Open season on cyclists

The weather has become better and with the time change, people have more daylight. 

Sadly we’ve also seen a couple of disturbing collisions between cars and bikes.

By the numbers, each year we see more people leaving the car at home and pedaling to their destination. In Kelowna, this number is still a small share of the total, but it represents a growing change that more people are willing to make use of an alternative mode of transportation.

Details were very sparse when reading the news of the collisions. On March 4, this was reported: Cyclist, pedestrian struck.

The following week, the following collision was documented: Cyclist hit by car.

Both of these seem to be what’s known as a “left hook,” where a vehicle turning left hits the oncoming cyclist. 

(A “right hook” is where the vehicle makes a right turn and cuts off the cyclist in a side-swipe manoeuvre.)

Left hooks are pretty common because people are looking for big and fast moving and don’t see the smaller, slower-moving cyclist. They might be trying to look too quickly because the larger traffic is overtaking the cyclist, who disappears.

Right hooks are another thing. People rail about cyclists who are riding against the rules of the road because those are the easiest to notice since they don’t follow the expected traffic pattern.

The cyclist who is riding to the right of the vehicle lane and maintaining a straight line just blends in, then WHAM! A car makes a right turn just after passing the unnoticed cyclist.

A great meme that isgetting passed around Facebook and other social media sites has a message that really hit home with me as a parent.

“Teach your kids to count bicycles on car trips and they will automatically notice them when they learn to drive.”

Another thing to think about in the spring is that every winter the snow and ice overtakes the roads and the City of Kelowna is out there keeping us safe by sanding and plowing.

When the white stuff disappears, all that crud is left in the bike lane and gutter. The City can’t get out there and sweep soon enough or cover all the roadways fast enough, but they do their best.

During this transition time, cyclists will be riding the white line or they’ll be sharing the vehicle lane. The cyclists will be doing their best to keep themselves safe, while still making the choice to be a road user.

Even with mountain-bike tires, that layer of loose sand and gravel isn’t a surface to trust if something goes wrong.

Other things to watch for are the bright, morning sun and the late, afternoon glare. The angle of the sun makes it harder to see things on the road that aren’t as big as another vehicle.

Make sure you pay attention.

And for those readers who will be automatically ranting about cyclists who behave badly and refuse to follow the rules of the road. Here’s a new study that came out this month, Cyclists break traffic laws for personal safety and to save energy.

I’ve been hit while riding my bicycle, I’ve almost been hit by cars, and I’ve even hit someone on a bicycle, thankfully nothing that anyone couldn’t walk away from.

Mistakes will happen.

It’s all our responsibility to make sure that preventable mistakes are prevented.

Spring Into cycling

The weather is getting better, the paths are drying out, the temperatures are rising. What better call to get your bike out of winter storage?

Yes, out of three bikes that I own only one stays idle in the winter so my maintenance regime is the same month to month. Maintaining the bicycles for all the riders in the family keeps me in practice, but that might not be your story.

Spring means that your local bike shop will be offering discounts for tuneups but at the same time requiring you to make an appointment instead of just rolling by with your bike and dropping it off for the hour or so that is needed.

Rubber gets old, brake pads wear out, cables get brittle. These are the things that will affect your ride, and sometimes in really bad ways.

A few years ago, I took my bike out for a nice ride and when I went to shifted gears there was a large “ping” and all of a sudden I was stuck in my lowest gear. Needless to say, my ride was redirected to the nearest shop where I could buy a replacement cable.

Checking your air pressure, making sure that your bike can shift into all gears, verifying that your brakes are going to stop you in an emergency, these are the basics. You can take 20 minutes and check the points that will let you roll down the road with peace of mind.

Reading the sidewall of your tires will usually tell you what the recommended pressure should be. If you have access to a pump that has a gauge on it that should be the ticket, otherwise you might need to hit the gas station where they have the gauge built into the compressor.

Visually check your brake pads to make sure there is plenty of rubber left. Then take a short ride and apply both brakes separately to see how much pressure it takes to stop the bike while riding it. The levers shouldn’t touch the grips, maybe have a finger width still to go.

If you have both a front and a rear derailleur you should exercise both to make sure shifting goes smoothly and you can reach all the gears. Remember that if you’re on the smallest front gear that should match with the largest set of gears (closest to the wheel) on the back, and while on the largest front gear you will use the smallest set of gears on the rear.

Using the smallest gears together or the largest gears will bend your chain more than you want and it will wear out quicker.

Another check you can make is to see the shape of the teeth of the gears. When the sprockets are new the teeth will have flat tops to them and as they wear they start to look like shark teeth. The sharper they look the more they’ll have a tendency to skip under pressure and affecting the chain.

If you’re a DIY type of person, you can buy replacement parts and talk to the guys in your local bike shops to fix it yourself. Though even after all my years of doing this, I still find myself taking the bike in for some repairs that I can’t quite fiddle enough into working perfectly.

Knowing what your bike might need is satisfying and will get you rolling that much quicker. Local bike shops are great resources whether you want to just hand it over for a tune-up or get specific repairs done.

The street sweepers will be hitting the road soon and more cyclists will follow. Will you be there?

And make sure that if your kids are getting back on their bikes, they still fit them. My daughter just asked me today to raise her seat after our ride this afternoon.

Cyclists are all friends

Last week, I went to watch the Kelowna Rockets play Seattle on Family Day.

As usual, I rode my bike downtown to get rock-star parking right in front of the doors.

For free!

There was a father there locking up his bike along with the three bicycles of his kids.

They appeared to be six to 10 years old and were trying to take it all in.

I opened the conversation by asking him if he loved cycling for all the great parking spots, too.

This developed into a discussion about riding conditions, routes and snow, all things important to people who balance on two wheels and have to remember how vulnerable they are at all times.

One of the kids interjected with, “Do you know each other?”

Chuckling, we admitted we didn’t.

I explained all cyclists know each other by shared experience.

We know each other because we pull up to a red light and can easily start a conversation about the weather.

We feel camaraderie just by sharing the road and having to yell out an obstruction or a detour because of the road debris.

Recently, I came across a great comic by someone that really hit the nail on the head, you can view it by clicking on this link.

In a nutshell, “Cyclists are friends, motorists are enemies.”

Two weeks ago, I had an equipment failure.

One of the bolts holding the clip on my shoe fell off, and when I tried to unclip from my pedal I couldn’t get my foot free and fell.

Thankfully, there was a car next to me to prevent my fall.

The woman in the driver’s seat came out and the first thing she asked was, “Are you clipped in?”

Her husband is an avid cyclist so she recognized the signs.

I recovered, she left the parking lot.

Life moved on and I figured out how to finish my ride home while stopping myself every time I wanted to clip in.

Fast forward a week and I get an email from a mutual contact that the driver believed I dented her car.


Neither of us checked for damage after I fell.

I was trying not to smash my face into the parking lot and she was worried about me.

I knew I twisted my leg and foot; I felt it about an hour later.

Being active, I’m used to minor damage here and there, no big deal.

However, the next time we had a chance to meet I saw my right hand came down on a soft spot on the fender and pushed a dent into the ridge.

No paint damage, but I couldn’t deny that the odds that my fall caused it were pretty high.

I gave her a recommendation for a place I trust and she said she’d get a second quote.

Both of us expected that it’d be under the deductible.

As it happened in a parking lot, we weren’t under obligation to report it.

I don’t like the idea of cyclists carrying insurance.

After this, I will still fight any regulation that tries to require it.

But I will be just as adamant that as cyclists we take responsibility for damage we may cause.

No, I won’t pay to have your door repainted if you right hook me at an intersection.

In all my kilometres travelled by bike, this is the first time I’ve been the cause of damage to another vehicle.

A straw poll among cycling friends didn’t turn up anyone else who had a similar story.

In a perfect world, we’re all friends who are responsible for our actions and act accordingly.

We don’t experience road rage over perceived slights. We’re happy and healthy.

We communicate and we express beliefs and problems with cycling in a healthy manner.


We are all accountable

Many drivers think that police and bylaw officers are not enforcing the rules that cyclists have to follow.

On the other hand, cyclists often see issues arising from driver behaviour and wonder why tickets are not being issued either.

The reality is this, the boots on the ground try to do what they can; any perceived lack of action is just the fact that we are just a single person in a single location and can’t see everything.

Querying the RCMP and the Kelowna Bylaw office, I discovered that they had issued the following numbers of tickets:

  • 2013 - 616 Bylaw tickets were issued, 188 Provincial violations written
  • 2014 - 811 Bylaw tickets were issued, 156 Provincial violations written
  • 2015* - 23 Bylaw tickets were issued
  • 2016** - 826 Bylaw tickets were issued, 167 Provincial violations written
  • * 2015 did not have a dedicated Bike Squad so only call outs for the regular Bylaw officers were counted
  • ** 2016 count only covers the first nine months, not the full year

The majority of the tickets that were given out related to riding without a helmet, second highest number of tickets were issued for riding on the sidewalk/crosswalk.

The Bike Squad also issues tickets for drinking in public places and drug paraphernalia, these were not able to be separated so the numbers are a bit inexact.

This represents how enforcement is applied to cyclists for safety violations, the majority of them safety of oneself, second place going to endangerment of others.

The other side of the coin is where driver behaviour is enforced for safety. In regards to issues related to other road users.

Part of my daily commute involves the Ethel Street Active Transportation corridor.

This is the new section from Harvey Avenue up to Cawston Avenue. Pretty nice to not need to ride in the road especially when the snows make the roads dangerous and slick.

This year, the City of Kelowna has been doing a reasonable job of keeping it plowed so that cyclists could continue to use it even through the snows.

Not sure why, but several cars started parking on the path, which blocked the City tractor from being able to do anything for a section that fronted three houses in a row.

While trailing my daughter in her chariot. I either had to get on the sidewalk, not shovelled at times, or get down on the road, defeating the purpose of the track.

I gave them a week before I submitted a complaint to Bylaws to try and get things resolved.

A few days later and the cars are still there. Called Bylaws to find out what had happened.

Seems that the officer hadn’t been able to find the cycle track and didn’t see an issue since there were plenty of other people parking on the side of the street, in places that are meant for cars.

I left a voicemail for the officer, but never heard back from him.

A week later, the cars are still here and the City tractor has to go around them again. I called back to Bylaws with more details and reasoning.

An officer was dispatched once more, but this time, he called me and left a voicemail after finding nothing that he feels is ticketable.

According to section 153.2 of the Motor Vehicle Act, it’s illegal to park in a designated use lane. According to the Bylaws office, the cycle track is part of the roadway under the jurisdiction of the City.

Seems like it’s pretty easy to figure out what needed to happen.

I requested to meet the officer at the location and shortly we were looking at a car that was parked up on the curb over the cycle track.

He explained that with the snow covering the track, no signage forbidding parking, and just a lack of cycling traffic there was a chance this was an “honest” mistake.

Going back and forth for almost an hour and discussing different issues, he finally agreed to issue a warning to the vehicle.

Enforcement is not the solution that people think it will be, for that we just have to look at the number of people who continue to get speeding tickets, or parking tickets, or riding without a helmet.

In a perfect world people should not need to be reminded of what they should do.

We need to be thinking about more than just our ourselves. If we’re in a car, pay attention to what’s going on in traffic.

If we’re on a bike let’s make sure we are acting safely and not surprising someone in a car, remember that being a cyclist is being in the vulnerable position on the road.

More Grind My Gears articles

About the Author

As a youngster on two feet, a teenager on two wheels, then a young adult on four wheels, Landon has found that life is really about using all modes of transportation. Currently a cycling advocate with the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition he tries to lower road rage on both sides.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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