Is it a car? Is it a pedestrian? Nope, it’s the grey area in between: a bike.
Instances of the uncertain identity of cyclists occur frequently throughout our city. There are often cyclists riding on the sidewalk, particularly in areas of heavy traffic. Those who ride on the street range from intense, seemingly-competitive bikers in spandex to girls in long, flowing skirts riding along at a snail’s pace. Some cyclists even text while they ride.
The situation is, at best, inconsistent. Some cyclists ride on the road, some on the sidewalk. Some wear helmets and know how to signal, some don’t. This can be tricky for drivers to deal with.
“If the cyclists are only one to a lane then I will give them a full lane [when] passing,” said 21-year-old Ryan Voth. “However, if they are riding side by side then I will give them the minimal amount needed to not clip them.”
He added, “You don’t see cars riding side by side in the same lane.”
Voth, a 3rd-year student at the University of Manitoba, commutes to school every day from Lockport. He said in the summer — peak cycling season — he sees a cyclist about fifty per cent of the times he drives on Henderson Highway.
Despite the confusion on the roads, the Highway Traffic Act makes it clear that bikes are to be considered vehicles. It repeatedly makes reference to “the driver or operator of a vehicle or bicycle,” and uses “vehicle or bicycle” together as a phrase several times.
Section 145, listed under ‘General Rules: Bicycles and power-assisted bicycles,’ might serve to clear some of the confusion:
a person operating a bicycle or power-assisted bicycle on a highway or bicycle facility
has the same rights and duties as a person driving a motor vehicle on a highway and
shall obey all signs and traffic control devices.
The law is pretty black and white. However, the reality is rarely that simple. Cyclists have varying levels of knowledge and proficiency, some roads are far less conducive to cycling than others, and each driver responds differently to a cyclist on the road.
Andy Klassen, 27, feels that both Winnipeg’s cycling infrastructure and drivers play a part in the safety of cyclists.
“The streets are often too crowded in the city for [both] cyclists and cars,” he said. “I think they should make the sidewalks wider and keep the bikes there.”
“I personally use the sidewalk,” Klassen said. “I don’t trust the drivers in Winnipeg.”
Tim Hiebert, who has biked to and from work nearly every day for the past three years, and has been a summer cyclist for even longer, said cars and bikes can and do coexist peacfully on the road.
“Drivers should be giving about three feet, or one metre, when passing a cyclist,” he said. “Most drivers give enough room.”