Few cyclists know the good from the bad

Bicyclists are governed by the same rules as vehicle drivers

OBSERVING bicyclists in downtown Terrace you’d never suspect riding on crosswalks is illegal. You can frequently see bikers riding crosswalks at Lakelse and Ottawa; Lakelse and Emerson; Lakelse and Kalum; and Kalum and Park. All these intersections are controlled by lights.

Bikers are governed by the same road rules as vehicular traffic. But few bikers appear to know the rules; even fewer observe the rules. The results can be dire.

As an example, the Prince George Citizen recently reported in one week three cyclist-caused accidents in that city sent bikers to hospital with minor injuries:

A 22-year-old man was issued a ticket for riding on the sidewalk and riding without a helmet after he lost control while riding down a hill at a high rate of speed and striking a vehicle. He was fined $158.

A 17-year-old cyclist was issued tickets for riding on the sidewalk and without a helmet following a collision with a vehicle.

And a boy darted into the crosswalk while still on his bike just as the driver was pulling out from the stop sign to turn right. He might have ended in the vehicle’s glove compartment except he was able to jump off his bike before he collided. At least he was wearing a helmet. But police warned him not to ride on crosswalks.

A biker pushing his bike on a crosswalk is far easier to see than a rider perched like a praying mantis on a web of spokes. Besides, there’s the notion of consideration for pedestrians, who must weave and dodge to avoid a faster-moving bicycle.

Occasionally I bike to fetch a quart of milk or to visit a neighbour; mainly I ride for exercise and to take me far from the temptation of  snacks for at least 30 minutes. Pedaling along a  tree-lined residential street I can listen to robins and sparrows, and breathe in the aroma of fruit trees  and flowers.  At my leisurely pace I have time to observe seasonal changes in trees and hedges without veering into a ditch.

Biking for half an hour burns about 300 calories, the equivalent of two average home baked cookies or half a piece of  pie.

If only I biked first, and indulged in a goody later this would be a perfect weight-watching endeavour. I may pass up the bike excursion, but seldom do I pass up the baked treat.

Though I would prefer to ride without a helmet as I did when I was  in school, a helmet is a safety feature I adopted years before my grandkids began learning to ride a tricycle. After they started riding I felt obligated to set a good example. Now my vivid memory of a bad fall plus the risk of paying a hefty fine keeps me riding legal with the helmet snugly cinched under my chin.

My painful learning experience occurred one icy October morning when I slid sideways on a frozen pothole, tumbled off, and  bounced my skull on the pavement like a ping pong ball losing momentum.

Other rules I ride by are look both ways before crossing an intersection, take corners slowly especially if they are wet or spattered with gravel, always ride on the far right, and signal early with my arm when I plan to turn.  If I have to walk up a hill or to catch my breath, I switch to the left side of the highway where pedestrians belong. I never wear headphones; listening to recorded music would drown out traffic sounds it’s best to be aware of. And I don’t stop to visit in the middle of the road, a practice peculiar to Thornhill motorists.

I can sympathize with bikers who feel facing traffic on the left side of the highway is a safer place to ride, but doing so is illegal. Bikers are expected to travel single file, observe lights, stop signs and any other regulatory highway signs just as vehicles should.

Too many bikers in Terrace disregard the laws.