Video and petition propel drive for Salt Spring bike lanes

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Brenda Guiled hopes the stories of cyclists who have suffered grave consequences as a result of accidents on Salt Spring roads will convince the province to act on local cycling infrastructure. 

The Road Smarts video, featuring five Salt Spring Island cyclists, is an effort to lobby the province’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to widen the shoulders on the major roads between Vesuvius Bay and Fulford Harbour ferry terminals. Consistently widening the shoulders with 1.2 metres of paved surface for cyclists on Vesuvius Bay, Upper Ganges and Fulford-Ganges roads would also complete the trail network known informally as the Salish Sea Trail Network connecting trails throughout the Capital Regional District including the Galloping Goose and Lochside trails. 

Salish Sea Trail Network map.

The province’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming and Minister of Health Adrian Dix have received letters introducing them to the Road Smarts video, which details near misses, harrowing accidents and lifelong consequences for local cyclists.

“Walking-wounded cyclists are among us, often struggling for the rest of their long lives. Families and communities pay a heavy price, too,” Guiled stated. 

Guiled has been involved with Island Pathways for close to 17 years, and said she is stepping away from the work to leave room for younger volunteers. Yet she is still involved in getting the Road Smarts video into the hands of politicians. 

The idea to record the experiences of cyclists on video came from the late Stan Wharry. Originally she wanted to organize a cycling forum, this being pre-COVID times, and asked Wharry to participate. Having experienced an accident going up the Ganges hill, Wharry agreed to share his story as did other cyclists. Wharry died before the forum was able to take place, and the idea morphed from a forum into a video where Blake Gold, Sierra Lundy, Margaretha Nordine, Matthew Salo and John Wakefield shared their stories. 

Lundy experienced an accident that altered the course of her life at the age of 16, ending her promising soccer career and her plans to become a surgeon. Biking down Fulford-Ganges Road, her bike and a vehicle turning onto Beddis Road collided.

“Honestly, if there were bike lanes, he probably wouldn’t have hit me. He would have seen me,” she said. 

With 15 fractures all over her body and a brain injury, Lundy underwent years of rehabilitation and therapy before getting on a bike again. Yet biking on Salt Spring is one thing she won’t attempt any time soon.

“I am definitely a huge advocate for changes to be done on roads on Salt Spring for bike lanes to be incorporated or for the shoulders to be widened because it’s just just so unsafe as a biker and also as a driver. I don’t enjoy really doing either on Salt Spring,” she said. 

“I felt myself pretty invulnerable up until I had my accident,” said Salo, who was biking daily on Salt Spring before an accident in 2014. The accident was so severe that Salo was airlifted to Victoria, then onto Vancouver, after a hit and run possibly with an SUV. He experienced multiple injuries, including a collapsed lung, broken jaw and injuries to his spinal chord and brain. “They told me, basically, that I was never going to walk again,” he recalled. 

Salo has lifelong injuries as a result of the crash. While he can still walk, he uses his sight to guide him as he cannot feel much below the site of his spinal injury and he cannot feel much in his hands either.

“The roads on Salt Spring are pretty miserable, the shoulders are pretty poor and the roads are narrow,” he said, adding that riding alongside vehicles on the road or navigating the changes from bike lanes and wide shoulders to these things disappearing and being replaced by gravel or ditches. “That’s really tough to move out and then move back and move out and move back, and it’s tough on on cars too.” 

Gold is a cyclist on Salt Spring and has been since he arrived here in 1995, even despite two “altercations” where vehicles were at fault he said. His first accident resulted in a broken collarbone and his collarbone broke again in the second accident. Gold added his voice to the call for proper bike lanes or wide shoulders that would help local bikers, visiting bikers and drivers.

“I want to say you should come cycle on Salt Spring Island because it’s the most beautiful place in the world to cycle, with our beautiful trees beside the ocean, cafes to drink coffee and people like us here, but we do need it to be a little safer for bicycles, and that’s what I’m here for.” 

Nordine, who many a child may know as the “bike lady” due to her bike safety advocacy and as founder of the Helmets for Life program, related her experience of a painful accident where she shattered her pelvis. After her accident she kept biking, because she said “biking was my life, that’s how I went to work.” 

“Generally, I love cycling on Salt Spring Island, it’s really a lovely place to ride,” said Wakefield, a resident here since 2000. Yet challenges including undulating curves and blind corners pose a risk to cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. 

Wakefield said he’s living proof that cycling on the island can be dangerous, after being hit from behind by a truck. He described being “pitchforked” over a truck and landing on the pavement. “I couldn’t feel my legs, I was screaming and in extreme pain,” he said, showing video viewers the bicycle seat from the accident that was bent sideways and sheared off the seat post. 

Wakefield spent over a month in hospital in Victoria, and another month in hospital on Salt Spring, followed by years using crutches, wheelchairs and canes. Wakefield now rides a covered recumbent trike because his injuries do not allow him to ride a regular bicycle.

“These accidents impact everybody, it’s not just the victims that get hurt,” Wakefield said.

Wider shoulders on the main routes, he added, would hopefully reduce the serious injuries to cyclists and pedestrians on the island. 

Guiled has also compiled data on known sites where cyclists have been injured on the island since 2002.

“While the highway deficiencies that contributed to their crashes remain unaddressed and ever more cyclists using Salt Spring roads, including more e-bikes, the rate of red markers appearing on this map will increase,” she stated. 

bikemaps.org map showing areas where collisions have occurred and hazards exist on Salt Spring.

To view the video, visit youtube.com and type “Road Smarts with Five SSI Cyclists” in the search bar. 

 A petition started by Jason Mogus, also advocating for the completion of the Salish Sea trail network, has garnered 1,778 signatures as of Monday, June 13. The petition can be viewed at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/please-finish-the-salish-sea-trail-as-part-of-a-green-recovery/ 

2 Comments
  1. Dave N. says

    Saw a bicyclist the other day doing 60km, riding in the middle of a road with blind curves, blind dips, and cross streets, thinking he was in some kind of private race. And not the first time I’ve seen this kind of reckless behavior. Any car coming around the bend doing the 50km speed limit, or just merging into traffic from a cross street would have consequences for both cyclist and driver.

    1. Steve says

      Your post does not identify the road, weather, traffic, or road conditions. By your estimation this cyclist was doing 60kmh which leads me to believe they are an experienced and skilled rider. If this was on Salt Spring, and given the limitations and risks of riding on the shoulder, where there is one, the rider taking the position of riding in the middle of the lane would be the safest option.

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