Re: Sharing the road with cyclists (The Mountie Post, July 13)
The otherwise excellent column contained a serious error. Cpl. Erin Fraser writes, “cyclists must ride as close as possible to the right side of the highway.” That is not the law. The relevant provision of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act states: “A person operating a cycle must … ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway.” The Act is also clear that nothing “requires a person to ride a cycle on any part of a highway that is not paved.”
Many of the roads and streets on the Peninsula have gravel or dirt shoulders and the edges of the pavement are uneven and jagged. The definition of highway is extremely broad and encompasses, roads, streets, alleys, lanes, etc. to which the public has access.
The meaning of “practicable” has been the subject of several court decisions and often utilized dictionary definitions which include “an action that can be done as a matter of practice” and an act that is “sensible,” or “feasible” based on the circumstances. It is imperative riders leave enough room between themselves and parked vehicles to avoid being hit by an opening door. Other hazards routinely encountered include glass, nails and other debris, potholes, uneven pavement, storm sewer grates with the slots parallel to the roadway, numerous parked vehicles in the marked bike lanes and cyclists who ride the wrong – and illegal – way by facing traffic.
Motorists are often astounded when I explain that to make a left turn on my bike, I first have to move over and take the lane. The alternative would be to ride a block further and make three consecutive right turns. Also, to pass another cyclist, it is necessary to ride abreast for a certain distance.
The dangerous myth perpetuated – and widely held by the general public and by too many police officers – is there is a legal obligation for cyclists to ride as closely as “possible” to the right edge of a roadway. As Cpl. Fraser points out, there is enough bad behaviour by some cyclists to occupy police without encouraging motorists to call in a complaint because a cyclist is not riding within a few inches of the curb.
As Red Green, the Philosopher at Possum Lodge reminded us every week, “We’re all in this together.”
Dwayne W. Rowe
I applaud Cpl. Erin Fraser for reminding motorists that cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on our public roads. Cpl. Fraser goes on however, to make a mistake in stating that “cyclists must ride as close as possible to the right side of the roadway.”
There is a considerable difference in meaning between possible and practicable.
Practicable basically means “as far as is safe.” So while it may be possible to ride to the extreme right of a roadway, often it is not practicable, for one must avoid parked cars, their opening doors, potholes, glass, rocks and other obstacles for safety. Which brings us to the No. 1 fact which most motorists don’t seem to be aware of: one may not pass a cyclist or any other road user until it is safe to do so.
This means that on the ubiquitous narrow roads of our area, one is not permitted to pass a cyclist if there is oncoming traffic, for there simply isn’t enough room to give the required minimum of one metre distance between your vehicle and the cyclist without going into the oncoming lane.
Without exception, every time I’m cycling, this occurs. A motorist will charge up from behind and even with oncoming traffic in clear sight, or into blind corners or hills, they will – in some strange, mule-headed sense of entitlement – proceed with a highly dangerous and illegal pass, either inches away from me, nearly ending my life, or directly into the path of oncoming vehicles. Stunning.
In such instances, the cyclist has the right to “own the lane,” preventing the motorist from attempting their illegal and unsafe pass.
I suggest that if motorists were to simply view cyclists as other legal and legitimate road users, this would go a long way in the much needed attitudinal shift from rights to responsibilities.
Note too that much of the problem resides in the old, poorly designed roadways, and the moment dedicated cycling lanes are created, nearly all conflicts vanish. We need more of them.