevant and pertinent to everyone's future and safety.

  5. Relevant? Damn.

  6. I feel there needs to be a lot more common sense among casual riders.

    I love riding in a group, but am embarassed when I see people riding on the sidewalk, or at night with no lights/reflectors wearing dark jackets on the wrong side of the road! I think its these types of irresponsible cyclists that paint a negative picture of cyclists in general, even the ones that follow the rules.


  7. RESPECT is what it's all about.
    And too many times I've seen groups and individuals proudly flying their club colours run right through red lights in populated areas. You don't get respect doing that.
    Motorists and cyclists need to respect each other and the rules of the road, this can only be done through education and over time.
    This is the place to start and now is the time.