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Writer-s-Bloc

2 or 4, doesn't matter

This week’s guest writer, Landon Bradshaw, is a husband, father, programmer, app developer, and a general jack of all trades. He is also the Vice President of the Kelowna Cycling Coalition, and can be found riding around Kelowna regardless of the season, partially because he loves the thrill and health benefits of the outdoors, and partially because he really enjoys shaving his legs.

2 or 4, doesn't matter

By Landon Bradshaw

Whether you’re a person driving around on four wheels or someone pedalling around on two wheels, you will be interacting with the other sort on 96% of the roadways. 

While Kelowna has the highest number of cycling infrastructure kilometres per capita in Canada for a city its size, the majority are bike lanes that share the level roadway with cars. Separated facilities (multi-use paths and off-road trails) only count for a very small portion of those kilometres.

The death last year of Patricia Keenan has brought forward the costs of what happens when cars and bicycles meet in the wrong way. A driver opened a door, and a cyclist was too close to do anything other than run directly into a brick wall, in essence. 

When I’m riding a bike, I would rather be clipped by the passing mirror of a car than run into the door of a parked car. As they say about jumping off a building, ‘it’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop’. This holds true when comparing getting bumped from the side while riding versus slamming into the door of a car at 25 kmh.

Rather than talking about what happens when bicycles and cars come into contact, let’s talk about some ideas of what we need to do to make sure it never happens. This would be working toward ‘Vision Zero’ - the goal of having zero deaths on the roads of pedestrians, cyclists or drivers. Vision Zero is something larger cities have already started to implement.

First, let me explain where I come from. I have a car that I drive about 10,000 kilometres a year, a motorcycle that is still being rebuilt, and two bicycles that are used in my daily commute for about 3,000 kilometres a year. 

While it’s expected that I drive my car on all roadways, neighbourhood roads, avenues, and highways, I also ride my bicycle on that same infrastructure. After moving here in 2009 I have been riding year-round, and consider myself lucky so far, with no serious accidents or falls.

Let’s talk about the two most frequent accidents between cars and bicycles: 

Right hooks: When a car makes a right turn in the path of a moving cyclist.
This could easily be avoided by shoulder checking and using the turn signal with enough time to spare. 

Dooring: When a driver opens their door into the path of an oncoming cyclist, knocking them senseless.
This could just be a matter of opening the driver’s door with the opposite hand, which would put you in a good position to shoulder check. 

While I point out some things that drivers can do to avoid putting more vulnerable road users at risk, it’s still on the cyclist to remember that they can take some measures too. Often, when you’re riding along Richter, you have parked cars to your right and fast moving cars to your left. Don’t let yourself get edged to the right just because the parked cars look safer. An opening door could come out to bite you.

These are some situations we all face, either as the person in the car or the person on the bicycle.

As drivers, we’re operating under the same assumptions as other drivers, so we have an idea of what they’re going to do. 

As cyclists, we need to remember that the rules of the road are based on what ICBC teaches new drivers. Also, drivers will be acting like drivers, so we need to make sure they see us in a non-surprising manner. A cyclist who is somewhere a driver doesn’t expect them to be takes a risk of causing surprise, with the outcome not being in their favour. 

So, for those of you driving a car, remember that the people on bicycles are out there on the road because they are legally bound to share the road. 

For those of you cycling around, be paranoid enough to think about your own safety but comfortable enough to ride smoothly over the bumps. 

Everyone has to play nice. In your car, you need to remember that those cycling along the roads can be jostled just by your slipstream if you drive too closely. On your bike, you have to remember to keep yourself visible and act as expected so that you don’t surprise a driver into making a mistake that will only cost you. 

Be safe out there!

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Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

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