Saskatoon

Tense cyclist-driver exchange 'had makings for a recipe of road rage': police

“The cyclist appeared calm, but his statements towards the driver to ‘educate him on the law’ could be seen as demeaning," says a member of the Saskatoon Police Service's bike unit.

Cyclists like Dave Palibroda can bike in a street lane, as long as they follow other rules: police

The Saskatoon Police Service says the cyclist's attempt to "educate" the driver in this situation could have been seen as demeaning. (Guy Quenneville/CBC News)

The Saskatoon Police Service has weighed in on a tense encounter between a cyclist and a driver that was caught on tape earlier this week.

According to the bike unit's Sgt. Keith Meckelborg, both men have something to learn from the experience.

On Monday — just a few days after VIA Rail named Saskatoon one of Canada's five most bike-friendly cities — cyclist Dave Palibroda followed the driver of a car he suspected of having aggressively honked his horn at him. Palibroda had been riding in the middle of the right lane on Broadway Avenue when the horn was blared.  

The resulting back-and-forth — in which Palibroda attempted to "educate" the driver on proper road conduct, only to be met with expletive-laced orders — has raised many questions about the on-road obligations of both types of commuter.

'Get off the road': Saskatoon cyclist Dave Palibroda's encounter with a driver 0:59

Here's Meckelborg's point-by-point advice, along with some social media reaction to his recommendations and the story overall.

On Palibroda's decision to follow the driver

"The cyclist appears to have taken it upon himself to flag down the motorist in an attempt to thwart the driver's perception of what a cyclist is legally allowed to do on a public roadway.

"The cyclist appeared calm, but his statements toward the driver to 'educate him on the law' could be seen as demeaning."

On the driver's response to Palibroda

"The motorist chose to verbally vent his frustrations toward the cyclist and then leave the area without physical confrontation occurring. But this same event could have easily played out much differently."

On the potentially potent combination of both

"The cyclist's behaviour and beliefs, added to the driver's behaviour and beliefs, had the makings for a recipe of road-rage. This is incident presents an opportunity to raise further awareness.  Road-rage comes with a documented history of negative outcomes with the potential for severe personal safety consequences and legal outcomes.

On Palibroda's right to be in a traffic lane on Broadway Avenue

"I will only comment on the traffic laws as they pertain to this specific roadway example in the video. It should also be noted that a bicycle is a vehicle in the eyes of our traffic laws and cyclists who operate a bicycle on a public roadway are subject to a majority of enforceable traffic laws under the Provincial Traffic Safety Act and the Municipal Traffic Bylaw, just to name a few.

"The cyclist occupied the right lane of travel in an area that likely had a maximum speed limit of 50 kilometres an hour. The roadway was designed with two lanes of travel. As such, a cyclist is allowed to occupy the right lane of travel, therefore allowing motorists to travel through in the left lane.

Cyclist Dave Palibroda's interaction with the angry driver happened a few blocks south of this part of Broadway Avenue. The police pointed out that neither Palibroda nor the driver appeared to stop correctly at a red light before their encounter. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

On the cyclist obligations that come with that right

"There are exceptions to this rule under section 199(4) of the Traffic Safety Act - Drive at a speed that impedes traffic, carrying a fine of $125.

"It all comes down to what is 'reasonable' or 'what a reasonable person would be expected to do.' If the cyclist cannot operate the bicycle at a reasonable speed, then they must pull over to the right shoulder and travel at the speed that they are physically capable of.

"For example, a cyclist could be charged under section 199(4) if their speed of travel was the cause of traffic congestion (with low cycling speeds of 0 to 20 kilometre an hour).

"For the police officer enforcing this law, they would need to defend the ticket in court by testifying that it is reasonable for a motorist to normally and safely travel at a speed of 30 to 50 kilometres an hour along this roadway with a posted speed limit of 50 kilometres an hour. This example would obviously change as the roadway dynamics (including speed limit) change.

On where both cyclist and driver were wrong

"As a side note, after viewing the video, it appears that both vehicles (car and bike) failed to come to a complete stop at the red light before completing the right turn, the bike more so.

"Both the motorist and cyclist could be subject to section 235(5)(a) of the Traffic Safety Act - Disobey red traffic light, carrying a fine of $230.

A final note from the city

Biking advocacy group Saskatoon Cycles has complained to the City of Saskatoon about the rule in its cycling bylaw  that bikes should be "as close as is reasonably practicable to the right hand curb" unless they are approaching an intersection and indicating an intention to turn.

The group has sought more clarity "due to ambiguity around the meaning of being 'as close as is reasonably practical to the right hand curb'"

The city's recommended change was summarized as follows: "A person riding a bicycle shall utilize only that portion of the street as is intended for the passage of motor vehicles, except that bicyclists may ride in an unmarked parking lane."

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips, ideas, complaints, just want to say 'Hi'? Write me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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