GUEST COMMENT: Cyclists, walkers need protection

NANAIMO – Death of cyclist another tragic reminder more needs to be done to protect vulnerable road users in B.C.

By David Grey

The death of a 61-year-old cyclist commuting to work alongside the Stanley Park Causeway May 25 is another tragic reminder more needs to be done to protect vulnerable road users in B.C.

The female cyclist was killed when she manoeuvred to avoid a pedestrian and fell under the wheels of a bus.

A Simon Fraser University study concluded cyclists and pedestrians are at greater risk of injury and death than motorists, whether measured by trip number or distance.

The study concluded 200 deaths a year could be avoided if B.C.’s road infrastructure was similar to the Netherlands or Belgium. Walkers and bikers in those countries experience dramatically lower rates of injury and death because of significant investment in green transportation infrastructure and facilities.

There should be no mystery about why in car-dependent North America cyclists are three times more likely to be killed on the roads and 30 times more likely to suffer injury than are their counterparts in the Netherlands.

The SFU study concluded many fatalities and injuries could be eliminated by investing in more pedestrian crossings, sidewalks, segregated bike lanes and by reducing speeds.

The City of Vancouver is spending tens of millions of dollars to build separated bike lanes; unfortunately, the city’s ambitious plan to extend its bike network had not yet included the Stanley Park Causeway, a route hundreds of cyclists depend on each day.

Late last year the RCMP mounted a safety campaign in response to a rash of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities in Nanaimo.

According to police, the leading cause of these accidents was lack of visibility, so 600 reflective armbands were distributed. The Mounties also stepped up measures to ensure cyclists have the legally required lights and reflectors.

These measures, while laudable, suggest neither the RCMP nor city hall has done any homework.

If done, the recommendations would go well beyond placing the onus on pedestrians and cyclists to be more visible. A start would be reviewing the finding of the SFU study.

The good news in all this is that the health benefits associated with active commuting by foot or bicycle far outweigh the risks of accident.

So even from a health perspective, cycling and walking should still be seen as an attractive alternative to car travel.

It is unfortunate these benefits must be weighed against the risks when these risks are largely avoidable.

Two hundred needless deaths a year –  often the young and the elderly – are one more compelling reason to demand that governments at all levels in B.C. prioritize the investments needed to bring our transportation system up to European standards.


David Grey is chairman of the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition.