Cycling fatality suggests safety be re-examined
For tens of thousands of Canadians cycling is an enjoyable activity. You can travel at a leisurely pace. You can get off the beaten track and see things other people miss.
You can start and stop where you want for as long as you want.
And you can get much needed exercise your body will thank you for after spending too much time on the couch with a television remote in your hand.
But the tragic death of a former P.E.I. resident in Kelowna B.C. this month reminds us cycling can also be dangerous.
Patricia Keenan, who was living in Kelowna, B.C. with her 10-year-old son, was cycling behind a friend when the driver of a parked car opened their car door to exit the vehicle just as she was riding by.
Keenan crashed into the door and although she was wearing a helmet she suffered serious head injuries and died two days later.
B.C. cyclist Michael V. Smith organized a silent ‘critical mass’ bicycle ride to mourn Keenan’s death and raise awareness about the dangers cyclists face on roadways.
Smith did not know Keenan personally but felt compelled to take action when he heard about her tragic death.
He said her accident was similar to close calls experienced by many local cyclists.
"This is a real issue and this is an ongoing issue and unfortunately when terrible things like this happen it makes us all the more aware of how fragile and vulnerable we all are on the roads," Smith said.
Those sentiments could just as easily have been voiced here on P.E.I. where cyclists have also had a number of close calls.
Some, sadly, proved to be far worse than a close call.
Just three years ago in 2012 Alberta cyclist Elizabeth Sovis was struck and killed by a drunk driver while cycling in P.E.I. with her husband Edmund Aunger.
In the wake of his wife’s death Aunger called on the provincial government to make roads and highways safer for cyclists.
Although he acknowledged that his wife was struck by a drunk driver, Aunger believes a major contributing factor in her death was the highway with unpaved shoulders the couple had to cycle on to reach their accommodations from the Confederation Trail.
Any number of factors can combine to create a dangerous situation for cyclists.
In some instances a lack of designated bicycle trails or bicycle lanes forces cyclists to use heavily travelled portions of the highway.
In some others the failure of motorists to take the presence of cyclists into consideration when they turn, change lanes or come to a stop, creates a dangerous situation.
The other side of that coin is that cyclists sometimes fail to respect the right of way of other vehicles on the road, driving too close or failing to anticipate a motorist’s intentions.
One can spend large blocks of time trying to lay blame on one party or the other but instead of laying blame time would be better spent trying to increase awareness on the part of both motorists and cyclists of the importance of watching out for the other guy. You share the road, share the responsibility. Because the province makes a concerted effort to attract cyclists to P.E.I. and to promote health and fitness through outdoor activities it too has a role to play in making this province a safer place for cyclists. That could mean more bike trails. It could mean better highway signage to advise motorists to watch for cyclists.
It could mean placing a greater emphasis on the importance of wearing proper helmets and other protective clothing when cycling.
It could also mean more of an effort to educate the public about the importance of showing respect for others whether they’re on two wheels or four.