June 16th, 2016 by Gillian Dougans

A number of Okanagan cyclists have been killed in collisions with vehicles recently. This is the tragic end of the scale. At the other end is an ongoing tension between drivers and cyclists about the use of the road. In between are accidents, injuries and near misses. I suspect that nobody is giving up driving because of cyclists on the road but many people refuse to ride their bikes on the roads because of the way they are treated by drivers.

Road cycling is a passion of mine. I have cycled all over the Okanagan, from Armstrong to Osoyoos. Also Vancouver, the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast, Whistler, Fraser Valley, Washington, California, and even Jasper to Vancouver one summer. Can cars and bikes share the road? Yes! But it requires an effort on both parts.

Cars and trucks – you don’t own the road so get over yourself! Cyclists have the right to use the road too. Move over and don’t crowd cyclists. Remember that your side mirrors stick out and are a hazard. Check for cyclists before making a right hand turn. You have to yield to a cyclist who is travelling straight through. Check for cyclists before you open your car door. Don’t drive out of driveways without checking for cyclists too. Road cyclists might be travelling at the speed of traffic. Road cyclists have thin tires and cannot ride on sandy shoulders or paved shoulders that have not been cleaned. Remember that in a collision between your car and a cyclist a cyclist has hardly any protection.

Cyclists – ride as if you were a car, not a pedestrian. Stop for stop signs and traffic lights. Get off the sidewalk! Don’t assume cars see you. Ride at the side of the road, not down the middle. Don’t ride two or three abreast and make it difficult for cars to go around you. Use the shoulder and bike lanes if it is safe to do so. Watch for right turning vehicles and car doors.

Cyclists – remember to warn the cyclist ahead if you are passing on the left (do not pass on the right). “On your left!” will do.

Everyone – make eye contact if you are not sure what a car or cyclist is planning to do. If I am going through an intersection and I see a car stopped to cross and I know they are looking for a break in the cars and not looking for a cyclist I will put my hand up and wave to make sure they see me.

The Motor Vehicle Act section 183:

      • Cyclists have the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.
      • Cyclists must not use a sidewalk or crosswalk unless there is a sign or a bylaw directing them to do so.
      • Must ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway (and are never required to ride on a part of the highway that is not paved.
      • In the dusk or dark must have a headlamp, red reflector and a red lamp visible from the rear.

Section 184 says you have to wear a helmet.

City of Kelowna Traffic Bylaw No. 8120, Part 9 Cycle Regulations

      • Must not ride on a sidewalk unless directed to do so by a traffic signal or are under 12 and riding a trike.
      • Must ride in a bicycle path if available
      • Same as Motor Vehicle Act for riding in the dark and wearing a helmet.

Wear a helmet – it’s the law. You are crazy not to – even accidents at low speeds can cause a serious head injury. Refuse to ride with people not wearing helmets. Parents, don’t send mixed messages by making your kids wear a helmet when you don’t. Wear a helmet very time for any length of ride on any surface. No exceptions.

If you are injured in an accident with a car and it is the car’s fault but you were not wearing a helmet and it would have reduced or prevented your injury you will lose as much as 25% of your award.

If you are injured in a cycling accident with a vehicle come and see us about your claim. You will be entitled to make a claim against the driver that hit you. Yu will be entitled to no fault benefits from ICBC.