British Columbia

'It scared me': Vulgar message painted on bike path highlights cyclist-motorist tensions

Over the weekend, a popular paved bike trail connecting Saanich to Swartz Bay was spray-painted with vulgarities demanding cyclists stay off the route in sections that are shared with vehicles.

Advocate calls for improvements to cycling infrastructure to ease road rage

Cycling advocates in Greater Victoria say the regional trail system has reached capacity, which could be why road rage is an issue on sections of the trails shared with roads. (Keith Greig/Facebook)

When she saw the phrase "Bikers f--k off!!" painted on a popular cycling trail in Central Saanich, Jane van Hoorn says her "heart sank."

"It's a word that's usually used with a lot of anger, so it scared me," the avid cyclist said.

Over the weekend, part of the 29-kilometre Lochside Regional Trail connecting Saanich and Swartz Bay was spray-painted with vulgarities demanding cyclists stay off the route in sections that are shared with vehicles.

When van Hoorn, who has cycled in many parts of the world, rode over the white paint on the trail north of Island View Road, it reminded her of other times she's ridden into road rage.

Some messages spray-painted on Greater Victoria's Lochside Regional trail used obscene words to tell cyclists who share parts of the route with drivers to stay off the road. The City of Saanich says the vandalism has now been removed. (Keith Greig/Facebook)

She said she was nearly run over by a vehicle recently, as she turned onto another road. The driver began swearing at her and she eventually reported him to the police.

"I've had people yell at me 'you can't cycle on the crosswalk,'" she also recalled, noting that the signage on the road indicated it was legal for her to do so. 

Trails at 'breaking point'

Corey Burger, policy chair for the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, said the vandalism, which has now been removed, highlights that Greater Victoria's regional trail network is "simply too busy for the amount of trail" available.

"We need to widen it up," Burger said. Parts of both dedicated and shared sections of the trail are known to be narrow.

"Right now the trails have been increasing in volume [up to] 20 per cent a year," he explained. "They're really at a  breaking point. … I think that's why we're seeing some of this frustration boil over."

Burger said road rage has the potential to increase as more cyclists take to the roads. As bike lanes are implemented into local street infrastructure, the city is "in a transition," he said, and change can be difficult for commuters — particularly drivers. 

"What it comes down to is better infrastructure," said Burger. "The places we are seeing [road rage] are the places where there are too many cyclists for what we have… Infrastructure is the antidote to road rage."

No room to pass

Alison Malis is one driver who gets frustrated by cyclists. She says she drives the narrow sections where the Lochside trail meets the road multiple times per week, and sees cyclists "regularly" riding side by side with what seems like little regard for drivers who have no room to pass them.

"There's a perception [among] drivers that this small demographic has more influence than it should," said Malis.

She said better signage should be implemented on the shared routes to remind cyclists and drivers the rules of the shared road.

Section 183(2) of B.C.'s Motor Vehicle Act says that cyclists on a regular road "must not ride abreast of another person operating a cycle on the roadway."

Municipalities like Victoria have taken large steps to accommodate active transportation, like cycling, the past few years. (Greater Victoria Cycle/Twitter)

But Burger said the law is "quite frankly ridiculous," and was passed "to exile people riding a bicycle to the far side of the road."

Biking, he said, is a social activity that should allow cyclists to ride side by side.

Van Hoorn said, "if there's no room [for vehicles], you've got to wait," arguing that the section of the Lochside trail that overlaps with the road is still considered a bike path, and cyclists can ride abreast like they would on the separated trail. 

The Capital Regional District's pedestrian and cycling masterplan says the regional cycling network will "continue evolving as related plans are developed and specific roads are prioritized." 

The District of Central Saanich, which maintains the sections of the trail that share the road, was not available to comment by deadline.

Sgt. Julie Fast of Saanich police said there will always be conflict between cyclists and drivers. She reminds cyclists that they "have no obligation" to speak to unreasonably angry people.

If they feel unsafe, she says, they should record the licence plate number and call police.


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