The winner Is - no one

Last week, I participated in a critical mass ride in honour of Patricia Keenan and the other cyclists who have died during the last 12 months.

You would have even seen me at the front of the group if you saw us riding by; my daughter was in her chariot attached to my bike.

Michael V. Smith gave us the opening talk, which outlined our route and how we would ride — following the rules of the road which we did. It wasn’t as fast as a car would go, but it went smoothly and there were no instances where someone honked or yelled at us.

The 50 plus riders took up the whole lane to stay as tight of a group as possible and to make sure that we were visible. We stopped for stop lights, we stopped for stop signs, we signalled and never once did we think we owned the road.

We were just using it.

As we rode by the ghost bike, which marks where Patricia died, we remembered our own experiences. Patricia’s death was an accident, but it wasn’t one that needed to happen.

A year on and we still have no more answers about “why” than was reported in the news. A request for information, approved by the executor of her estate was denied.

No ticket has been issued to the driver. No case has shown up on the court docket. But I know that her friend who rode with her that day still wonders. Her brother is still waiting.

We can’t make the right changes or teach people the right actions without knowing more about what occurred to result in not only Patricia's death, but all deaths, injuries, etc that occur in Kelowna involving a cyclists and other road users.

And I start to wonder if this will be the same treatment received by the other deaths —James Nagy last fall and Terry Campbell this spring.

But what makes things worse is the reaction of the driving community after the critical mass ride on Friday.

On Saturday around noon, a forum user by the nickname ‘Symbonite’ started a thread blasting the riders for “terrorist” acts by “hijacking” the streets.

He said we weren’t going fast enough. His exact words were that our purpose was “to ‘plug’ up traffic so cars can’t go through at normal speeds.”

The conversation just degenerated from there. It went to the point of a driver threatening any cyclist he sees breaking the law with a “coal roll,” an act where a passing truck will slam on the accelerator while passing a cyclist, pushing a cloud of exhaust in the face of the rider.

It wasn’t even where “LTD,” stopped, but the worst has been removed by active moderators.

You can read the thread here.

While many of the driving users commenting here were complaining that they want cyclists to follow the rules of the road exactly ,it was shown that cyclists break the law at the same rate as drivers do.

This study from the University of Colorado is where that conclusion comes from.

The majority of drivers and the majority of cyclists do the right thing, they play well together on the roads. I know this because I am out there everyday all year long.

Here’s a quote that I think sums up the emotions behind the whole issue:

“Drivers are afraid cyclists will 'get away' with breaking the law: cyclists are afraid drivers will kill them.”

Drivers say they won’t respect riders who break the laws. Cyclists have no choice but to respect drivers since they don’t want to get run over.

Cyclists are stuck with being legally bound to operate in an environment that is all too often hostile. Let’s give them a bit of a break to get used to it.

Drivers, do you want to see more people get back into their cars because cycling becomes inherently dangerous? More congestion because there are more single occupancy vehicles on the road?

Cyclists, do you want to stay on the sidewalk where you are just making pedestrians afraid? Do you want to show that you can operate your vehicle in a manner that won’t incite the anger we’re seeing right now?

No one is winning the war of car vs bike or bike vs car. We’re all losing because we don’t talk. We just assume that we know everything and that so does everyone else. Cycling benefits everyone, directly and indirectly.

Motorized vehicles are here to stay, we will always need them in some form or fashion. Let’s keep talking and get more communication going between cyclists and drivers.

As a cyclist you can give a driver a thumbs-up for the acknowledgement as you ride correctly. When driving, stick you hand out the window and wave at a cyclist when you see them acting accordingly. (Window glare makes it hard for a cyclist to see anything inside the vehicle)

Even though the City has not adopted Vision Zero within its Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan, the roads can be used without fatality if each of us not only takes responsibility for ourselves, but also takes responsibility to acknowledge other drivers and be ready for that moment when we’re not perfect and make a mistake.

Patricia will be remembered again next year with another critical mass ride. A larger ride that I hope will again prove to be full of responsible cyclists interacting with conscientious drivers who all want safe travel on the roads of Kelowna.


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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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