Share the roads and be aware

Now that the summer is here, it's more important than ever to be aware while out and about on the roads.

“Dooring”—where a bicyclist accidentally runs into a car door that is suddenly and unexpectedly flung open in his or her path—is a major cause of biking injuries. Motorists and cyclists should be aware and alert

“Dooring”—where a bicyclist accidentally runs into a car door that is suddenly and unexpectedly flung open in his or her path—is a major cause of biking injuries. Motorists and cyclists should be aware and alert

Summer is the busiest time of year on B.C.’s roads, as vacationers and tourists hit the highways, students are out of school and busy biking and walking in and around town, and motorcycles come out of winter storage. That is why the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) wants to remind all drivers to share the roads, and be aware.

“The roads are very clogged this time of year,” says ICBC’s Sam Corea. “Keep your eyes open for other users, be patient, and be aware of what’s going on around you.”

Although motorcycles make up only three per cent of insured vehicles in B.C., they’re involved in almost 10 per cent of road fatalities. “Motorcycles are inherently smaller, and riders aren’t protected by a frame, seatbelt, airbags, and bumpers,” says Mark Blucher, ICBC’s president and CEO.

Drivers of other vehicles should scan intersections and look carefully for motorcycles, and take particular care when turning left. Oncoming motorcycles can be hard to see, especially at night and dusk, in bad weather, and in heavy traffic.

It can also be difficult to tell how fast they are travelling, as they do not have the bulk of a regular vehicle, so drivers might not have enough time to make a safe left turn.

Corea advises drivers to try to make eye contact with motorcyclists, so they know they have been seen. When following a motorcycle, he notes that drivers should leave a three-second gap between themselves and the motorcycle, rather than the usual two-second gap. “Motorcycles have a much shorter stopping distance than cars.”

As for motorcyclists, the advice is simple: “All the gear, all the time.” Drivers and passengers need to wear clothing, boots, and gloves designed for motorcycle riding. Street clothes offer little or no protection in a crash.

People riding bicycles are another vulnerable group of road users, with “dooring” a frequent cause of injury. This occurs when a driver or passenger in a parked car opens their door into a lane of traffic without checking to see if a cyclist is approaching, causing the cyclist to crash into it (or into something else as the rider swerves to avoid the suddenly-open door). Corea says that one-in-seven bike crashes in Vancouver, and one-in-14 bike crashes province-wide, are caused by dooring.

Drivers and passengers are required by law to check for traffic—including cyclists—before opening the car door. Corea advises people to do a shoulder check before opening their door, and urges cyclists to take care as well.

“Keep one metre from parked vehicles, and look for signs of people in the car. And remember that it’s the law to wear a bike helmet.”

He notes that in smaller towns without dedicated bike lanes, it is important for drivers and bicyclists to be vigilant in order to stay safe. It is also important for those riding bikes to obey all traffic signs and signals and all the rules of the road.

As for the plethora of RVs on the road at this time of year, which can be a source of frustration for many drivers, Corea urges patience. “There are more recreational vehicles on the highways in summer, and many might be slow because they’re underpowered or overloaded.

“Be patient with drivers, as they’re probably going uphill as fast as possible.” He adds that those driving RVs need to understand RV etiquette. “If you’re really holding up traffic, be courteous and pull off the road.”

There are three tips for summer driving that Corea says road users need to follow. “Be patient; be aware; and avoid distractions. And it’s always about sharing the road.”