Close call near Skead highlights risks of urban riding
Every time an athlete gears up for their game, they must appreciate the inherent risks. Sport, by nature, can be unpredictable.
Luckily, most aren’t put off by the dangers — instead, they dedicate time and energy into progressive training, outfitting themselves in well-fitted equipment and learning how to safely engage in the activity they love.
James Larmer is a prime example. The competitive Sudbury Cycling Club (SCC) member has had his fair share of close calls, as well as collisions, while training with his road bike on area streets and highways.
On May 24, he was cycling near Skead when the mirror of a small car clipped his handlebar. The force propelled him off his bike and into a gravel ditch nearby. By the time he righted himself, the driver of the car was long gone, leaving him to attend to his wounds and his beat-up bike.
Larmer was lucky. He managed to get away with scrapes on his arms and legs, as well as some bruising. His bike also made it out OK — enough so that he could ride it back home at least.
It’s not the first time Larmer found himself tangling with a vehicle — in his nine-year career as a cyclist, he’s also found himself under the wheels of a van.
He said if drivers were more aware of cyclists, close calls like those that have happened to him, could be avoided. In interactions between vehicles and bicycles, close calls can easily become much more serious.
“There’s a lot of aggressive drivers out there,” Larmer said. “A lot of people don’t understand the rules of the road.”
According to the Ministry of Transportation, the rules are quite simple.
“A bicycle is a vehicle under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act,” according to the MTO website. “As a bicyclist, you have the same rights and responsibilities to obey all traffic laws as other road users.”
Bicycles are required to travel “in the right-hand lane, or as close as practicable to the right edge of the road.”
In other words, bikes and vehicles have to find some common ground on Ontario’s roadways.
Laurentian University student Nicole Long recently completed her Master’s thesis in Human Kinetics on bicycling in Sudbury. She said with the current cycling landscape in Sudbury, the best option is to educate motorists about their responsibility to share the road, and to cyclists’ rights.
Her analysis found that “more off-street bike paths and trails, more bike lanes on streets, improved connectivity between bike lanes and trails, repairing potholes and bad pavement” would increase cycling in the city, while keeping riders safer. But among the top improvements needed, her study found, was a “greater acceptance by motorists towards cyclists on roads and better education for motorists.”
In a search for safety, some cyclists take to the sidewalks, despite the fact it is illegal.
As it stands now, Long found cyclists don’t really feel they belong anywhere — motorists don’t want them on the road and pedestrians can’t have them on the sidewalk.
It was clear from her research cyclists would feel safer in bike lanes, something for which Rainbow Routes has been advocating since 1998.
There are currently more than 200 kilometres of non-motorized routes in Greater Sudbury, but none, according to Long, connect to each other, meaning cyclists still have to hit the roads at some point in their travels.
“There’s nothing else you can do,” she said.
With the exception of covering the city with bike lanes — a high-cost, long-term project — the best option, Long’s study found, is to educate drivers on their responsibilities regarding cyclists.
Larmer said he’ll keep his eyes and ears open while pedalling — aside from staying as close to the shoulder as possible, it’s really all he can do. But he’s asking drivers to do the same.
“Drivers just need to share the road,” he said.
Posted by Arron Pickard