Andy McKay

May 28, 2013

Safe biking

This week is bike to work week and there’s lots of coverage on CBC about this. However a lot of the discussion is about how we need to seperate cyclists from cars and I just don’t agree with that situation all the time.

The main exception is when I’m biking with my kids. Then it’s just fine. We need to be isolated from the cars, otherwise it becomes really scary. But there’s another time I ride and that’s commuting. I commute from Deep Cove to downtown and back again. That’s about 35km a day. I do it in summer and winter, but only a couple of days a week. And here’s the difference. I want to get there fast and a lot of the bike routes are just plain stupid.

For example, there is no bike lane on Dollarton highway. It’s on the Seymour parkway. Yet even sunny day there are loads of bikers on Dollarton. I take Dollarton. Why? Because the Seymour parkway has lots of steep hills on it. Lots of work for elevation gain which you then lose. No wonder cyclists don’t take it.

When you get near Second Narrows bridge, you are meant to go on the sidewalk. Then you wait at the pedestrian crossing for cars to stop. Then cross, then go to the traffic light. Then go across, then wind under a pedestrian underpass, slowing for the 90 degree corners and then. Oh I’ve lost interest.

Or you could do what I do, I’m crusing at about 20km/h, so I go into the same lane as the cars (thats merge left), keep going in a straight line and then merge right. Done.

And that brings up my next point. The most dangerous times on a bike are trying to undertake a truck on a corner (seriously don’t do that) or when you cross in front of traffic.

The most dangerous intersection on my ride home is here. You have to cross Hastings Street and be prepared for all the drivers who run the left turn signal, then cross in front of traffic whose main objective is to get onto the highway as fast as possible. You have to really be aware on your bike and make sure they stop for you.

The same is true on the other side when bikes are meant to go off onto the widened sidewalk. The problem is that widened sidewalk is a death trap of driveways. Continual driveways that cars will come out of quickly, without checking to see if bikes are coming. You have to go slowly around the obscured driveways to be sure cars aren’t coming out. Car drivers will instictively stop at the roadway, blocking the bike route.

So is the answer more segregated bike routes? Maybe. But think about what’s good for the cyclists, not just what is good for the cars. Because if the bike routes don’t make sense, we won’t use them.