Victoria claims itself to be “bike-friendly;” however, being on the roads for about three years now—since becoming a student at the University of Victoria—I have mixed feelings about that claim. On campus, it is generally safe; however, go down Shelbourne and you get squeezed to the curb like a flattened cookie. Municipalities are just recently starting to think about improving pathways and roads for cyclists—like the additions to McKenzie over the summer.
Generally speaking, drivers in Victoria do not seem to have respect for cyclists. We are either seen as “pests,” or not seen at all. Trucks and buses often come close to cyclists, as if to just to give them a scare. People don’t realize that cyclists save an enormous amount of CO2 emissions for the benefit of our entire community and society. It’s long past the time for our city to make it actually bike friendly.
During the summer of 2013, I was hit from the side by a car on the way to UVic on the corner of McKenzie and Gordon Head. I was in shock, bleeding, and went blind for about 5 minutes. The driver was courteous enough to stop to exchange contact information, but she seemed more concerned about her broken wing mirror than my injured body.
After this incident, I started asking friends and colleagues who cycled about their experiences, and 7 out of 10 of them said they had been in at least one cycling accident in Victoria. One of the janitors at UVic was in three accidents with cars—he wears about seven different coloured bicycle lights, and a reflective vest. I’m not sure who is behind the steering wheel, but I don’t think a cyclist with that many lights at night is invisible; however, we cyclists seem to be invisible in the eyes of drivers.
In Copenhagen, cyclists are a priority—37 per cent of people who work or study commute by bike. Many traffic lights in Copenhagen favour cyclists, surfing a wave of green traffic lights without having to stop. According to the city policy, snow must be cleared off of cycling tracks before car lanes. This is why 80 per cent of cyclists in Copenhagen are willing to cycle in January. It’s a fact that if cycling conditions are great, and cyclists are respected, people will have a greater incentive to drive less and cycle more.
I think Victoria has a lot to catch up on, and I know it isn’t going to happen overnight, but citizens don’t realize how lucky they are to have bike-friendly weather all year round. Yes, the rain can be rather annoying at times, but we hardly get any snow compared to other cities in Canada.
I’m not asking drivers for much. I simply want them to acknowledge that we are visible, and we are here sharing the same road. Cyclists are told not to ride on sidewalks and comply with road regulations; if we are told to do this, then please treat us with some respect on your part too!