Category Archives: Adapting To Your Surroundings

You Are Right, Dead Right: Cyclists versus car drivers debate

A lane is roughly 8 feet wide, a car is four to five feet wide, why the hostility leaving 3 feet for a bike?

 I’ve been commenting on twitter this past week, weighing in on the controversy created by the new province of Ontario law calling for automobile drivers to leave 1 meter (3 feet) between themselves and any bicycle that they pass.

Awareness of this new law has spawned hostility on both sides.
Cyclists demanding rights, and automobile drivers feeling that something has been taken from them. At its extremes, some cyclists believe that they have a right to travel wherever they want at whatever pace they chose, unimpeded, while car drivers demand that bikes be removed from the roadways altogether since they do not pay a gas tax that funds road repairs.

Caught in the middle are the average citizens who simply want the freedom to choose whichever mode of transportation meets their needs on a given day, and if they cycle, only want to arrive home again in one piece.

In my case, I have cars and bikes and spent many years travelling on motorcycles. Just as in my consulting work helping organizations with identifying and implanting improvements, I see each side’s issues and know that change does not always come easily.


Here are a few of my observations relating to these versus cars issue:

1) The language used to communicate the law appears flawed. As a result some car drivers feel disadvantaged as if something was taken from them. Language informs behaviour, and the intent of the laws is to encourage good and sensible behaviour. Here are some language examples in my own words

Paraphrasing the current law, If you break the law and do not leave a cyclist one meter of space as you are passing, you will be fined $180.00 and two demerit points.

(Penalties are unfair say car drivers, but to my mind the reality of taking an unnecessary risk of passing too closely could end badly for both parties. The cyclist would be dead and the car driver could be put in jail for manslaughter. The fine really should really be for endangerment).

Alternative for awareness campaigns, how about: Please pass cyclists at a safe distance.

Apparently some people aren't able to judge, or willing to think about what a safe distance might be, so the Ontario government has essentially said:

We recommend 1 meter particularly if you are passing at speed (as compared to sitting beside each other at an intersection awaiting a green light). In fact, since many motorists have demonstrated that the do not know how to judge what is a safe distance, we have implemented a new law insisting on 1 meter minimum, which in many cases still allows the car to pass safely while remaining in their own lane. In situations where road conditions do not allow the car to stay in its own lane while passing a cyclist, it is acceptable to move across the centre line when the driver deems it safe to do so. If it is not safe, please wait a moment for the opportunity to pass safely

Those are my words not theirs, but I believe that it is a good interpretation. As always I am open to feedback on this and all of my blog posts though. I'm sure there could be some refinement if you or I thought about it more. 



2) While I am at the language issue, why not also tackle the language used to describe other driving situations such as the use of the left hand lane on a four-lane highway.

Currently signs typically indicate that slow cars should travel in the right lane, and the left lane is for faster cars. Since nobody wants to think of themselves as slow drivers, or admitting that they may own a slow car, everyone travels in the left lane, clogging it up and impeding traffic, particularly if the car to the left is travelling beside the car in the right lane at exactly the same speed. Conversly, a slow driver will stay in the right lane close to a cyclist when they could have swung wide into the next lane when it is safe to do so.

As a car driver, lane hogs drive me nuts. As a cyclist I wonder why when the left lane is empty, a car would pass my bicycle in the right  with only inches to spare ?


This one is more easily solved.

Revised language: Please keep right except to pass. (Then move left to pass at a safe distance).

3) Cyclists are not immune from flawed thinking.

For example, my wife and I were cycling along a busy downtown road in a dedicated cycling lane, and following another rider. As we got to the street that we wanted to turn right on, the cyclist in front of us chose to turn right in unison with the car that was driving just ahead of but now beside him and also turning right. A right hand turn such as this one with a curb is known as a pinch-point since the cyclist could get pinched between the car and the curb. As we pulled up at the next stoplight, the unknown cyclists commented to us that the car driver was stupid. I asked if the cyclist was aware that the car was turning, and if so why he didn't just drop back for a moment until the car cleared the corner, to which he replied “ yes, but I have a right to the road. He has to give me room. “

I can tell you that in my 30 years of also riding motorcycles, commuting, touring cross country, and in fact also racing competitively on closed circuits, common wisdom among motorcyclists is that you have the right, but you’ll be dead-right. Why not ride defensively? To my mind the same thinking applies to bicycles as well as any other mode of transportation. If you could avoid a potentially bad situation why not?

(BTW since cyclists reading this are bound to point out that sometimes cars accelerate passed a bike and then immediately turn across their bow, rather than slowing and following he bike to the intersection. My advice about defensive and courteous driving applies to everyone sharing the road.)

4) Another example of flawed thinking I believe is that a cyclist should be able to maintain their own pace as they cycle through the downtown core.

The result of this belief is that many cyclists put themselves in similarly precarious situations and then complain about other traffic. For example, if a car is parked illegally on the hand side of a one way street, and a bus travelling on the right has to enter the bicycle lane to get around the car, is this not just good etiquette for the cyclist to be patient and slow down when approaching the bus up ahead, rather than screaming madly about this injustice inflicted upon them? To be clear I am not talking about a situation where the cyclist has already arrived on the scene and is put in danger. I am referring to a situation where the bus is up ahead and the cyclist catches up after the bus has slowed and enters the lane to manoeuvre around the obstacle.

One more example while I am at it: We have a dedicated bike lane with barriers, allowing cyclists to travel safely to the right of traffic. Cars at intersections have signs instructing them that when turning right, watch for passing cyclists on the right, and yield the right of way to them. The problem is that now many fast cyclists feel they have the god given right to the intersection and I have seen many almost (or actually) run themselves into the side of a right turning car. To my mind, if the car is quite a few lengths up ahead of the cyclist, and has their right hand turn signal flashing, with the car obviously positioned to make a right hand turn, why would a cyclist continue at 40km/hr rather than just time it and back off the cycling pace just a bit allowing the car to clear the intersection before they arrive? To my mind, both the car lane and the cycle lane should have a yield sign, a caution sign or a let the vehicle ahead precede sign of some sort.

I have many more thoughts on this but my final thought for today is that some people seem to lack the ability to see the bigger picture and therefore constantly feel that people are doing things to them.

This often results in a passive aggressive stance such as car drivers trying to “dust a cyclist off the road” by passing them uncomfortably close to make a point, or a cyclist intentionally putting themselves in harms way for the same reason.

The reality though is that other than the most damaged people in society, most just want to go about their business without drama, and arrive home in one piece rather than being sent on a trip to jail or the cemetery.

Many cyclist enjoy driving and riding and just want to be safe in either situation with a little buffer in between.

What about cycling on sidewalks away from cars?

First of all in many cities and towns that is illegal. A road bike can travel between 25 and 40km/hr on a flat section of road. Pedestrian walkways are not the best place to put a fast moving vehicle relative to pedestrians.

In addition, as pedestrian I often have difficulty navigating a sidewalk as groups of people walk towards me four abreast, not wanting to miss out on the conversation or moving over. 

The bottom line I believe is that these issues are about considerate people versus those who are not, regardless of transportation mode.   


multi modal
Multi-modal Transportation infrastructure





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Happy Nunavut Day! – July 9th.

My calendar popped up reminding me that today is Nunavut day. Nunavut is one of Canada’s northern territories to the east, and its capitol city is Iqaluit (pronounced Ikaluit).

Iqaluit sits on Baffin Island and is closer to the country of Greenland than it is to the US border. Nunavut sometimes needs consultants. When I was working there in March I joked (in my best Sarah Palin voice) that I could see Greenland from my office.

Iqaluit is situated on the shores of Frobisher Bay. Early explorers looking for a northwest passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic Ocean discovered the bay. To the south is Hudson’s Bay. 

One of the earliest Hudson Bay company trading posts is located here. (The crowd behind me is a Hollywood movie crew shooting on location. I'm sworn to secrecy until it hits the big screen).

Happy Nunavut Day!

pack ice
pack ice
The bay
The Bay

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Gut wrenching or going with your gut

Every week I see business leaders, their direct reports and front line employees making “gut feeling” decisions.

Much has been written on the benefits of going with your gut, and the worst decisions tend to be ones where your analytical mind is telling your one thing but your gut is sounding off all sorts of alarms, so, yes, going with your gut has some validity, however:

1) Are you going exclusively with your gut or is your opinion informed?
2) Do you know why you are comfortable or uncomfortable with a situation?
3) Have you confronted the facts?

I could list a myriad of additional questions to consider but my point is that there is a vast difference between going with your gut because it is sending off warning signals, and simply feeling that everything will work out fine because you feel it.

Facts are facts. You can't ignore them yet many people chose to, and they make their gut the scapegoat for ignorance of the facts. How a person processes the facts is an entirely different discussion from accepting the facts.

Somewhere around 1984 an executive at the hospital where I worked informed me that there are three types of people. You have undoubtedly heard of at least two of these types by now, the optimist and the pessimist. The optimist sees the glass half full while the pessimist sees the glass half empty.

She saw herself as a third type, the realist, and recognized that if she stayed around long enough someone was going to have to wash that glass. Funding cuts had been announced. Some workers were pessimistic and wrung their hands as they waited to lose their jobs, others were optimistic that their value was significant enough that they would not be affected at all. Meanwhile my executive mentor wisely began making plans and taking swift action to make changes within her control before someone else imposed changes out of her control.

Your gut may guide you, but seeing people ignoring the facts gives me a stomachache.

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You Otter Know…

In January 2012 I posted a blog entry regarding a mysterious trail left on the ice in our back yard after a sudden climate change.(Here is the link to the original post)

If you hadn’t determined what the creature was even after my clever clues, the picture below will provide the answer. This picture was taken on a neighbor’s dock this fall, just as the cooler fall weather was setting in. It appears that a mate was found this summer and that evolutional stability is continuing on with the next generation, and they are certainly not having any difficulty adapting to their surroundings.



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Change Management or Managing Change

 I am often brought in to organizations to help with a change initiative. Change can mean many things depending on where you sit in an organization. At senior levels, change often means organizational change, while at technical levels this often is interpreted as controlling or preventing change.

Change management should be looked at as a way to enable changes that have been deemed necessary when looked at strategically.

My complaint with how many managers view change is that it is a one time tactical implementation of something, be it realigning staff with new positions or installing some new piece of technology.

Change in my opinion should be viewed holistically rather than each component in isolation. Strategically the business wants to move in a certain direction, and tactically many things have to align to make that happen. Change management at a business level may include modifying behaviors, and at a technical level modifying the technology to support that.

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Growlers – How Do You Adapt to Change?

Well, today I learned even more about Growlers. I had the spelling all wrong, but pronounced correcty. It seems that it is an evolutionary thing (in both species and language).

Growlers - Grolars - Grolar Bears -

Q- What do you get when you cross a Grizzly bear with a Polar bear?

A- a growler! (...which apparently sounds more menacing than a pizzly).

bear 1
Grizzly airport

The result of Grizzlies following the caribou further north (now that recent years have been warmer), and the polar bears (left without summer ice to hang out on the way they used to).

BUT WAIT - before anyone gets their global warming nickers in a twist lets consider this:

The grizzly bear is thought to have descended from brown bears that came from Russia to Alaska. According to wikpidia this happened 100,000 years ago, and they lived in the north for 87,000 years. Somewhere along the way they evolved into grizzly bears and moved south 13,000 years ago.

So here we are many years later and the grizzlies have come back to visit their relatives who stayed behind and evolved into polar bears. The two meet again and apparently hit it off quite well.

The real question is "where were the environmentalists 100,000 years ago when we needed someone to prevent the Russian bears from crossing over as a result of global cooling?"

Perhaps they should have also been around 13,000 years ago to capture and isolate these odd offspring before they migrated south?

With all this ice disappearing, the polar bear is adapting by selecting a mate that gives them brown paws like a grizzly and white coats like a polar bear. Presumably this will be an advantage when it comes to hunting the offspring created when ringed seals from the west meet harp seals from the east for the first time. 

Things change. The real question is how do you adapt to change? In the corporate world as in nature, things do not need to continue to exist in their current form simply because they always have. Sometimes new entities are created that are better suited to the current environment than are the old form that they replaced.

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Adapting to Your Surroundings

 Winter came late this year and the river behind our house only recently froze solid. When I went down to check out the ice I found these peculiar tracks.


Every winter a group of coyotes make their way along the river, and at first glance this looked like their footprints but it wasn’t, but what was it?

Perhaps it was some prehistoric life form climbing out of the primordial ooze, something forced to adapt to its environment that has suddenly changed. If I had only arrived a few minutes earlier would I have witnessed a change so dramatic that it defies the laws of natural evolution as hypothesized by paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould?

Gould postulated that while most evolution is marked by long periods of evolutionary stability, it is punctuated by rare instances of branching evolution. Just as I have observed in my own work with corporations, real change is a result of rapid bursts of change at irregular (punctuated) intervals. Trusting natural evolution to create necessary change can take forever. Further, if change does begin, it is not unusual for those creatures who have not changed, to reject it, and squash it before it gains a foothold in the environment, thus maintaining the status quo. In corporate environments that change has to be nurtured, supported and in many cases, valiantly protected.

As for my back yard, the question remains: What was the sudden change that caused this creature to leave evidence of its own rapid evolution?


You can decide for yourself based on the evidence that I have provided, however, a better question that you "otter" consider is what will your own evolution look like, and what direction will it take you?



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