As the summer wears on, more and more cyclists will be hitting the road for long Kootenay Grandfondo type events or for a simple ride through the country, and while cycling is a great outdoor pursuit for fitness and fun, safety on the road is becoming a growing concern.
Local cyclists meet at Gericks Sports every Wednesday afternoon for a 40-kilometre ride through Trail, Waneta, to the Dam and back via Station Road.
The group is comprised of between 25 and 40 cyclists with at least a dozen or more taking to the roads on the weekly ride. Iaian Reid is the de-facto leader of the popular peloton by virtue of his experience and many years spent riding with the group, that was first started by former Gericks owner Gerald Klassen.
The Wednesday rides were first designed for beginner riders, but eventually also included a collection of intermediate to advanced cyclists.
“I think it’s really worthwhile, teaching young riders how to ride, and we get lots of people out here who are into riding in a group,” said Reid.
However, the Rossland physician only knows too well that in a collision between a vehicle and a cyclist, the cyclist is at a decided disadvantage, so teaching various aspects of riding in a group is just as important for safe cycling.
“It’s mainly about the safety of the group, teaching people to ride in a safe way,” said Reid. “Riding in a group is not instinctive to a lot of people and there is a bit of technique involved in riding, so we like to teach them how to ride together, and just getting everyone to the point where they can be comfortable, and safe practices, talking to each other, and signalling a lot.”
Most area motorists have encountered cyclists and understand their responsibilities on the road, but there are occasions when mutual respect for the rules of the road is lost.
“We are always concerned about the big trucks and the traffic,” said Reid. “And for the most part they are all very good, people are very courteous. We get the odd person who thinks we shouldn’t be out there and that can be a bit of a problem . . . When you have two lanes, and someone comes screaming by you within two feet, you wonder what they are thinking sometimes.”
Although rare, the group has encountered motorists who have honked their horns, driven too close, or passed at unsafe speeds. On those occasions Reid says the cyclists mostly just smile, wave, and hope drivers will respect their right to use the road.
“As a cyclist, as with every other vehicle on the road, we are entitled to the entire lane and the minimum passing distance for any vehicle is four feet, so I think it’s important that people have to bear that in mind, we do actually have a right to be on the road,” says Reid.
As Section 183 (1) of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act stipulates: a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.
Slower vehicles and cyclists are required to stay nearer to the edges of the highway as is deemed comfortable, so motorists can safely pass, but even that can be dangerous with the shoulders of roads often rough and covered with gravel, or, at times, non-existent. In that case, vehicles should slow down and pass when safe and with caution.
“We don’t obviously want to inconvenience people, unless its necessary, but there are a lot of hazards out there . . . and people legally are suppose to wait for us.”
Fellow cyclist Kathy Williams is in her second year riding with the Gericks group and has participated in numerous high-level camps on safe cycling.
“I feel pretty safe out there, I think when people understand the rules,” said Williams “It’s just that sometimes drivers don’t get that we’re allowed on the road too so it can be a little bit frustrating, but my motto is just to kill them with kindness.”
As for advice to drivers, the next time they come upon a group of cyclists.
“Just keep their eyes open, and realize we’re doing as best we can to be safe, and to make sure they see us and we see them.”