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On Balance  

Taking mayors for a ride

The BC Coalition of Motorcyclists hosts an annual event in the spring, when they invite provincial MLAs to join them on their bikes for a run around Victoria and surrounds.

They do this to build awareness, at the decision-making level of government, of issues facing the motorcycling community.

Popular event, by all reports. But not, to my knowledge, mirrored by any similar tour for mayors and council members.

Recent local events suggest it probably should be.

Seems that a cabal of local mayors just rose up as one and did a radical thing.

They wrote a letter. Um, hm, yes they did.

They denounced the provincial government decision to make drivers for ride-hailing services get a Class 4 driving licence, like everyone else transporting small numbers of people for hire.

This, in their estimation, unnecessarily and unfairly impedes the development of ride hailing.

Now, as a motorcyclist with a keen appreciation of traffic safety, I know a thing or two about licensing. And we’ll come on to that in a bit, but first, following the excellent example of the BCCOM, I thought we should take the mayors for a local ride.

Saddle up, gentlemen.

We’re touring Kelowna, rolling along Highway 97 from the area near City Hall, toward Orchard Park, and then out as far as the Sexsmith Road junction.

Six lanes of traffic, all of it moving well above the local speed limits, as you do. Lots of level crossings, lighted intersections, access roads.

Lots of drivers of all sorts of vehicles demonstrating their usual habits and their various understandings of traffic law.

Man, it’s a busy space. No wonder ICBC doesn’t do road tests along here, eh?

  • How’s that helmet and jacket working for you?
  • Feeling really confident beside those cars and trucks?
  • Trusting, even?
  • Relaxed, in the certain knowledge that all those drivers are well up to the task, right?

Ah, here’s Orchard Park, we’ll do a lap around it to spend some quality time on Springfield, then off to a famous centre for roadside comestibles at Sexsmith.

Off you get, ease out of the bash hat, and let’s talk.

In that little ride, we’ve made it through the 10 highest crash rate intersections in the Southern Interior.

This is the region that has the highest rate of fatal crashes in the province, far out of proportion to our share of the provincial population. 

And the Thompson-Okanagan Highway 97 corridor is where the going is at it’s very worst. ICBC’s crash maps make it pretty plain.

We just rode through the heart of that corridor. This is the epicentre of traffic safety concerns.

Let’s trot back down the road again, see if we can get to No. 1 on the list, the very well-known and much-loved 97 and Spall Road.

Sorry, didn’t catch that, something about “not on the back of that thing”? Where’s your trust?

Standing at the side of the road, a few steps from yet another of the famous roadside eateries, we can spend awhile just watching normal driver behaviour. As I did, a week ago, with a group of other riders concerned about traffic safety.

We’re going to watch those red-light cameras flash, many times, in our half hour with coffee.

We’ll watch in fascinated horror as driver after driver races toward an amber light, whistling past others about to make last-minute left turns.

We’ll flinch as yet another group of drivers file nose-to-heel across the intersection, the first under an amber, then the next two under the red.

And then there’s the “efficiency experts” who race from their left turns all the way straight across three lanes to get into the gas station.

  • No signal
  • no shoulder check
  • no proper lane changing,
  • full bore.

All completely normal, every-day stuff. Performed by a legion of every-day, Class 5 licensed drivers.

You know the ones; the drivers who “don’t need” to undertake any further review or testing before they’re entrusted with the professional role of transporting vulnerable people.

No point in them going through the Class 4 licensing procedures, you say.

Well, here’s the thing about licensing. It may not be a perfect system, by any means. But in a world where 27% of fatally injured motorcyclists were riding without a valid Class 6 motorcycle licence, we have a very acute sense of how important that little extra piece of paper really is.

Typically, around 20% of fatally injured drivers – same thing.

And, thinking about that chauffeur role, 31% of the passengers who died in Canada in 2017 were not wearing a seat belt. A driver’s responsibility.

Licensing, and the licensing process, matter. Just like in firefighting, each level of certification means a renewed and upgraded competency. Like a person would want, putting their life in someone else’s hands.

Riders without a Class 6: think on.

Your Honourable Worships, you, too. How you getting back?

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About the Author

Bill Downey is a retired professional social worker in support programs for people with congenital or acquired physical and cognitive challenges, who was also a volunteer firefighter and a BCGEU health and safety advocate.

For many years, he has been a motorcycle riding coach/instructor with Kelowna Safety Council who spends too much time studying international traffic safety research and not enough time doing all the outdoor things a boy from the Okanagan should be doing.

He has lived a very large portion of his life on two wheels as a commuting and travelling cyclist, but, for the extra challenge, he is also as a motorcycle commuter.

By nature, he has a balanced approach to all things.

[email protected]https://kdsc.bc.ca



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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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