Olympian Whitfield among elite cyclists that could be charged for failing to ride single file

A group of Olympic hopefuls could be charged for failing to bicycle in single file after they were struck by a car on the weekend.

Olympic medallist Simon Whitfield, who was riding up front, was not hit and was unharmed.

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The elite cyclists say riding side by side is safer than single file.

They were struck by a car passing them as they travelled west along Lands End Road during their weekly ride Saturday morning.

A cyclist travelling at the back of the pack, Kenyon Campbell, said a silver Toyota drove up behind the pack of about 20 cyclists, then went into the oncoming lane to pass them.

At the same time, a black Ford Focus ahead made a right turn from Ravenscroft Place. The Focus collided with the oncoming Toyota on its driver's side, sending it careening into the cyclists, said Campbell.

Sidney North Saanich RCMP spokesman Cpl. Chris Swain confirmed this account. "It took out everyone in front of me," Campbell said, about 15 people. "There were people getting thrown all over."

Most cyclists toppled onto the soft shoulder or were tossed into the bushes, Campbell said.

One man riding at the front of the pack, Victoria lawyer Bob Cameron, had his foot run over and another rider hit his head hard on the ground, he said. Both were taken to hospital and four others suffered minor injuries.

Whitfield, who was riding up front with Cameron, said he felt the "tsunami" that was the car rushing forward and knocking down cyclists behind him. "I turned around and it was just chaos," said Whitfield.

Campbell said he was surprised the driver of the Toyota chose to pass at that time as it was on a solid yellow line nearing an intersection at a bend in the road.

But the cyclists, who witnesses reported to police were taking up a full lane of the road by riding two to four abreast, were in violation of the Motor Vehicle Act which says cyclists must ride single file, Swain said. "Anyone who contravenes the Motor Vehicle Act could face charges."

Police have to interview the cyclists, the two drivers and witnesses before they decide whether to lay charges, he said.

Campbell said cyclists riding in packs try to keep as compact as possible length-wise so cars can pass them quickly. It's more dangerous, he said, to have a line of single-file cyclists that goes on for 100 metres.

Riding two abreast doesn't endanger someone's life, "but passing on a yellow line on a curve is the worse of the two," he said.

kderosa@tc.canwest.com

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