Kelowna Critical Mass Ride to raise awareness about cyclist safety in wake of local woman’s death

Kelowna cyclists wanting to help raise awareness about dangers facing bike commuters are invited to a Friday night critical mass ride.

Kelowna cyclists wanting to help raise awareness about the dangers facing bike commuters  are invited to take part in a Friday night critical mass ride.

UBC Okanagan professor Michael  V. Smith is organizing the ride in hopes that some good can come from the death of Patricia Keenan, a 38-year old mother who died July 16, two days after she crashed into a car door that unexpectedly opened as she was cycling down Bernard Avenue.

“Just yesterday, somebody posted on Facebook about how awful (Keenan’s) death was, and a bunch of people were replying about other incidents they had, where they were nearly injured,” said Smith, Tuesday.

“So, the I thought the thing to do was just have an awareness raising ride… Bikes are the most vulnerable vehicles on the road, but they get the least respect.”

Among other things, Smith has seen car and truck drivers park in bike lanes, cut off cyclists, threaten them, throw things from their windows and generally put their lives at risk. All of those behaviours should be policed and sanctioned, he said.

He also thinks a little education would go a long way in making local roads safer.

“Somebody almost hit me last week—they turned right in front of me,” he said, explaining the driver was oblivious to the bike lane he was riding in.

“Every time you get on your bike there is something some driver has done wrong, either accidentally or because they’re trying to be benevolent, and letting you go when they shouldn’t. Both put you at risk.”

Cyclists, he said, need to be treated as another vehicle on the road. If they were, then there would be fewer incidents, like the one that claimed Keenan’s life.

The ride which is scheduled to start from the Sails Friday at 6 p.m. will be a memorial to Keenan as well as an awareness raising event.

“I have invited people to wear black in mourning. This is  a serious event in our community,” he said.   “A lot of people knew (Kennan) and thought she was amazing.”

Once gathered, cyclists will go on a ride that stops at city hall and the RCMP detachment.

“Those are the two groups who make policy and decisions that make cyclists safe or put them at risk,” said Smith.

“The city has done some great things for cycling, and made headway with bike lanes, but it needs to continually be on the agenda.”

As for police, Smith pointed out he’s never in all his years of cycling seen somebody in a car or truck pulled over for putting a cyclist at risk. That, he said, needs to change.

For more information go to the Critical Mass page on Facebook or just meet at the Sails downtown July 24 at 6 p.m.