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Comment: Friendly Victoria? Not for people riding bicycles

We’re outdoors and enjoying the fresh air — why aren’t people more cheerful? All but the most jaded Toronto residents can muster an acknowledgement.
Cyclists travel along the Galloping Goose Trail in Saanich near Uptown. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A commentary by a resident of Whitby, Ont.

I’ve read a few Times Colonist articles and I better understand what I experienced recently in Victoria — a very clear lack of “friendliness,” if not lack of politeness, toward me as a cyclist, at least by pedestrians and road cyclists.

I was riding a Class 1 electric assist bike at the time, but only the keenest of observers would have noticed this.

I’ve always greeted other trail users, no matter their mode of transport, with a cheerful “Good morning,” “Beautiful day to be out, isn’t it” or at least a nod or wave. We’re outdoors and enjoying the fresh air — why aren’t people more cheerful? All but the most jaded Toronto residents can muster a smile or some kind of acknowledgement.

But Victoria — I expected so much better and was left disappointed. I experienced dirty looks, scowls or was just ignored by most trail users.

The only exceptions were other mountain bikers and a couple riding their road bikes — who are from Ontario.

I was shocked. I always thought Victoria was supposed to be one of the friendliest cities in the country. Reading the articles on interactions between cyclists and pedestrians, I can understand the animosity.

It sounds like you’re having the same issues there as most areas. It’s not the Class 1 e-bikes, that require you to pedal and match the power the rider puts to the stroke, but Class 2 and 3 e-bikes — those with throttles and those who are not governed (or are modified) to match the 32 km/h mandated speed limit.

On my Class 1 bike, I average around 21 km/h with a maximum of 34 km/h. On my non-electric bikes, I average 30-plus km/h with max speeds over 45 km/h.

The non-electric bikes are significantly lighter, plus Class 1 bikes stop providing assist at 32 km/h and it is much harder to generate more speed beyond that assist level.

The only place the Class 1 exceeds the speeds on the non-electric is going up longer inclines. But speed isn’t the problem — it’s irresponsible operators/riders.

The problems are the Class 2 and 3 e-bikes, and electric motorcycles and electric unicycles. They can travel at max speed as soon as you twist the throttle (or lean forward).

These should be classified as “motor vehicles” under the law and banned from shared use trails and bike lanes. As motor vehicles, operators should be required to possess a valid driver’s licence, if not a motorcycle licence or a new class of “E-bike” licence.

There is a clear difference in how people operate bicycles (including Class 1) and motor vehicles — the former are far more aware of their surroundings and more likely to slow for other trail users.

Motor vehicle operators expect everyone to get out of their way because they’re “bigger” and “faster.”

Provinces need to do a better job on licensing and training these “operators” so they become less “vehicle operator” and more “driver/rider.”

These motor vehicles should have a licence plate and the operator required to have insurance. Further, there should be a requirement for police and park rangers to ticket offenders and remove offending motor vehicles from the trails, at the owner’s expense.

In regard to joggers being hit, this highlights another issue that is prevalent across the country — and that is headphone use by walkers/joggers/runners.

Just because you want to tune out the world to listen to that podcast/concert/etc. does not mean the rest of the world revolves around you.

If you’re going to be wilfully oblivious to your surroundings, you can expect conflict.

Perhaps those on foot should be required to stay to the left and face oncoming traffic, as they are expected to do when walking on roads.

Another suggestion is to post signs reminding people to only use one earbud and not use noise-cancelling features or those soup-can headphones. These people need to take responsibility, too.

I hope my next trip to Victoria is much friendlier than my first.

It’s such an incredibly beautiful part of the country, everyone should be grateful for being where they are and learn to co-exist … with some legislative changes from government clearly needed.

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