Campbell Riverites might have noticed more cyclists than usual on the road last week, many of them wearing distinctive brightly coloured apparel.
It was Bike to Work and School Week, also known as GoByBike Week, an event that’s all about increasing the visibility of cyclists.
“Bike to Work Week is a really good opportunity to remind both cyclists and drivers of the rules of the road, to make all commuters safer,” said longtime Bike to Work supporter Kai Sonnenburg of Interfor.
He stressed that passengers and drivers should watch out for cyclists as they step out of parked cars.
A particularly bad spot is on Pier Street north of the Maritime Heritage Centre, where a number of cyclists have been doored. That means motorists have opened doors of parked cars into the path of cyclists.
Painting large “sharrows” in the centre of the lanes – two chevron-style arrows above a bicycle – would improve safety in this area, said Dave Brown, a member of the local Bike to Work Committee.
“It lets everyone know coming down that they should expect bikes,” Brown said. “And it lets bikes know that that’s where they should be, not immediately adjacent to the cars.”
On May 28, cyclist Sarah Mukai was at a GoByBike event for breakfast with her two-year-old daughter Zoe, who rides in a bike trailer wearing a strawberry helmet.
Mukai said she tries to bike as much as possible, but sometimes feels unsafe around drivers who don’t seem to know the rules of the road.
Some roadways are also too narrow and busy with traffic, notably Dogwood Street, she said, so she often switches to the sidewalk.
“Dogwood is impossible,” said Mukai, a forester. “With the kids in the trailer, I spend a lot of time riding on the sidewalk, and I know that’s wrong and illegal but it’s the safest way.”
Another cyclist who raised concerns about safety is 71-year-old Diana Reineking, who is originally from Holland, where she recalled getting a cyclist’s diploma as a 12-year-old child.
“We had to take a test,” she said during a May 29 GoByBike event. She explained that bicycles were checked to ensure they met a high safety standard and that students took a road exam.
“We had to go through our town and the police would set up traffic lights if we didn’t have any,” she said. “I still have my diploma.”
She said that more education about the rules of the road, starting in elementary schools, would greatly improve safety.
“Then we won’t have these issues anymore once they grow up, because they will teach their kids,” she said.
The Mirror contacted several elementary schools on Friday to inquire about cycling education. Graeme Boyd, principal of Pinecrest Elementary, said in an email the school doesn’t have a specific bicycle safety program.
“We limit ourselves to insisting children wear helmets on wheeled transport and try to get them to dismount when entering the grounds,” he said.
A cyclists’ group previously offered lessons when he was principal of Ocean Grove Elementary, Boyd said, but the program’s availability was limited.
Boyd said he fields multiple complaints every month about children cycling unsafely, like riding on sidewalks – injuring or scaring pedestrians – going through intersections without stopping, or turning without signalling. He encouraged a community service club or cycling group to tackle the issue of bike education.
Jennifer Patrick, a spokesperson for School District 72, said in an email that bike safety isn’t covered formally in the curriculum, but elementary schools routinely partner with groups including Sprockids, iRide, ICBC and the RCMP to provide students with bicycle safety education.
“These events are usually coordinated by either the school staff or the school’s parent advisory council,” she said. “Individual teachers also often teach bike safety, especially before heading out on any biking field trips.”
Cst. Maury Tyre of the Campbell River RCMP said the police don’t currently organize the larger-scale bike rodeos that some readers may remember from their youth. However, the RCMP still take part in bike safety education events in schools, he said.
They had cycled more than 34,000 km during 1,591 trips, saving more than 7,300 kg of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming and climate change.