British Columbia

2 cyclists struck by driver carrying overhanging load on Sea-to-Sky Highway

A Vancouver cyclist says he is "happy to be alive" after being hit by a driver carrying an overhanging load in a pickup truck along the Sea-to-Sky Highway on Monday.

'Happy to be alive and mad as hell,' Todd Nickel said Monday night on social media

Two cyclists were hit on the Sea-To-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Squamish on Monday by wooden planks hanging over the cargo bed of a pickup truck. One was sent to hospital the other rode away. (Supplied by Mike Martin)

A Vancouver man is thankful to be alive after being one of two cyclists hit by a driver carrying an overhanging load in a pickup truck on the Sea-to-Sky Highway Monday.

A tweet from Squamish RCMP at 1:44 p.m. PT Monday confirms a cyclist was hit by a vehicle on the Sea-to-Sky Highway and first responders were on the scene.

"It me," reads a retweet by Twitter user Todd Nickel.

In a release issued Tuesday afternoon, RCMP said a 45-year-old man had been hospitalized after he was struck with an "insecure load" of lumber being carried in the bed of a truck on Highway 99 near Lions Bay a day earlier.

The release states officers from Sea-to-Sky Traffic Services attended the scene and witnesses reported the strap of the load appeared to have broken, causing the load to shift significantly over the right side of the bed and protrude over the shoulder of the highway, without the driver's knowledge.

Nickel shared a photo of a white pickup truck on the highway with a bundle of wooden planks sticking out from the side of the cargo bed, dangling over the shoulder of the road.

CBC News has confirmed Mike Martin took the photo. Martin is the second cyclist hit by the load, but he was not significantly hurt, managed to stay on his bike and ride off.

Investigators from traffic services have located the driver and vehicle, and the driver has been issued a ticket in violation of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act for driving without consideration and insecure cargo, which could add up to $369 in fines, according to the release. 

Psychological impact of crash

In a tweet, Nickel says "this hit me from behind" at 80 km/h.

In a Facebook post, Nickel said he was taken to the Lions Gate Hospital and is "happy to be alive and mad as hell" following the incident.

During an interview from his hospital bed on Tuesday, Nickel said he had set out on his bike the day before to tackle the approximately 100-kilometre round-trip from the city's West End to Britannia Beach.

He said he was hit shortly after passing another cyclist on his way back to the city, near Furry Creek.

"I heard [the cyclist] shout, and then, almost the same moment, something hit me in the back of the head and I went down," he said.

Todd Nickel of Vancouver was cycling along the Sea-to-Sky Highway from Britannia Beach on Monday when he was hit by the driver of a vehicle carrying an overhanging load. (Supplied by Todd Nickel)

Nickel estimates he had been travelling about 50 km/h on his bike at the time of the collision. A few people who identified themselves as off-duty responders began medically assisting him and someone called for an ambulance right away, he said.

"Time seemed to slow down. It was pretty painful," he said.

He said he lost consciousness, and there was blood dripping down his face.

Todd Nickel, pictured here on Monday, suffered broken bones in addition to injuries to his face as a result of being hit by a driver carrying an over-sized bundle of wood. (Supplied by Todd Nickel)

Nickel could be seen with cuts across his nose and bruising on his face during an online video interview. 

"I didn't even know what had happened," he told CBC News.

After undergoing a CT scan and X-rays, he said his injuries include a broken clavicle, broken scapula, broken ribs and a punctured lung.

Cyclist calls it negligence

It's the first time the relatively new cyclist has crashed. Nickel said it was also his first time on that highway, which has a posted maximum speed of 80 km/h.

"I refuse to call it an accident. It wasn't an accident; it was negligence. I crashed because I got hit by a negligent driver," he said.

Navdeep Chhina, the acting executive director of Vancouver-based HUB Cycling, a charitable non-profit that advocates for active transportation networks, said more money needs to be spent on building road infrastructure to protect cyclists, and the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act must be updated to include harsher penalties.

Vancouver cyclist Todd Nickel describes the moments after he was hit by a driver carrying an overhanging load of lumber in a pickup truck on the Sea-to-Sky Highway. 0:33

"Just putting paint on a road doesn't make cycling infrastructure," he said.

Chhina believes cyclists should not be close to motor vehicles travelling at high speeds.

"There's nothing a person cycling could have done in this case. They are in the bike lane  —  the supposedly bike lane — and they got hit from behind," he said.

Chhina suggests officials look to examples of networks of separated highways built specifically for cyclists in other countries such as Denmark, Germany and Norway to improve the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which is not typically a commuter route.

Getting back on the horse

Nickel wants to see improved traffic enforcement to make the highway safer for all users.

In his experience as a driver and cyclist, Nickel says he believes other drivers are sometimes antagonistic, and that people may be blaming him for taking his bike on the highway in the first place.

He said the mental aspect will outweigh the physical risks of getting back on two wheels.

"I do want to get back on the horse, as they say, but yeah, there's going to be a psychological element to get over," he said.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story, citing an RCMP release, said fines for the driver could amount to $484. An updated RCMP release corrected this number to $369.
    Aug 05, 2020 11:53 AM PT

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge

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