By Lethbridge Herald on June 22, 2015.
Summer time means sharing the road as more cyclists and motorcyclists hit the streets. It also means an increase in collisions.
During the warmer months of May to September, Alberta has the highest rates of collisions involving bicycles and motorcycles, and afternoon rush hour is the prime time, according to Alberta Transportation.
Never has the need for safety and awareness been more evident than after the recent tragic deaths of a motorcyclist on June 6 near Nobleford, and a cyclist May 30 on Highway 3 near Monarch.
There are precautions both motorists and cyclists can take to avoid becoming a daunting statistic.
In Alberta, it is required by law that anyone under the age of 18 years must wear a bicycle helmet. Operators and passengers on power bikes, mopeds, or motorcycles must wear an approved motorcycle helmet. It is reported that head injuries cause up to 80 per cent of all cycling deaths.
When it comes to travelling on roads and highways, cyclists need to travel in the same direction as regular traffic, and single file, said RCMP Const. Francisco Ceron.
“Technically they’re considered a motor vehicle so they obey the same rules of the road that (those) in a car would do.”
He said it’s important for bicycles to ride as far over on the shoulder as possible. All riders should make themselves more visible by wearing brightly coloured and reflective clothing, and try to avoid riding at dusk and dawn when it’s harder to see. If cyclists must ride at night, it’s advised to have a headlamp, a red tail lamp and rear reflectors.
Motorcycles are difficult to pick up in rear-view mirrors and can be easily hidden in a blind spot.
Ceron’s advice for motorists when passing cyclists is to move as far over to the left as you can, if possible.
“If that means switching into the fast lane, I would definitely recommend that. Try and give them as much room as possible to pass them safely.”
Provincially, in 2013 there were 42 fatalities involving motorcycle collisions, and 667 injuries. Most casualties were male drivers under the age of 25.
According to Alberta Transportation, motorcycle drivers involved in collisions were more likely to have consumed alcohol before the crash, to run off the road, to pass inappropriately, or to make improper lane changes, than any other motorist.
The rate of motorcycle injuries and casualties is on the rise, according to statistics, with almost twice as many deaths as in 2012.
There were four cyclist deaths and 507 injuries in Alberta in 2013. Young cyclists, between the ages of 10-14, were more frequently injured in bicycle collisions.
Cyclists were more likely to fail to yield the right of way at uncontrolled intersections and disobey traffic signals more than any other drivers.
Ceron said it’s not very common to see accidents on the highways between bicycles and motor vehicles.
“Unfortunately it’s a risk you take on the highway, with traffic flowing at 110 kilometres an hour and you’re doing 30. Especially in the summer there’s a lot more (cyclists) out there, so it does happen, unfortunately, but it doesn’t happen a lot.”
Within the city, cyclists are not permitted to ride on sidewalks, and should use designated pathways such as Coalbanks Trail. Cyclists should have a horn or bell, or yell “left” to alert others of their passing.
“The police will use the provisions under the Traffic Safety Act, which defines bicycles as the use of a vehicle,” said Dave Henley, City of Lethbridge senior bylaw officer. “The example of that being when you’re walking your bike, you’re a pedestrian. When you’re riding your bike, you’re operating a vehicle.”
In southern Alberta, between 2009 and 2013, there were two collisions involving a bicycle, resulting in one major injury and one fatality. Over the same time period, there were 39 collisions involving a motorcyle, with three fatalities and 17 major injuries.
These numbers include rural crashes, identified by police as occurring on a provincial highway, as reported to Alberta Transportation by police detachments in Lethbridge, Taber, Raymond, Picture Butte, Fort Macleod and Cardston.
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