Last week I wrote a post about why I am voting YES in the Vancouver Transit Referendum – because I want a better future for my children and grandchildren. This week’s post is about the other reason I am voting YES – because of two potentially fatal cycling accidents I have had. The first occurred when I was a teenager. I cycled from UBC, where my parents lived, to North Vancouver to do an errand for my mother.
Before I learned to drive my bike was my freedom. I loved cycling from my house, a couple of laps around Stanley Park and back home again. I would also cycle with friends to play tennis on many of the city’s public courts. Of course, there was no such thing as cycling lanes then, so you needed good nerves and an eagle eye.
On this particular summer day the weather was gorgeous and I was minimally dressed in cut-off jeans and a tee shirt (and no helmet of course). I was traveling north across the Lions Gate Bridge coasting with both feet on the left side pedal because there were pedestrians on the shared sidewalk. Ahead I noticed two young men leaning over the railing and taking pictures. I kept my eyes on them to ensure I could jump off the bike if they started walking again.
As I passed by them, one of the men jumped back from the railing, crashing directly into my bike. My bike and I both went flying into the center lane of the bridge, into speeding traffic. I was very scratched, bruised and dazed, but luckily the motorists were able to stop and not run me over. Of course this was before cell phones, so I had no choice but to get back on my bike and ride to the nearest service station to clean up.
It’s taken more than 30 years for that dangerous spot to be addressed, with at least one death caused by it. Now, finally, something is going to be done: See Stanley Park Causeway to be Made Much Safer – Another Giant Step for Safe Cycling Infrastructure in Vancouver.
Last year I was struck again. I was traveling east along United Boulevard on my daily bike commute to work. It was January so it was dark, but I was lit up like a Christmas tree with my Monkeylectric lights (reviewed here) and my Serfas bike lights (front and back, reviewed here) which Joe gave me the previous Christmas. This road has had a bike lane under construction (but never completed) for over two years, so I was forced to share the four-lane road with speeding cars. NOT a nice ride. However, cycling is my addiction, so I was on the road.
That morning the street was almost empty, so I felt relatively safe. But a passing truck seemed to be getting a little close to me. As I came to this conclusion I felt a sharp pain in my left shoulder. His side view mirror had connected with my shoulder blade. Again, I was lucky to avoid a more serious injury due to a number of factors. It was a new truck that hit me, so the mirrors were spring loaded to retract on impact, which they did. I was able to maintain my balance and stay on the bike so my movement absorbed a lot of the shock of the hit – and I did not fall under the truck.
The driver stopped and was extremely upset to have hit me. He lifted my bike into his truck and drove me to work, where we had a first aid attendant. Strangely enough, it was the lights that had confused him. He couldn’t figure out what I was so he kept coming closer for a better look, until he heard the impact. He even checked in with our receptionist the next day to see if I was alright.
Despite being lucky, I had to have a year of physiotherapy to restore movement and reduce pain in my shoulder and upper back.
In this second accident I was following every possible rule of safe cycling – bright bike lights, plenty of space on the road, and wearing my helmet. I was visible from a distance of about a mile – yet still I could have been killed in an instant.
Cyclists, pedestrians and motorists cannot safely share the road, because all are human beings and make mistakes. That’s why six cyclists are killed and 670 cyclists are injured every summer in BC; and there are 520 crashes involving cyclists in Vancouver alone every year. We need cycling infrastructure that keeps us safe, so that for example a moment of idle curiosity from a passing motorist cannot kill us.
To show what we’re aiming for, here is a beautiful vision of a society in which parents can transport their babies and toddlers on bikes, without helmets, in safety. It’s reality in the Netherlands. It can be reality right here in Metro Vancouver, if we have the will and determination to build safe cycling infrastructure
A YES vote will bring 2,700 km of cycling routes throughout our region including 300 km of bike lanes separated from traffic. That’s why I am voting YES. I hope you are too.
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