I’ve been commuting to work on my bike for 20 years. I have braved the city roads in Vancouver and now enjoy the less traveled route on Hwy 20. There are a handful or more of us who bike to and fro regularly and I would like to encourage more people to ride to work.
Biking in this beautiful valley is fairly easy. The ups and downs are small and few. There are only a few really windy days that make it challenging…at least one way. It’s great to get a tailwind on the ride home.
Biking to work takes some planning. You may need to pack an extra set of clothes if you work up a sweat. You will have to leave a bit earlier. And you may want to consider driving your bike to a launching off point if you feel you live a bit too far away.
When sharing the road, knowing where to ride and where to drive is extremely important. Cyclists have all the rights and responsibilities as the other drivers on the road. A helmet is a necessity, as is riding with the traffic. Riding facing traffic is illegal and can increase the risk of collision. Being visible and being predictable are paramount.
A cyclist is required to ride as close to the edge of the road as ‘practicable.’ Practicable means to be able to be done or put into practice successfully; it doesn’t mean hugging the edge of the road or riding in the gravel. Riding on the gravel shoulder isn’t an option for those of us who don’t have mountain bike tires.
There are laws in Ontario that state when going over 50 km/hr, motorists must leave 5 feet of clearance between their vehicle and a cyclist. This means that almost vehicles will have to cross the yellow line to pass safely. While most drivers here do just that, I have seen many drivers cross the yellow line even when there is a vehicle coming in the other direction, making the other car or truck take evasive action and drive on the shoulder.
On the other hand, there are drivers that don’t move over at all when passing. This is a dangerous practice that can lead to injury or death. The edge of the road can be strewn with gravel and debris, be pot-holed or poorly crack-sealed. Sometimes dogs appear out of nowhere at high speed. A cyclist needs some room for maneuvering around and past these hazards.
The key is to pass safely. If there isn’t a car in the other lane, pull over and pass. If you know you will end up forcing the oncoming vehicle off the road then slow down and pass the cyclist when it is safe.
Cyclists and drivers can share the road without accidents when we all know where we are suppose to be. I hope to see more people on two wheels for Bike to Work Week, and beyond.