dandySAFETY #3: getting around obstructions in the bike lane

This bin was blocking the bike lane on Shuter Street for months

dandySAFETY #3: how to move around an obstruction in the bike lane
Featuring guest columnist Binny McBinnerson

Binny McBinnerson

What better place to get advice on how to get around an obstruction in the bike lane, then from an obstruction in the bike lane? My name is Binny McBinnerson and I have been blocking the bike lane on Shuter for many months. Hahaha, suck it cyclists. I have no idea what you are all complaining about, there are well over four inches to scoot by in, but for those who care not for the daredevil lifestyle here are a couple of tips:

What some of you simian cyclists don't understand is that bar you hang on to turns, so you can go into the next lane. Simple, right? Not so. Let's say you are dealing with a car in the bike lane. Then there are a couple of things you have to watch out for.

First thing – according to my son, who has been successfully blocking a bike lane at Annette and Keele – is that you need to make sure there are no other cyclists or car drivers behind you.

There are two ways you can get around an awesome blockage in the bike lane, let it be cars or a beautiful bin like myself. So let us go through my first observation of how people get around an obstruction, for example, me. The first group of cyclists who try and go around moi, are the ones that creep by as close as possible. If I was a car I would open my door and whack you, but luckily I am just a bin.

According to my cousin Dumpy in New York City, you actually have to get a little aggressive to get around obstructions.

Do a shoulder check to make sure the area beside you is clear. Next, signal your intention to move into the next lane (usually the left lane). There are lots of ways to do this, but probably the best would be to stick your paw out. Do another shoulder check just in case another cyclist or a car has snuck up on you and when you know when the way is clear, move into the next lane. Once you are past the obstruction – whether it is glorious me or just a pathetic little car – put your arm in the direction you want to go to get back into the bike lane and then move back in.

Things you have to remember:

For the most part car drivers are afraid of cyclists and don’t want to run them down. If you signal, they are happy to let you do whatever you want because they really don’t want to kill you.

Make sure you slow down and glare at the driver, but if it's a bin then smile and wave. Bins appreciate that.

Make sure that you look out for other cyclists coming up from behind you.

It’s better to wait a few seconds to make sure that the lane beside you is clear than to wait for a few hours in an emergency ward.

I, Binny McBinnerson, am always going to be better than you. Hate the game not the player and while you are at it hate the people who allow large bin to interfere with your safety and who allowed me to stay in that bike lane for months.


As of this post, Binny has mysteriously disappeared. Perhaps he was a little publicity-shy?


Here’s some more advice on how to get around obstructions from Hugh G. Smith of Toronto Police Services (images courtesy of Can-Bike).

Hugh G. Smith, Toronto Police Service

What is the best way to move around an obstruction in the bike lane?

Always prepare for the inevitable obstruction in your lane by looking well ahead when riding and positioning yourself to afford the best view of any upcoming problems. Riders should be aware that they are allowed to move out of a bicycle lane to avoid an obstruction or to even overtake another rider.

Scan and Plan:

As a cyclist (driver) you will need extra preparation time and space to communicate with other road users and drivers that are travelling with or behind you. Whether it is a parked vehicle, obstruction or road debris, you as the rider will have to go through a system of manoeuvring your bicycle to negotiate around the obstacle while interacting with other traffic.

Be Seen:

Key elements here are communication and courtesy. Getting eye contact along with good clear hand signals will greatly increase your efforts in clearing an obstructed area.

Once you have planned to go around the obstacle you should:

• Shoulder check then signal if required
• Do another shoulder check before moving or changing lane position
• Change lane position, being aware of traffic coming up behind you
• Do not move closer to the curb out of other motorists view until you clear the obstruction fully

Implementing this system as early as possible will enhance your manoeuvrability and visibility while making your movements more predictable to other drivers.

Avoidance Option:

As the old saying goes, if you fail to plan then plan to fail.

If you find yourself without the time or space to successfully apply a system, or your confidence for interacting with other traffic is low, then you may choose to stop riding completely and wait for a break in traffic. Depending on how heavy or congested traffic is, you may also decide to dismount and walk around the obstruction utilizing a sidewalk. There is no shame in doing what is the most comfortable and safest for you.

Images courtesy of CAN-BIKE


What could the City do to make this situation on Shuter safer for cyclists using the bike lane? (i.e. pylons or a temporary jersey bollard to create a temporary bike lane?)

If the City has issued a permit for the bin to be in a 'parking spot,' and it’s clearly blocking the bike lane, pylons or stations could be utilized to forewarn riders earlier of the impending obstacle.

For a longer term, a traffic directional arrow sign could be placed on the road in front of the bin on a more permanent basis, with a notice to motorist of an impending merge with cyclist traffic.


Jim Kenzie will return next month.


Related on the dandyBLOG:

dandySAFETY #2: ask an expert ~ one-way left turns

dandySAFETY #1: ask an expert ~ the Right Hook

Meet the dandySAFETY experts

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