Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I don't always hit cyclists...

...but when I do, I prefer the 600 block of West 10th Avenue.

It is... the Most Dangerous Block In The World.

Here's an annotated map of my immediate surroundings. The compass points are where you'd expect them to be.

I cycle in from the East on the 10th Ave bike route, and turn right on Heather Street (another bike route) to get into my building (marked A). My commute is a total of about 6km, and I have a massively disproportionate number of my near misses with cars in the last block and a half of it . It is a very, very busy area in the mornings, especially now the Canada Line section of the SkyTrain is up and running. People are coming and going to work, the gym, the supermarket (access to the latter two sites is at the North-West corner of the green rectangle), trying to park before heading to the airport or downtown on the SkyTrain... and City Hall is just off the map to the East (I didn't include it because the image was already too wide).

More importantly, there's not enough off-street parking for patients coming to our clinical building over the road, and many of them use the metered parking on the surrounding streets. They might be coming in for a diagnosis, or for chemo, or radiation, and they're understandably anxious and distracted. This adds up to an awful lot of people pulling in and out of parking spots without checking for bikes. Add in the overflow of Vancouver General Hospital patients and visitors (including extremely anxious and distracted people who just got a call telling them to come to Emergency RIGHT NOW), plus ambulances coming and going from VGH and our clinical building, and you have a recipe for disaster. The only thing I could possibly do that is more dangerous than cycling my current route would be to turn right one block earlier and try to make a left turn from Ash Street, on a steep downhill slope, into the back alley where the door that leads to the bike room and showers is located.

Oh well, when I (almost inevitably) get hit, like several of my colleagues (cyclists and pedestrians) before me, at least there'll be lots of doctors around to help me. Which reminds me to be nice to my clinical colleagues, even though they're the last ones to get their CVs to me before a grant deadline again.


  1. My PhD supervisor got hit twice in your area when he was a younger lad. The worst part was that the second time he had no ID, because, you know, he was biking. He was delusional in the hospital for almost a day before an EMT friend of his recognized him and contacted his wife.

  2. Yikes. I'm glad they worked it out and that he's (presumably) OK! I always carry my wallet and phone at a minimum while cycling.

    My PhD supervisor cycled into a canal while drunk. TWICE. (In different cities, both times loooong before he became a PI). The second time, he had the lab's set of carefully annotated and cross-referenced abstract notecards in his panniers.

  3. Driving to and from work, pedestrians and cyclists scare the crap out of me almost every day. Drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians around here mostly live by the rule that it's everyone else's responsibility to watch out for them, while they don't have to pay more than the most cursory attention to what's going on around them. People on foot and bikes tend to cross streets wherever and whenever they have the chance, or else they stand 5 feet out in the street looking like they want to cross, but just stare at you if you stop for them. Meanwhile, the more aggressive drivers will speed up when they see people starting to cross so that they can blow by the crosser before they get too far out in the road. It's a miracle that there are not more accidents, especially in city areas where there is an especially high concentration of careless people.

    On the plus side, the part of my commute with the highest concentration of careless pedestrians is indeed right next to a hospital, so at least a quick response is guaranteed.

  4. This is why I don't cycle on city streets.

    Quite a story, Prof-like Substance. At least you always carry your ID on you, Cath. My husband's PI once got hit while on his bike, too--what is it about PIs and bikes?

  5. I was hit several times during grad school and was forced to ride aggressively and offensively in order to be more visible. Don't be afraid to let drivers know if they've come too close to you. A swift kick with the cleats facing out or a sharp hit with the pump on the side of their car usually gets their attention. ALWAYS wear a helmet, flashing lights and reflective gear and NEVER run red lights or stop signs.

  6. Partly why I wanted my tattoo, in case something happened and my id got away. At least my parents/family would have some kind of id possible.... gruesome but it has a small ring of truth to it.

    Hope all of you have safe rides!!!

  7. RPS77, there are idiots using every mode of transportation! I agree that some cyclists especially seem to be doing their best to give the rest of us a bad name, but everyone really does treat this area with a lot of respect. You can be cycling along at >1 car door's distance from the parked cars, and then an ambulance comes the other way forcing you closer (it's not a very wide road), and then someone either opens their door or pulls out into the centre of the road with no warning.

    The "more accidents near hospitals" must be a universal thing! I wonder if there are any stats on that? I guess it keeps the doctors busy.

    Bean-Mom, PIs may be conforming to stereotypes of distractedness and are just thinking of the lab's latest results when they get hit. OR they drink too much and cycle next to the canal in the pitch dark.

    PiT: Helmet, flashing lights front and back, reflectors front and back and in both wheels, reflectors built in to my helmet, jacket, pants, gloves, and panniers. I've been told I look like a Christmas tree on wheels. I also secure my lock to the top of my left pannier in such a way that it sticks out a few inches past my body; anyone coming up behind me too close is going to ding their car on that before they actually hit me. I've never hit anyone's car with anything other than the flat of my hand, and that seems to do the trick quite nicely!

    Chall, I have to confess that didn't form part of my motivation! My parents still don't know about my tattoo (although they will find out when they come to visit in a couple of months), but at least the doctors would be able to tell that I'm a Celtic Canadian...

  8. Um. My postdoc supervisor was killed while cycling to work.

    Sorry, that was a bit grim. Regarding hospitals, there are several ERs within spitting distance of where I work, so I guess this also classes as a "good place to get hit while cycling", if such a thing can truly be said to exist.

  9. Cath: well, I did have my tattoo as a necklace for like 5 years before I took the plunge ;) but yeah, there was a time when I looked at too many Law&Order and real life "missing children boards" without any distinctive marks that made me think that maybe it wasn't such a bad plan to have a permanent [chosen] marker.

    I mean, I don't like the idea of bar codes or something like that. I sort of used it when trying make some of my family members more positive to the fact that I now had a tattoo (not all were happy, to say the least).

    I guess they'll see it and then you'll know :) good luck!

    ricardipus> I'm so sorry. That is bad.

  10. Haha - I have so many surgical scars that I don't think my family will have any trouble identifying me! The tattoo just helps ... although my father still hasn't seen it.

  11. Geez, Ricardipus, I'm so sorry. I read your wonderful eulogy and he sounds like a remarkable man. Parts of your description of him reminded me of my own PhD supervisor, another "scientist's scientist".

    Chall, my family already had my scar to identify me by... I'm not sure I can spin the tattoo that way...

  12. yeah yeah... y'all have these cool HUGE scars. ;) For those of us who have never broken a bone or something invasive like that (I have a smaller scar that I am happy abou but nothing to write home about) the tattoo does make a difference... AND it is really nice, if I can say so myself ^^

  13. Cath, chall - thanks. It was a while ago, now... still hurts a bit though.

    While we're on the topic - rapid DNA profiling is, I suspect, more than likely to become commonplace, eventually. Although a well-placed and distinctive scar, or tattoo, might still be quicker and easier.

  14. Cath - actually the pedestrians are generally much more careless than the cyclists, it's just that since the cyclists are moving faster there is less time to react if either a driver or a cyclist does something dangerous. I don't want to give the impression that I'm blaming cyclists for most of the problems - I'm not. It's just that the general culture of a lot of drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists around where I live (Massachusetts, USA) is to act like they are the only ones on the road and that only other people need to pay close attention to what they are doing. Combine this with what some people call the "passive-aggressive" driving style, and lots of winding and relatively narrow roads that were originally laid out before anyone had ever heard of an automobile (actually it's probably somewhat like roads in England, except with people driving on the right side and driving big US-sized cars), and it really does seem miraculous that accidents of all kinds are not more common. At least the hospital that I pass by has a fairly large parking garage, so nobody associated with the hospital has to park on the street. The side of the street that the hospital is on has no parking - if it did, the street would be barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass in opposite directions, a nightmare for a nervous, emotional driver like me.

  15. I'm the same way when driving, mostly due to complete lack of practice (I learned at 17, moved away for University at 18, and haven't ever owned a car or driven regularly since. I haven't even tried getting my Canadian license (I have to take a test!!!!) yet).

    I haven't been to rural Massachusetts, but if the drivers in Boston are any guide - sheesh! I was terrified the whole time I was there (it was raining so hard for the whole 5 days that walking just wasn't an option and we took cabs a lot when we were moving display booth equipment around). The honking drove us all nuts... Vancouver drivers have a reputation for being inattentive and selfish, but not generally outright aggressive like that.

  16. I hope you never get hit!

    I shake disapproving fist at the many cyclists I see riding the wrong way down one way streets. Don't they know I CAN'T see them when I pull out of my left-side parking space, even if I do happen to think to look for someone coming the wrong way?

  17. Thanks mate! Me too, obviously... although they do say that urban cycling has a 100% injury rate...

    Yeah, lots of cyclists seem out to give us all a bad name... a brief tap on the horn might be a good idea if it's not too late at night / early in the morning! That reminds me: I need to replace my rusted-out bell.


I promise to respond to all respectful non-spam comments! Don't be shy! Oh, and please don't type my surname in your comments; I know you all know what it is, but I'd prefer Google to rank other pages before this blog.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.