BC Needs a Safer Passing Law to Protect People Cycling & Walking

Safer_Passing_Graphic.png

Image: Roy Symons

Take Action: Email the Premier

{{show_more?html==A Safer Passing Law requiring drivers to pass people cycling and walking by at least 1.5m would make our roads safer and more comfortable for residents and visitors. If there is more than one lane for traffic in the same direction, the driver would have to have to pass in the lane next to the one a vulnerable road user is traveling in. 

While progress has been made, still relatively few roads in B.C. have bike lanes or shoulders and many don’t have sidewalks especially in rural areas forcing people to share the road with high speed motor vehicle traffic. While we strongly encourage governments to invest in protected bike lanes, paths and sidewalks, building them could take years. In the meantime, a Safer Passing Law will help improve safety.

Research elsewhere indicates that:

  • Close passes account for almost 1/3 of the threatening encounters people cycling have with those driving

  • Close passes are a particular problem in rural areas accounting for almost 50% of incidents

  • People who maintained an average of under 13km/h reported 3 times as many near misses per mile than those with an average of over 19km/h

  • Close passes are particularly a problem for women, who on average cycle more slowly than men, and experience a 50% higher rate of near misses than men

Enabling Education and Enforcement

The majority of drivers already pass people cycling and walking in a safe manner but the few that do not pose a potentially fatal risk to vulnerable road users. A Safe Passing law would help educate those that are unaware of how to pass safely and enable enforcement when needed.  

  • Police initiatives to tackle drivers who pass cyclists too closely could prevent up to 28% of the crashes that kill and seriously injure cyclists, according to an analysis of crash data

Clarity for People Driving, Cycling and Walking

A cyclist can do little to avoid a hit from behind, and an objective, easy to estimate minimum passing distance is better than a subjective standard of safe driving behavior for much the same reason that a maximum speed limit is.

Not only does the MVA not currently define a minimum passing distance for motorists overtaking cyclists, there is confusion as to whether the language in the Act even applies to passing cyclists. Section 157 states that an overtaking vehicle “must cause the vehicle to pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance.” Bicycles, however, are not “vehicles” by definition under the Act at s. 1. In any event, even where courts have accepted that motorists have an obligation to pass cyclists safely, what constitutes as a safe passing distance remains unclear.

A safe passing law would provide clarification that a motorist has a duty to leave a safe passing distance when passing a cyclist as well as definitive guidance on the minimum such distance. This avoids subjective assessments by motorist as to what constitutes a safe distance, and provide an objective standard for enforcement and education.

Elsewhere

Safe passing distances have been specified by over 27 jurisdictions in North America, including Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

Following the death of rising cycling star Ellen Watters on a training ride in December 2016, the New Brunswick legislature is moving quickly to pass a safe passing distance law.

Nevada’s safe passing law requires passing inimmediate left lane, if there is more than one lane in the same direction.

Ottawa bike police are using a sonar device to  measure the distance between drivers and cyclists. As in Ontario and other jurisdictions, we also recommend an educational campaign be undertaken to ensure motorists are aware of the law before enforcement campaigns.

Thank you to the Cross Canada Cycle Touring Society for their generous donation to this campaign.

 

Learn more about their organization here:https://cccts.org/ 

More Info About the Safer Passing Campaign 

Safe Passing Submission

Safer Passing and Speeds Brief}} 

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Queensland's Safer Passing Laws in British Columbia

Queensland's cycling laws enforced with technology should be adopted in BC. Photo: Rob Homer, Brisbane Times 

Take Action: Email the Premier

Safer Passing Laws are paramount to cyclists' safety. Besides advocating for better cycling facilities, the BC Cycling Coalition has partnered with members of the BC Road Safety Law Reforming Group in hopes of amending the Motor Vehicle Act for better road rules that protect and reduce on-road fatalities for cyclists.

The Minimum Passing Distance Law -- also known as the MPDL -- has been introduced all over the world, including 28 states within the US. Several notable cities in Europe have paved the way for making biking the ultimate mode of transport, and down south, a strong "Share the Road" message was broadcasted primarily to improve cyclist safety. 

In Queensland, a report after a two-year trial of the Minimum Passing Distance rule enforced concluded that motorists' awareness of cyclists within one metre of their proximity has increased significantly. In fact, survey results from the QUT review show that 75% of cyclists and 60% of drivers believe that they can accurately judge a one-meter distance from passing drivers and cyclists even when traveling at 60 km/h. 

As of the end of November, there had been only three cyclist fatalities, down from 11 at the same time in 2013 before the changes were introduced. -Shadow Transport Minister, Scott Emerson (2015)

MPDL Infographics

 

Our Movement

The BC Cycling Coalition wants British Columbians to be able to cycle and walk in safety. Our movement for the Active Transportation Strategy to be implemented provides facilities that will not only benefit the cycling community, but also our environment as we attempt to address climate change.

Although British Columbia has undergone several strategies to provide greener public transportation, cycling should be of priority when it comes to designing suitable infrastructure for pedestrian, cyclists' and motorists' safety.

We urge you now to take action now and write a letter to our government legislatures regarding this matter; highlight Queensland's two-year trial case to show what can be done.  

Addressing the Potential Challenges

QPS officers stressed the challenge of enforcing the MPD road rule. The difficulty lied within assessing whether or not vehicles were following the rules as there was no concrete evidence to prove so. Carrs-Q reported, "the officers felt that this inability to accurately determine passing distances leads to erratic passing manoeuvres". 

Fortunately, since the enactment of the two-year trial, the QPS officers saw improvement in vehicle-bicycle interactions. Further suggestions to curtail ambiguity include conducting a series of road safety classes in the lead-up to the introduction of the road rule as well as in-class simulations of appropriate cycling passing distances and behaviour. 

  

 

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Better Laws Needed to Keep Cyclists Safe - Lily Watters

Ellen Watters at Tour de White Rock - Photo: Scott Robarts

When we advocate for better, more inclusive rules on our roadways, we make ourselves accountable for our joy in cycling. I have been a cycling commuter since I started riding my bike to school at 9, and a "lifestyle" cyclist since a few years before that. I've lately started racking up kilometers on a road bike, so I can say without exaggeration that riding a bike has been a big part of my life for a long time. But I don't want to give the impression that I'm just in this to increase my personal freedom. This isn't just about making safe decisions as individuals or getting more of what each of us may want in our cycling niche, but being ambassadors for our sport and our choice of transportation. Taking a critical look, and speaking up about cycling safety forces us to acknowledge the risk involved. 

Lily WattersUnfortunately, many of us already know about these risks from personal experience, near misses for a friend, or the loss of someone dear. There is too much at stake to only complain about motorists after a ride, and too much to be gained to only post our happiness on social media. We already know what a group of focused cyclists can accomplish when they challenge themselves in their discipline; let's put that to work in advocating for better laws to keep cyclists safe on the roads.

 - Lily Watters, Sister of Ellen Watters 

Following the death of Lily's sister and rising cycling star, Ellen Watters, on a training ride in December 2016, the New Brunswick legislature moved quickly to pass a safe passing distance law.{{action?html=Yes. I want a Safer Passing Law!&tag=Safer Passing - Email&action_count_page_slug=safer_passing_emails&action_label=emails sent&anchor=#mailer}}

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Press Release: Cyclist Death Sparks Call for Safer Passing Law in BC

Cyclist death sparks call for Safer Passing Law in BC

JULY 6, 2017 – VANCOUVER, BC.

The death of rising cycling star Ellen Watters ​has top Canadian cyclists and local advocacy organizations​ calling for a Safer Passing Law​ to protect BC’s vulnerable road users. As professional cyclists from across North America converge on Metro Vancouver for the BC Superweek​ race series, Watters, killed by a ​motorist on a training ride in December 2016, is still top of mind. Her breakout performance in this series last year led to her first pro contract.

According to ​ICBC, 740 cyclists will be injured and seven will be killed by cars in BC from June through September. Former teammates of Watters in town for the series will train on BC roads and are keenly aware of the risks. Two-time Olympian ​Tara Whitten​ from ​The Cyclery-4iiii team shares,​

      “Losing Ellen was a horrible reminder that far too often we are not safe. It was a reminder of all those times when I thought I was visible to motorists only to feel the blast of a vehicle passing way too close, as a harsh reminder of my vulnerability.”

 The BC Road Safety Law Reform Group is recommending a Safer Passing Law​ that would require:

  •  A motor vehicle driver pass a vulnerable road user (a person cycling, walking, using a wheelchair, riding a horse) by at least  1.5 metres; ​and​
  •  If there is more than one lane for traffic in the same direction, a motor vehicle driver would have to have to pass in the lane  next to the one a vulnerable road user is traveling in.

 This law would make cycling and walking safer and more comfortable for road users. As Watters’ sister Lily Watters, a New Westminster resident, and avid cycle commuter states:​

     “Unfortunately, many of us already know about these risks from personal experience, or the loss​ of someone dear...we need better laws to keep cyclists safe on the roads.”

 Safe passing distances have been specified by over 27 jurisdictions in North America, including Ontario,Quebec and Nova Scotia as well as several in Europe. Following the death of Ellen Watters, the New Brunswick legislature ​moved quickly to pass “Ellen’s Law”- a safer passing distance law. The BC Road Safety Law Reform Group is calling on supporters to visit bccc.bc.ca/safer_passing ​and​ share their experiences with vehicles on the road. Cyclists are also encouraged to share their experiences online by Tweeting to @bccycle and using the ​#PassSafeBC​ hashtag.​  

ABOUT THE BRITISH COLUMBIA CYCLING COALITION

The British Columbia Cycling Coalition and our 20 member organizations represent approximately 50,000 supporters across B.C. We work with governments, businesses and organizations to enable everyone in B.C. to safely cycle for their daily trips, recreation and tourism.

http://bccc.bc.ca | Twitter: @bccycle| Facebook:​ bccycle

​ABOUT THE BC ROAD SAFETY LAW REFORM GROUP

The BC Road Safety Law Reform Group is comprised of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, the British Columbia Cycling Coalition (BCCC), HUB Cycling, and health researchers.

For further information, photos, and interview requests:

● Richard Campbell, BC Cycling Coalition, [email protected], 778-891-1764

● Justine Clift, Teammate, [email protected], 778-228-5215

● Lily Watters, Family Member, [email protected], 604-836-3623

● Tara Whitten, Teammate, [email protected], 780-893-0828

RELATED LINKS

http://bccc.bc.ca/safer_passing

http://www.bccc.bc.ca/safe_passing_submission

FULL QUOTES

Lily Watters - Sister of Ellen Watters

When we advocate for better, more inclusive rules on our roadways, we make ourselves accountable for our joy in cycling. I have been a cycling commuter since I started riding my bike to school at 9, and a "lifestyle" cyclist since a few years before that. I've lately started racking up kilometers on a road bike, so I can say without exaggeration that riding a bike has been a big part of my life for a long time. But I don't want to give the impression that I'm just in this to increase my personal freedom. This isn't just about making safe decisions as individuals or getting more of what each of us may want in our cycling niche, but being ambassadors for our sport and our choice of transportation. Taking a critical look, and speaking up about cycling safety forces us to acknowledge the risk involved. Unfortunately, many of us already know about these risks from personal experience, near misses for a friend, or the loss of someone dear. There is too much at stake to only complain about motorists after a ride, and too much to be gained to only post our happiness on social media. We already know what a group of focused cyclists can accomplish when they challenge themselves in their discipline; let's put that to work in advocating for better laws to keep cyclists safe on the roads.

Tara Whitten- 3x World Champion, 2x Olympian and Olympic Bronze Medalist, Teammate

Cycling is a beautiful sport in all its forms: as recreation, as competition, as transportation. I believe that a society that values cycling will be healthier, happier, and greener, by reducing the use of cars and getting more people more active more often. However, for this to happen, cyclists need to feel safer on our roads. Losing Ellen Watters was a horrible reminder that far too often we are not safe. It was a reminder of all those times when I thought I was visible to motorists only to feel the blast of a vehicle passing way too close, as a harsh reminder of my vulnerability. Change is needed at all levels: from cyclists, ensuring that they are visible at all times with lights and reflective clothing; from motorists,ensuring that their attention is always on the road, and from government, ensuring that rules, regulations, and education are in place to create safer roads for all road users. I believe that cyclists have a right to feel safe on our roads, and I believe that if we work together, we can make that happen!

Additional Photos: 

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bccyclingcoalition/pages/608/attachments/original/1499391081/Ellen-Watters-Photo-Matt-Lazzarotto.jpg - Ellen Watters, photo by Matt Lazzarotto

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bccyclingcoalition/pages/608/attachments/original/1499379173/Tara-Whitten-Photo-The-Cyclery-4iiii.jpg - Tara Whitten

https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bccyclingcoalition/pages/608/attachments/original/1499389731/Lily_Watters.jpg- Lily Watters

 

 

 

Baggio Ma posted an official response

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