Cy­cling fatality sug­gests safety be re-ex­am­ined

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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