'Bikes were all over the ground': Highway collision heightens cyclist's fear of vehicles

Richard Chau was riding at the back of a group of 16 cyclists when the collision happened Saturday morning along the Sherwood Park Freeway.

'I’m always really paranoid when I hear the cars [close] by'

Richard Chau was one of the cyclists injured in Saturday's collision. (Facebook)

Richard Chau still doesn't know what hit him.

The 61-year-old was at the back of a pack of 15 cyclists which was riding along the Sherwood Park Freeway Saturday morning when the group was struck by a pickup truck.

One minute, he was pedalling on the freeway approaching 17th Street. The next, he was flat on his back on the road.

"I woke up and one of the female cyclists was helping me and then I realized we all crashed. I looked up at the sky," he said.

"Bikes were all over the ground so I knew we had crashed but I didn't know we had been hit by a car at that time."

Chau is not sure if he was hit by the vehicle, or if it hit some of the other cyclists who then crashed into him.

Chau said he tried to move but was told to stay still.

The back of his helmet was broken, he said, and once paramedics arrived, they stabilized his neck.

Two of the other cyclists, one man and one woman, seemed to be in a lot of pain — "very, very bad shape," he said.

Chau said he didn't feel any pain at that time. But later, he said, "[there was] more and more pain."

A photo taken by motorist Miles Clarke, who came upon the scene shortly after the accident happened (Supplied/Miles Clarke)

No broken bones, lots of road rash

Five cyclists were injured, two seriously in the incident that happened at about 9:50 a.m. on Saturday.

According to RCMP, the cyclists were riding in pairs in the centre of three lanes when the truck struck the group from behind. One of the lanes is an off-ramp that turns into an on-ramp onto Highway 216.

Chau spent four hours at the hospital before being discharged. He said he did not break any bones but suffered lots of bruising and road rash.

"Lower back is all black from road rash," he said. His knuckles, elbow and shoulder were also badly scraped up.

Richard Chau suffered bruising and road rash as a result of the accident on Saturday. (Richard Chau )

His cycling shirt was cut off him at the hospital so one of the nurses at the hospital gave him a T-shirt to wear home. He took a cab from the hospital back to his vehicle, then drove himself home.  

The frame of his $7,500 bike was broken in the collision. RCMP still have it as part of their investigation into what happened.

On Monday, Chau returned to his job as a car courier. It took him 30 seconds to get himself out of his car this morning because he had no strength in his lower back.

"I'm a strong guy," he said. "Just doing things slowly, that's all."

Feels safer cycling in large group

Chau said this is the third bicycle crash he's been in, although it is the first that involved a vehicle.

He said most vehicles are respectful of cyclists on the highway although he's already had a couple of close calls this year.

"When I ride by myself, people are very rude," he said, adding that he feels safer in a large group.

Alberta Transportation regulations stipulate cyclists are supposed to ride single file except when passing another bicycle.

Chau said his group was riding in two lines down the highway.

He said all cycling clubs ride that way on the highway because it's safer.

That feeling is echoed by Albert Nguyen, president of the Edmonton Road and Track Club.

"We advocate riding two by two when possible because it does increase visibility," he said, as long as the cyclists remain in one lane. 

"When you're coming up on someone, riders two wide are easier to see than a rider one wide."

By doing that, the group cuts down its length in half and makes it faster for vehicles to pass, he said.

"We act more like a large vehicle, everyone stays together and takes a lane," he said.  

Law should be changed for cyclists on highway

Alberta Transportation regulations state that motorists are expected to change lanes when passing a bicycle, just like for any other vehicle.

Chau said he would like to see the law changed to require any vehicle passing a bike to leave at least three feet between them.

"If you ask all the cyclists, they will say there are a lot of bad drivers on the road who drive close by," he said. "They don't realize [how close they are] and don't know what it feels like when you're on the road."

He said he'll probably feel a bit nervous the next time he goes out on his bike.

"I'm always really paranoid when I hear the cars [close] by."

RCMP spokesperson Const. Chantelle Kelly told CBC News that no charges have been laid against the driver.

"At this point, we have no indication that the person driving the vehicle was on their cellphone or distracted," she said. 

"The cyclists were doing what they were supposed to do and it's unfortunate that it ended in a crash like this."

About the Author

Nola Keeler

Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.