The City of Courtenay’s transportation survey is on live now until July 3.

!!…###___###…!!(words you don’t want to see in print and I would rather not admit to using)—but use them I did! The words just poured out like a Mount Polley sized tailings rupture of words I didn’t, actually, know were so instantly accessible to my vocabulary! If I had had time to think about it, I would have chosen my words more carefully. But, I didn’t have time to think. I had only a split second to get my bike stopped to avoid being run over by yet another vehicle whose driver seemed oblivious to the idea that roads—especially in commercial parking lots—are supposed to be shared with pedestrians and cyclists as well as cars and trucks. “I didn’t see you” the !!…###…!! driver shouted back. Didn’t see me? I was lit up like a road block in my reflective vest and reflective helmet and bright red bike. Granted: he has vision problems. He didn’t see the stop sign in his direction either—though the absence of a rear-end accident demonstrates he obviously had seen the car ahead of him stop for the sign he “didn’t see.”

Three centimeters—the distance between my bicycle’s front wheel and the fender of the car “driven” dysfunctionally by the self-proclaimed blind guy behind the wheel of the SUV.

Have you ever been in a situation like that?—where something happens that is so shaking it just blows the whole veneer of civilization away and you are left with raw uncensored feelings? Sometimes it just leads to venting. Sometimes it leads to regrettable action. Sometimes it leads to a powerful desire to change things. Sometimes it just blows off steam and nothing comes of this powerful change opportunity. I’m hoping for change.

On a different day I might have acquiesced to a bit of venting and gone my way forgetting the whole incident. BUT, it was just a week earlier that some “!!…###…!!” woman driving a  faded green sedan had sped by me (I could hear her accelerating) on 19a just before Royston and–then—a metre and a half ahead of my bike, she turned sharply to the right into a private driveway. I gripped the cycle brakes so hard I skidded on the pavement barely missing her rear bumper. Over the past year I have been astounded at the impatience of drivers who obviously see me cycling on one of the 19a bridges between Courtenay and Buckley Bay AND WHAT DO THEY DO? They (on a bridge that is no more than three car lengths long) accelerate to pass me on the bridge –even with opposing traffic nearly to the bridge! As I am cycling at 25 kmh, the time they save in putting me, themselves and other drivers in mortal danger is a couple seconds- at best.  BUT they can’t wait—regardless of the cost in dollars, lives, suffering resulting from this “have to get there as fast as possible” mantra that seems to be the irrepressible  imperative of all who get behind the steering wheel of an automobile.

You’d think the courts would be zealous in conveying the message that pedestrians and cyclists need to be accorded an extra measure of safety given the disproportion in size and speed between them and vehicles. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. In one recent deadly encounter between a car and cyclist in the Comox Valley, the driver of the car claimed that since he didn’t see what he hit, he was justified in assuming that it “must have been a deer.” Yikes, hitting a bicycle at high speed sounds like hitting a deer so no further attention is warranted?

We certainly can’t look to ICBC for making our roads safe for pedestrians and cyclists.  Last year, after the police had charged the Vancouver motorist who struck and killed a BC cyclist with impaired driving causing death , criminal negligence causing death and failure to remain at the scene of an accident what does our public insurer do to promote awareness of the need to drive safely? It claims that “perhaps” the cyclist failed to use reasonable caution, or “perhaps” the deceased cyclist wasn’t staying as close as possible to the road’s shoulder or “perhaps” the cyclist’s brakes were faulty. In 2016 a Richmond driver ran down five cyclists killing one and seriously injuring two others. He was charged with the non-criminal offense of driving without due care and attention. When you think about this shocking indifference to the lives and well-being of non-motorized travelers it doesn’t seem surprising that an average of five cyclists per day are injured by vehicles in B.C. during a summer.

With this, seemingly pervasive, view that motor vehicles have first and almost all rights on the road it doesn’t seem so surprising that worldwide road accidents kill around 3,500 people a day—more than died in the 911 attack on the World Trade Center. Is the price we pay for this indifference to road carnage really an acceptable price for our nearly unquestioning veneration of automobiles?

Could we curb this tragic cost to our obsession with cars and maximizing vehicle speed? Well obviously we could go slower; couldn’t we? At 50 km/h pedestrians have a 15-20% chance of surviving an encounter with a vehicle while at 30km/h there is a 90% chance the pedestrian/cyclist will survive an impact with a vehicle. And this statistic doesn’t measure the greatly reduced possibility that any accident will occur at the lower speed!

We could look—once again—to experience in European countries where the car at all costs mentality has been upended giving vulnerable road users priority in the courts, consequentially greatly reducing pedestrian/ cyclist death and injury by more than 70%!!

Interestingly many motorcyclists, who also suffer disproportionately on the roads, claim that motorcyclists on noisy motorcycles suffer fewer encounters with cars than those on quiet ones.

Wow! I’d love to get a horn for my bicycle that sounds like the Jake Brake on a humongous, overloaded truck desperately using all possible means to get stopped for the stop sign running, blind by choice, SUV driver at an intersection.

I doubt my little voice with its !!…###___###…!! comments altered the behavior of the blind-by-choice or indifference SUV guy at the Wal-Mart intersection. BUT—the sound of a desperately applied Jake Brake might just convince him that–once he cleans his shorts—he should be more observant and aware when out jollying around in the SUV! It just might improve his vision considerably!

Since, in BC, nearly four out of five auto/cyclist accidents occur at intersections—with cross walks or not—anything, including stressful noises, that encourages motor vehicle drivers to pay more attention at intersections could save many lives and avoid needless suffering.

Finally, I have to bring up my ongoing concern about the indifference of Comox Valley highways maintenance policy that cannot/will not respond to the tragedy-in-the-making shoulders along Highway 19a between Union Bay and Buckley Bay. Though I would like to, I am not complaining about–the difficult to bike–narrow, uneven shoulder. The shoulder, of itself, is an inconvenience and yes a degree of safety concern, but what really concerns me, what is clearly a tragedy in the making is the driveways and roads that converge on the west side of 19a constantly delivering sand/gravel/debris onto the all too narrow shoulder and forcing cyclists to suddenly swerve into the traffic lane. Motorists don’t see the gravel ridges on the shoulder and are not expecting cyclists to suddenly swerve onto the main road bed.

Given the serious hazard and the desirability of the Courtenay/ Buckley Bay 19a route as a high quality biking experience, why Highways can’t clear the shoulder is exasperatingly beyond my comprehension. I stopped to ask (nicely) a highway’s maintenance crew why the shoulder isn’t cleared more often. To which I was told that local highway maintenance crews are “prohibited” from clearing the shoulder more than twice a year. Yikes! What if highways’ crews were prohibited from clearing snow from the vehicular lanes of Comox Valley roads more than 5 times a year—regardless of the amount of snow that falls? Just as snow on the road needs clearing when it is causing a clear and significant hazard to vehicle traffic—regardless of the number of times it snows, so there must be someplace where protection of cyclists’ lives and limbs has a place in the equation for clearing shoulder debris on 19a—even if it is more than twice a year.

Let’s not drop the conversation here. What do you think about the opportunities to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians on Comox Valley roads? I would very much like to make a compilation of suggestions and invite our highways and politicos to come out and discuss them with us. Actually safety ideas could go well beyond what highways and drivers can do. What can cyclists and pedestrians do? What if a number of cyclists began wearing Go Pro cameras on their helmets and posting action shots of dangerous driving. Those who can’t afford the camera could wear a fake camera like the inexpensive fake security cameras.  It might help broadcast the idea that safety inattentions will be reported. Perhaps there could be an ICBC campaign to post notices at intersections reminding cyclists and pedestrians that they need to see that oncoming vehicle traffic has observed their intention to cross the road. I failed that test with the SUV guy. I made the assumption that as the car ahead had stopped at the stop sign, then proceeded after its driver exchanged acknowledging glances with the cyclist (me) the car behind would—of course—stop at the sign. Yikes, that was a deeply flawed assumption I won’t soon make again! Yes, bicycle lanes are important for bikes, mobility scooters etc, but that is clearly not enough and infrastructure improvement for cycle/pedestrian safety is under grave threat in this age of Trump and Ford. I just read yesterday that Vancouver mayoralty candidate Wai Young promising to rip of bike lanes if she is elected. So what can we do now? How much do Comox Valley municipal candidates value the health and well being of non-motorized travelers?

Send your comments to nreynolds@shaw.ca and I will publish them in another Tide Change post. Norm Reynolds