The Cyclist, The Motorist, and the Law! A Rant!

Songdove Books: Cyclist on a Silver PlatterIt happened again!  This time while taking my daughter to work at 6:15am!  Yet another cyclist thought that a) they were in their right to be on the vehicular side of the bike lane’s white line, and b) in their right to be riding tandem with the cyclist who was obeying the law and staying in the center of their bike lane!  I honked with enough time to get them off the road, but they acted like I was the one who did not understand the law!  I honked again and motioned vigorously for them to get off the road!  They still acted like they were in the right!  I did not swerve for them, hoping to give them enough of a scare to get them back into their legally-protected zone.

Normally after taking my daughter to work, I come home and go back to bed, hoping to get two more hours of sleep before starting my day.  I don’t often get 8hrs in one shot anymore between sleeping sitting up on the couch, traffic outside that seems to go on most of the night (very loud when windows are open and fans are going to beat the summer heat) and being awakened by kids starting their day at 5 and 5:30am only to be awakened from my doze at 6am to get my daughter to work.  So this morning, the fact that I was so ticked off at this cyclist was keeping me awake, ticked me off even more and I finally got up at 7am to finally make good on a thought going through my head for some time, to write a piece on cycling versus motorists here in my home town and with the laws of my home province of Canada.

First off, let me mention that I have two cyclists in my family.  Both my kids ride bicycles.  I myself used to ride a bicycle until I left it for 5 years and discovered I’d forgotten how to keep the gyro going.  Yes people, it is possible to forget how to ride a bike!  I’ve done it and am living proof it is possible!  A boyfriend one year didn’t believe me and borrowed a friend’s bike so we could cycle downtown together in my home town.  I fell several times on the way to our destination, and several times on the way home.  He conceded that my claim was true.

However, back when I avidly biked everywhere as a child (’70’s-’80’s), the laws were different than they are now.  Back then, it was the law for cyclists to bike facing traffic.  The logic stated that in this manner, if a motorist was going to do something crazy, the cyclist could see it beginning to happen and take evasive action before an accident took place.  There were no bike lanes back then and you were expected to get off your bike at intersections and walk across the road using the crosswalk.

You can imagine my horror then as the laws began to change!  Now, cyclists are forced to ride WITH traffic, and are unable to see when motorists behind them are starting to do something crazy and are thus unable to take evasive action to avoid an accident!  Now, cyclists are not allowed to use the crosswalk and are expected to continue cycling through the intersection, albeit to the right of the traffic they are riding with.

Because I’ve had more than one set of tandem-riding cyclists get upset with me for telling them to move off the road, and because I’ve seen too many cyclists use left-hand turn lanes when I was pretty sure the law said you couldn’t, and because I’ve seen too many cyclists think the white line is the bike lane and not the actual lane itself, I figured it was time to recheck the British Columbia cycling laws!  In addition, I have chosen to do some photo/clipart mash-ups to illustrate a few of these laws.  Keep in mind I do not necessarily condone these laws and I’ll explain more about why as we go along.

According to the BC government website for cycling rules and regulations the “Rights and duties of operator of cycle” are found in paragraphs 183 and 184 with occasional references back to 124 as potentially changed with city bylaws in whatever municipality you live in within the province of BC.

It is only the second point in when we come to the law about going through intersections:

This is legal:tersectionsafety-legal

Due to the slender nature of most cyclist/cycle profiles, and due to the speeds at which modern cyclists try to navigate the roads and intersections, this particular law is dangerous at best and lethal at worst!  A unit that small going 40-60kph is a blur in the mirrors of a motorized vehicle and at those speeds, a cyclist can enter a motorist’s blind spots with very little effort.  Even with proper shoulder-checking it is possible to miss a cyclist going full-speed entering blind spots created by the vehicle’s bulkheads between windows.  It is far safer for the cyclist to slow down and in this case, actually break the law to use the pedestrian light and the crosswalk, even better if they get off their bike and walk it through the intersection.  In this manner, they are far more visible than even the average pedestrian as how their bicycle provides a larger, clearer profile than when they are trying to keep up with traffic.  Because they are going slower, they are less likely to enter a motorist’s blind spot as quickly and therefore assist in preventing any potential collision.  The law is not in favour of the cyclist’s life unfortunately.

The third point under section 2 of paragraph 183 relates to riding as far to the right as is practicable.  As most cyclists will tell you, going too far to the right tends to mean a lot of debris and with today’s speed-designed tires, that debris can itself be cause for accidents.  While I agree with this assessment to a point, it is far cheaper for a cyclist to upgrade their tires to all-terrain than it is for a motorist to upgrade their vehicle’s tires from summer to winter.  Being as cycling is now seen as a lifestyle, it would be wise for the cyclist to make the investment and not have to worry as much about debris to the far right of the road.  This is of particular concern on roads where there is no bike lane.  Cyclists do not have the right to ride in the vehicular lane and so much ride on the shoulder, skipping around parked cars and other obstacles in the process.  Where cyclists have no choice but to go up onto the sidewalk, they are to behave as other pedestrians and pass on the right.

the bike laneTherefore, keeping in mind that Kelowna has a large bike lane network, this is legal:

 

 


Not in the bike laneThis is not:

 

 


The fourth point of paragraph 183 addresses my frustration this morning with the cyclist who thought they had the right of way while a) riding tandem and b) riding in the vehicular lane outside of the bike lane.  Point D makes it illegal for cyclists to ride abreast of one another!

In other words, this is legal:Cycling single file

 

 


These are not:

Cycling tandem

 

 

 

 

I was shockedCycling tandem to find a parent riding tandem with their young child one afternoon recently!

 


Section 4 of paragraph 183 deals with safely maneuvering through an intersection in more detail.  Basically, this is legal:intersectionsafety-law

 

 

 


And this is not:intersectionsafety-illegal

Although I’ve lost count of the number of cyclists who actually feel they are in the right and have the right-of-way in that second image!  According to the law, they don’t!  See my earlier comments about safely going through an intersection above.

 


As I’ve said, these laws don’t necessarily protect the cyclist, all they do is sort-of get them out of the way of vehicular traffic in a manner that might, maybe, spare their life and let them get where they are going.  I find myself cheering when I see whole families riding their bikes on the sidewalk and the parents teaching their children to pass pedestrians on the right, or to give pedestrians a wide berth when it is not possible to pass on the right.  I cheer when I see cyclists using the pedestrian lights to more safely cross intersections!  These people have realized the dangers in trying to obey the law and are engaging in safer practices for everyone, most of all themselves.  One day I actually saw a young lady cycling against traffic and I was ready to bounce up and down in my driver seat I was so happy!  That young woman has the ability to dive out of the way if a motorist begins acting crazy!  Her life has a far greater chance of being spared than those riding with the traffic instead.

Due to all the narrow misses my kids have come home with whenever they’ve been forced onto the bike lane, I am a huge proponent for multi-use pathways, which in essence, are larger sidewalks allowing more room for both cyclists and pedestrians to travel.  There are a few of these in Kelowna, and I wish there were more.  These multi-use pathways get cyclists off the road completely where side-view mirrors can’t clip them (happened to a classmate of my son one year), where motorists can’t assume they have an unofficial third lane to drive in, and where there is little debris for cyclists to navigate.

motorbikelicenseSome cyclists have used the argument that they pay their taxes and therefore have a right to ride in the vehicular lane like anyone else.  Unfortunately, if a tax payer is not sporting a license plate, they can’t use that lane, period!  A tax payer must have a license plate and accompanying paperwork with them to prove they have the right to be in that lane.  Failure to produce that information will get a vehicle impounded and the person’s driver’s license (if they have one) taken away.  So this argument does not stand up.  Even if the cyclist has their driver’s license on them, that covers their ability to drive a car, their bicycle is not fitted with the accompanying plate.  If being a tax payer was all that was required to ride in the vehicular lane, these laws for motorists wouldn’t be there and cars would not sport license plates.  Even motorbikes and scooters need license plates.  If cyclists want that same right-of-way, perhaps they should lobby for paying $75 every 5 years to get $45 plates put on their bikes as well.  Cyclists would have to take a road test just like car and motorbike drivers.  They’d have to demonstrate safe cycling habits and a working understanding of the laws as they are at that time.  This might actually remove the tendency for cyclists to keep insisting on handing motorists their lives on silver platters!  Such a test might remove their sense of entitlement to areas of the road the law says they have no business being in!

Motorists are not off the hook either when it comes to the rules of the road with reference to cyclists.  The bike lane is not a third lane for example.  Motorists DO need to shoulder-check before turning right, and pay attention to the bike lane as they approach right turns to know if a cyclist is there or not!  Where intersections have cyclist markings allowing cyclists to wait for the light in the vehicle lane, motorists are to respect that.  Just like cyclists are to ride in the middle of their lane and not on the white line, motorists too are to drive in the middle of their lane and not hug the white line.  If both the motorist and the cyclist are each in the middle of their respective lanes, then stories of cyclists being clipped by sideview mirrors will be reduced.  It won’t be eliminated because trucks pulling fifth-wheels, and other wider vehicles still have extended mirrors so they can see to the back of their vehicles.

If I had a dash cam installed in my vehicle and were to post every time I got behind a motorist disrespecting the bike lane, there’d be multiple posts per day for most of the year!  Unfortunately, there’d be almost as many posts about cyclists flouting the law as well.  The law does not protect a person who steps outside of it, no matter if they are on a bike or in a car.

Links to the laws here in BC, the BC cycling safety website, and the local laws here in Kelowna are shared below:

BC Cycling Rules

Motor Vehicle Act

Bike Sense Manual

Kelowna Traffic Bylaws

Kelowna Cycling Information

QUIT HANDING ME YOUR LIFE ON A SILVER PLATTER!

I DON’T WANT IT!