Cyclists are required to adhere to the rules of the road
I was intrigued by Larry Woodruff’s 27 Dec., 2019 Letter to the Editor (“Bicycles on our roads must have rules”), and am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have a discussion about the role of bicycles in our community. Mr. Woodruff’s appears to argue the following: 1. There are currently no rules governing the operation of bicycles; 2. Bike lanes that end prior to corners present a hazard to road users; 3. Licensing and insuring should be required for bicycles, same as for motor vehicles.
As for the first argument, Sections 183 and 183 of the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) address the “Rights and duties of operator of cycle”, specifically “a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle”. I would encourage Mr. Woodruff to review the MVA, and understand that all road users are required to follow the MVA, not just those driving vehicles.
As for the second argument, I completely agree that some of the cycling infrastructure in our community is inadequate. The example on which much of the letter focuses (bike lanes and traffic circles) is particularly problematic. However, I don’t despair, as there are municipal signs and regulations in the MVA that describe what should happen.
For example, on the approach to the traffic circle at Cowichan Lake Road, Gibbins Road, and Government Street a sign before the traffic circle on Cowichan Lake Road indicates that bicycles should ride in the lane through the traffic circle. Given how narrow the lanes are in this traffic circle and the fact that traffic should slow down while traveling through this intersection, this is a reasonable accommodation. Additionally, Section 157 of the MVA states “the driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle (a) must cause the vehicle to pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance, and (b) must not cause or permit the vehicle to return to the right side of the highway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.”
While drivers in the Cowichan Valley are some of the most courteous I have encountered in my over 50 years of cycling, some do not seem to understand that they are required to pass “at a safe distance”. The worldwide standard for “safe distance” is one metre. There are no traffic circles in the Cowichan Valley that are large enough to permit a vehicle to pass a bicycle and leave one metre.
As for the third argument, I would like to note that I am a licensed driver in British Columbia. This means that I am at risk for the same penalties (fines and points on my licence) as any other road user. And as for insurance, for many years I have a purchased underinsured motorist policy to protect me when I am on my bicycle because so few motorists seem to understand that a bicycle affords very little collision protection. If Mr. Woodruff is suggesting that all cyclists be both licensed and insured, all I can say is, if this were at all feasible, I am certain that it would be done by now. Driver’s licences and insurance do not ensure responsible and lawful operation of a cycle on the road, just as they do not ensure responsible and lawful operation of a car or truck on the road.
I do hope that this information clarifies any misconception that cyclists in the Cowichan Valley are somehow exempt from the rules. Additionally, for the sake of our planet and our collective health, I hope that Mr. Woodruff will advocate for improved cycling infrastructure rather than attempting to literally and figuratively push cycling to the side of the road.