Drivesmart column: Taking cyclists seriously

This officer must have missed some important reading in their copy of the Motor Vehicle Act.

By Tim Schewe

I found this Tweet from a cyclist on southern Vancouver Island yesterday: “A #RCMP told me today it was too dangerous to ride a bike on the roads and I should find another hobby. In their view going to the grocery store on a #bike is a hobby. #Police and the public need to wake up #bikes are a serious mode of transport.”

Wow! This officer must have missed some important reading in their copy of the Motor Vehicle Act.

“Rights and duties of operator of cycle

“183 (1) In addition to the duties imposed by this section, a person operating a cycle on a highway has the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle.”

Turnabout is fair play however, as I have also prosecuted a traffic ticket that I issued to a cyclist who ran a red light. His defence in traffic court was that he was not a driver and that same Motor Vehicle Act only spoke of vehicles and drivers when imposing the duty to stop.

Let’s pause here for a moment and get right back to the basics of a highway. Many of us tend to think of this as a stretch of pavement posted with speeds of 80 km/h or more and designated by a number. Highway 1, Highway 97, or Highway 3 come to mind as they are major provincial routes.

These are very specific instances and the reality is much broader. The definition of a highway in section 1 of the Transportation Act says “‘highway’ means a public street, road, trail, lane, bridge, trestle, tunnel, ferry landing, ferry approach, any other public way or any other land or improvement that becomes or has become a highway by any of the following:…..”

There are many public ways where most motorized vehicles cannot go, yet they are in fact highways that are open to many other modes of use.

My point here is that in law, highways are intended for use by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. In short, everyone.

While there are rules for how that traffic is meant to interact, all of the three are equally important and equally entitled to use the highway within those rules.

Ignorance of these rules and a false sense of entitlement on the part of all types of road user get in the way of the system functioning as intended.

When this misunderstanding is present in our traffic enforcement authorities, people who really should know, it must be addressed.

After inquiring, I learned that the cyclist had noted the officer’s name from their name tag. However, he headed off my impending suggestion of communicating the situation to that officer’s manager by stating that he was afraid of retaliation if he did.

I’ll try to deal with this in next week’s article…

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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