Despite expensive, well-intentioned efforts, our approach to urban cycling is literally going the wrong way.
Living in Coldstream and watching the new multi-use path constructed along Kalamalka Lake Road, I was skeptical as to whether northbound cyclists should be riding on the left side of the road.
This new lane looked to be something for dog walkers, little kids and novice riders out for some fresh air, not fit roadies or avid commuters.
It was too late for my opinion to have any impact on the development, and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for the efforts so I didn’t speak out about it.
My concerns were sadly affirmed last month when my partner was involved in a collision while commuting to work on the path.
A driver came up Browne Road, didn’t see her coming on the path, and now her leg is broken but fortunately she’s alive to tell the story.
That driver wouldn’t have needed to see her if she was riding on the proper side of the road.
I tried to go along with the path initially, riding northbound on it several times before I realized drivers coming out of the dozen or so driveways and cross roads didn’t always see me coming from their near right, nor do they always stop before blocking the path while turning onto Kal Lake Road, so I was cut off several times and had to ride quite a bit more slowly for self-preservation.
When I went back to riding on the remnants of the right shoulder of the road several drivers expressed their dismay to have to slow down unable to pass me with oncoming cars when, in their minds, I should be on the darned bike path. (Many used much more profane words.)
To them I say, get used to it, and I think they have. I spoke to a local RCMP officer who told me I am well within my rights to ride on the road but, for the record, I do use the path heading southbound because it is marginally safer being on the right side of the road and all, but mostly because the new, hard-edge curb on that side leaves the shoulder completely unsafe for bikes.
While less likely to get run over from behind, and more intuitively visible to drivers coming out of the pub and golf course, I do need to watch out for pedestrians on the wrong side of the trail, dogs on long leashes, oncoming cyclists and other hazards of essentially being on a sidewalk.
To top things off, the lane is awkward to get on and off of as the on-ramp is lined up only with the crosswalks on either end, forcing southbound cyclists to swerve erratically into the oncoming traffic at 14th Ave near Kal Tire, and at the South End at College Way.
The two-way paths along College Way and downtown, on 30th and 29th Streets, have similar problems rendering them very dangerous for normal speeds of average riders.
In case you wondered, cycling on crosswalks is illegal in BC. That statement is prominently displayed on page 16 of the Bike Sense Manual, found at bikesense.bc.ca.
That publication—sponsored by organizations like Trans Link, The Province of BC, and Cycling BC—also states, on page 23, that cycling on sidewalks is illegal and that studies show riding on them, and multi-use paths, causes more collisions with cars than on roads.
Common sense says it’s unsafe for pedestrians and just plain rude. This is nothing new, so why on earth are we now building infrastructure that blurs the lines between sidewalks and bike paths?
What is the solution to this new danger, unforeseen by our road designers? After all, they are trying to encourage people to travel by means other than car.
I think a simple sidewalk along Kal Lake Road would have sufficed while leaving the bike lanes just as they were.
Additionally, raising those bike lanes slightly could have been an option and surely would have cost less.
South of Kelowna’s hospital, along Lakeshore Road, they have a very similar multi-use path with equally pleasant landscaping, but about 25 per cent narrower than ours leaving the road wide enough for standard shoulder bike lanes.
That’s surely more relaxing for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. I think it’s not too late to reconfigure our new paths like this.