The growth of road cycling in Sea to Sky has been tangible, driven partly by highway upgrades that purposely created cycling lanes on both side of the highway and the addition of new routes like the paved road up the Callaghan Valley to Whistler Olympic Park, as well as by the growth of road events like the RBC Whistler GranFondo and Ironman Canada. Research shows that participants in those events are coming to the area to pre-ride sections of the course, adding to the growing local traffic.
The proliferation of bikes prompted Sea to Sky governments — Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton — and other stakeholders, including the provincial transportation ministry to form a group called the Sea to Sky Road Cycling Collaborative. Members of the group will work together to create a public education and safety campaign for both drivers and cyclists.
The campaign will involve everything from improved signage, maintenance and infrastructure to educational brochures.
Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said that cycling tourism is important to the resort, and enhanced road safety is crucial going forward.
"When you look at the GranFondo, its first year was 2010 and this year they're expecting at least 5,000 riders, and for Ironman we'll have 2,600 on the road. So this is huge," she said. "Not just in terms of the events themselves, but also with the training — many participants are training on the roadways in the corridor in advance of the events."
Wilhelm-Morden said the educational program would revolve around the highway and secondary roads that are popular with cyclists.
"All municipalities in Sea to Sky are working with the Ministry of Transportation to make improvements that are necessary. Maintenance, obviously, as well as signage and some infrastructure issues. And not just on the highway, the Ironman goes all the way up the Pemberton Meadows road and riders are going up into the Callaghan, and there are issues with those roads as well."
Maintenance could include everything from clearing rocks and debris from the shoulders of the road to repainting lines, to patching the concrete.
Signs will advise drivers and cyclists to share the road and to keep to the right of the white line.
The infrastructure work could include everything from relocating storm drains outside of the cycling path to other adjustments for cars and bikes.
A release on the educational program included several rules of the road that apply to drivers and cyclists.
• Cyclists have the same rights and duties as drivers of motorcycles, which means they are entitled to a full lane sometimes but are required to obey other rules of the road as well — like coming to a full stop at stop signs and traffic lights, or getting off their bikes to cross at crosswalks.
• Cyclists are permitted to ride on the left of the white line on the highway, but must ride as near as safely possible to the side of the highway without hugging the curb or road edge. Cyclists are not required to ride on any unpaved shoulders.
• Cyclists and drivers must share the road and show respect for one another.
• Cyclists should ride single file in the same direction as vehicle traffic.
• For safety, riders should be predictable and refrain from weaving between lanes.
• Cyclists should be visible (use lights at night) and wear helmets, both of which are required by law.
• Use hand signals when you turn or change lanes.
• Stopped bicycles should move towards the shoulder and out of traffic.
• When passing, allow at least one metre between your vehicle and a cyclist. At speeds over 60km/h drivers should allow even more room.
• Cyclists may be moving faster than you think. Leave plenty of room when turning onto or off of a road.