Under the Motor Vehicle Act a cyclist on the road has the "same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle," but motorists often forget that cyclists are entitled to the entire lane unless there is a safe opportunity to pass. Some drivers are passing too close or passing at inopportune times. Others, angered by the inconvenience, will honk and shout at cyclists, or drive aggressively to make a point.
The result is a growing number of close calls on Sea to Sky roadways for local riders. Concerned that someone will be seriously injured or killed, the Whistler Triathlon Club and Team Whistler have joined forces to educate both drivers and riders, and to lobby for road signs, better shoulders, and more general awareness of bicycle rights and safety issues.
"It would be nice if people were more courteous, and recognize... that we live in a recreation area," said Tony Routley. "It would be great if we could have had bike lanes on the new highway... they made the shoulders wider, but it's not always an option for us because of gravel, broken glass, pieces of car, potholes, the rumble strip. The roadway is where cyclists are allowed to be, and that's the area to the left of the white line. We're going to ride as close as we can to the line, but we're still entitled to be on the roadway. The other side of the white line is the shoulder."
Highway construction has made lanes a little tighter, which has no doubt exacerbated the problem, but Routley says the situation is getting worse on sections of road that are outside construction areas. Rather than relinquish his right to ride on the road, he's seeking a solution where drivers and cyclists are more aware of each other.
Team Whistler and the triathlon club recently attended a Sea to Sky Highway stakeholder meeting and earned a number of concessions. For one thing, the Ministry of Transportation and road contractors committed to clearing the highway shoulder of debris twice a year, which will make the shoulder a more viable option for road riders in the future. Highway contractors have also made themselves available to perform any maintenance on the shoulder if road riders call it in.
"(Mainroad) said we should call in if there's a dangerous stretch of road, and that they would go out to cold patch or clear debris," said Routley. "The way they see it, we're the ones who are out there every day and are in the best position to notice these things."
The Ministry of Transportation has also agreed to put two signs on the highway to advise motorists to share the road with cyclists. One sign will be placed on the road heading south from Pemberton, and another heading north from Function Junction.