Spring is coming. Though there is still a good chance of a second or third big winter snowstorm, it is fairly safe to say that we are coming out of the darkness and moving towards above freezing weather. That means more and more people will be bringing their bikes out of storage for pleasure trips and cheaper commuting. So I offer a few words of caution to both the drivers and the riders who will be sharing the roads. To clarify, I’m thinking of pedal bikes, not motorcycles.
For the Drivers: The biggest thing that you can do is be aware of what is going on around you. Bikes are small and can slip in and out of your field of vision. Considering that you are driving a metal framed beast that can demolish both bike and its rider, you need to be sure you are doing your part to keep them out of harm’s way. Bikes have an equal right to the roadway, with or without a dedicated bike lane.
While you should be doing this anyway, make extra sure that you shoulder check. Don’t trust your mirrors, because they won’t show you everything that could be right beside you. This is especially important at merge areas near Edmonton’s many parks and trails. A bike rider could come out of a trail and hop onto the road on the way home.
Avoid tailgating a biker. If you don’t have a full metre available beside them to pass, don’t hang out right behind them, either. They have full rights to the roadway. And if they need to stop, they’re going to do so a lot faster than you will.
For the Bike Riders: To my bicycle friends, there are a few things for you to keep in mind as well. Make sure you pay attention and protect yourself. Wear a helmet, even if it is not legally required. It could save your life. Make sure your bike is outfitted with all the proper safety equipment, such as reflecting lights. As well, keep your ride in good condition as bad shocks or low tire pressure can be downright nasty on some of the city streets.
In Edmonton, there are a good number of rules that affect bicycles as well. If there is a bike lane, stick to it. If you plan on travelling on the sidewalks, get a bell. It’s a $250 fine for a bicycle who fails to yield to or alert a pedestrian on a shared sidewalk. For that matter, dismount and check carefully before crossing an intersection if you are travelling via sidewalk. I can’t count how many times a bike has come from behind a building out of nowhere and nearly been creamed by a turning car that couldn’t see them.
If you are on the roadway, obey the rules of the road. It’s a $402 fine for careless operation of a bicycle and $575 fine for failing to yield to a pedestrian at a crosswalk. It’s the same cost as if you were a vehicle because on the roadway, the rules are all but identical.
Bikes are great. They are a wonderful way to keep in shape and great transportation for short trips in town. But we all want to get to our destinations intact. So be safe and have fun.
Joel Leckie, Entertainment Editor