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Patricia Coppard: Imagine if motor-vehicle drivers behaved like some cyclists

Choosing to cycle rather than drive is super-awesome, but if your aggressive riding is keeping others off the supposedly all-ages-and-abilities trails and lanes, there’s really no net gain
Cyclists on the Galloping Goose trail last summer. No civic authority appears interested in clamping down on cyclists’ high speeds and other reckless behaviour, either on the Galloping Goose or on bike lanes, writes Patricia Coppard. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Sometimes when I’m riding my bike to work on the Galloping Goose trail, I think about what mayhem would ensue if vehicle drivers behaved the way some cyclists do.

Passing at high speed without signalling verbally or with a bell. Passing at high speed without signalling on a blind curve. Passing someone else who’s passing at high speed on a blind curve. Passing within a hair’s breadth of a pedestrian at 40 km/h with no warning. Plunging through a pack of pedestrians, dogs and small children on the Selkirk Trestle at full speed.

Of course, vehicle drivers don’t typically behave this way because we have a robust system of vehicle licensing to ensure they know the rules of the road, and a somewhat less robust system of enforcement (less all the time, given the number of red-light runners observed of late.)

What do cyclists have, by comparison? Well theoretically, common sense, spatial awareness and courtesy, all of which seem to be in incredibly short supply.

Vehicle drivers also know that any selfish, dangerous moves on their part — say, for example, moving into an oncoming lane to pass at high speed on a blind curve — could have fatal consequences for themselves and others.

When cyclists behave in a reckless and frankly dangerous manner, there’s a little more room for error. Perhaps you’re thinking, like the aggrieved dad accused of letting his toddler play unsupervised next to an eight-lane highway/erupting volcano: “Well NOTHING HAPPENED, so I don’t see what you’re getting so worked up about.”

And in fact, it wouldn’t matter so much if all we were talking about were a relatively small number of Lycra road warriors with thighs of steel on racing bikes of old.

But we’re not. Today, with the rapid proliferation of e-bikes, what you see on the trails often resembles motorbikes more than yesterday’s 10-speeds. Some of the fastest aren’t even bikes at all. Then there are the semi-trailer trucks of the e-bike world, ferrying children and the weekly grocery shopping around in what looks like a wheelbarrow at the prow.

I would admire their resourcefulness more if they would keep their speed down and maintain a respectful distance from me on my non e-bike, or from pedestrians.

Alas, no civic authority appears interested in clamping down on dangerously high speeds and other bad behaviour by cyclists, either on the Goose or on bike lanes. Hey, cyclists are the good guys. Vehicles are the bad guys. Right?

Vehicles are now required to keep a one-metre distance from bikes, so why aren’t bikes required to keep a one-metre distance from pedestrians — or other bikes? And why isn’t any civic authority even willing to talk about something so basic as a speed limit?

Several years ago, I wrote a column calling on the CRD to take some of the steps that Mountain View, California did on its busy multi-use trail — enlisting bike ambassadors to model good behaviour, posting signs reminding cyclists of the courtesy rules of the trail (signal with a bell or verbally when you’re passing, stop for pedestrians, obey the speed limit) and getting police to pop onto the trail from time to time for enforcement.

It worked there and could easily work here, if anyone would actually bother to do any of it.

Since then, nothing has changed — except that e-bikes keep getting faster. A colleague recently clocked one keeping up with him at 70 km/h while he was driving on the highway. Getting around the “maximum speed” built into the bike is apparently a no-brainer.

Hey, fellow cyclists: It’s super awesome that you’re choosing to cycle rather than drive — hashtag-one-less car, wow you!

But if your aggressive riding is discouraging others from using the supposedly all-ages-and-abilities trails and lanes, there’s really no net gain here.

The CRD’s solution to this problem is to make the trail wider at busier sections (not to mention posting periodic super-inspiring “share with care” signs).

Imagine if that’s how the Ministry of Transportation handled vehicle traffic: Let’s not impose speed controls or any rules at all on the road. We’ll just keep making it wider! And post signs saying “share with care”!

The trouble with “share with care,” unfortunately, is that you have to care to share.

It’s time for some real action, especially as the weather warms and the Goose gets more and more crowded. A speed limit would be an excellent start.

Let’s not wait until someone gets seriously hurt.

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