Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rule of the Road

Last weekend, I was visiting some friends who live on W 10th Avenue in Vancouver and we got into a chat about cycling. For those of you who don’t know, W 10th is a major east-west bike route and is shared with motorized traffic. My friends that lived on this road didn’t like cyclist because they basically got in the way of their car and cyclist “rode all over the place.” They also said that cyclist don’t obey the rules of the road, don’t wear helmets, and ride on the sidewalk. They wanted to make cyclists get insurance in case a cyclist ran into a car and dinged it. My friends had a few valid points.

Riding on the sidewalk when you are on a busy bike route is dangerous for pedestrians and unnecessary. Also, people don’t seem to wear helmets anymore. Maybe the police should start helmet checks just like they have seatbelt checks? I think the real root of the issues is that cyclist education is lacking. One of the solutions could be as simple as to provide information on cycling safety with every new bike purchase. The last comment about cyclist dinging car really set me off. I know several people, included my aunt, who are now on a disability pension because they “dinged” a car. For some reason, people don’t realize that when a bike comes in contact with a car, the car always wins. This is why I so strongly believe in separated bike lanes. Again, I think the root of the issue is that Vancouver is following the transportation hierarchy and focusing on walking, cyclist, and transit and people are resistant to change. With all change people can be resistant, even if that change is for the better. I’ll leave you with the following message that was posted to the message board of the Great Langley Area Cycling Coalition:
My commute home from work today was a little eventful. I had a 'little' disagreement with a police officer on the way home.

It was raining lightly but mild and I had my full rain gear on so I decided to take a longer route home from work via Fort Langley and 96th, left on 204th to 88th and then home. As I rode along 96th Avenue and saw the weather was getting little worse I decided that instead of attempting to take my usual route by turning left at 199A and 96th to get onto 200th, I decided to turn left on 204th to follow this much quieter residential street to 88th Ave to home. The 199a and 96th intersection can get a little busy with heavy truck traffic at this time of day. After turning left at 204th I was riding up a little bit of a short hill along side some parked cars and a bus stop being sure to maintain a safe distance from these same parked cars. I then came up to a point where the curb in this parking lane then extends out to the driving lane. narrowing the road to the single lane each way. At that point I knew there was a vehicle behind me so I kept about a foot away from the curb to allow him room to pass. All of a sudden heard a very short siren burst. I didn't realize it was a police car at first (no markings on the car) until he then flashed the coloured lights and hit the siren again. He tried to order me to ride on the side of the road through his opened passenger side window while driving beside me. Oddly he did this at a point I was already close to the curb. This is on a residential road with several sections of a parking lane where the curb extends to the driving lane periodically narrowing the road. I was riding as I was supposed to be maintaining a predictable path only taking as much of the lane as I needed to do. After I stated I was where I was allowed to be according to the law, he hollered back "I am the law". I answered back to him that he should double check the BC motor vehicle act regarding my rights to the use of the road before he tried to suggest that I was breaking the law. I also suggested to him as he hollered again to get to the side of the road that the law also states that I only need to be as close as practical to the side of the road and if I need to I am allowed to take the lane, which I had to do at the first point where he hit his siren. At that point I was just passing parked cars and coming up to the lane narrowing.

I don't think it was a traffic patrol cop as he hollered at me through the window instead of using his car bullhorn. I think he must have had a bad day and saw this recumbent trike riding on the road and did not quite know how to handle it. I thought I detected a slight hesitation when he first pulled alongside me and shouted "Get on the side...of the road" maybe he initially thought that I was disabled and in some kind of scooter and was actually going to shout "get on the sidewalk" and then realized when he got beside me that I was a trike and riding on the sidewalk would have been illegal. Just a guess on my part. Even though we were hollering back and forth and he looked a little agitated, he didn't pull me over and just drove on and made a left turn about a half a block further. I never saw him again for the rest of the ride home.

If he did issue me a ticket or fine I would have certainly challenged it. He ended up just driving off. It's pretty sad when the people entrusted to enforce the laws are ignorant of them themselves.

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