Bike lanes

Reading the letter from S. Kachuk regarding bicycle lanes reminded me of a recent encounter with the driver of a pickup.

Reading the letter from S. Kachuk regarding bicycle lanes reminded me of a recent encounter with the driver of a pickup.  I was cycling on 25th Avenue, on the paved shoulder, and ironically riding over the painted bicycle symbol, when he suggested, quite undiplomatically, that bicycles belonged on the sidewalk and in the crosswalk. I replied that cyclists are prohibited from riding on the sidewalk and in the crosswalk according to section 183 of the Motor Vehicle Act.  He suggested, again in most undiplomatic fashion, that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  When I offered to show him my copy of the act, along with my driver training instructor license, he sped off.

A bit of thoughtful analysis reveals why section 183 (2) (a) and (b) specify that cycles must not be operated on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk.  An average cyclist on level ground travels at 20 kilometres an hour, and many cyclists are in excess of 30 kilometres an hour.  A pedestrian averages about five kilometres an hour, so there is considerable speed differential.  Add to that the fact that inertia and the alignment of the wheels mean that bicycles travel essentially in a straight line, and cannot stop or change direction as quickly as a pedestrian. In this respect, bicycles are more like motor vehicles, and that is why cyclists, according to section 183 (1) have the same rights and duties as the driver of a vehicle.

Given that we are all, at some point, pedestrians, it surprises me that those that also have the privilege of operating a motor vehicle are not more empathic towards pedestrians. For anyone who has to walk from their parking space to a store in downtown Vernon, it should be pretty obvious why pedestrians and cyclists cannot safely share the sidewalk.

Consider too that the definition of bicycle according to the MVA, includes power-assisted bicycles, also known as electric scooters.  The two-wheeled variety are capable of considerable speed, are wider than a bicycle, and those that I have seen appear to be even less maneuverable than a conventional bicycle. I’m sure few would argue that they too should be on a sidewalk mixing with pedestrians.

Paragraph 183 (2) (c) clarifies that, subject to 183 (2) (a), a cyclist must ride as near as practicable to the right side of a highway.  That means, not on the sidewalk, but on the right side of the travel lane, which is where I was.

Section 183 (3) provides further clarification: a cyclist is not required to ride on any part of a highway that is not paved. So, if a paved bicycle lane is not provided, a cyclist is entitled to ride in the travel lane.  As such, the operator of a motor vehicle approaching a cyclist from the rear must do the same thing as they would when approaching any other slow moving vehicle in their lane: slow, and pass only when safe to do so.

If slower moving bicycles in the travel lane are a problem, contact the City of Vernon, Ministry of Transportation or whatever appropriate municipal government, and request that cycle lanes be provided on that particular section of road.

Kim Young



Vernon Morning Star