A traffic stopping mass of cyclists rolled through downtown Kelowna Friday, raising awareness about rider safety while paying homage to a Kelowna mother who died earlier this month while riding down Bernard Avenue.
The critical mass ride was organized by UBC Okanagan professor Michael V. Smith and brought together roughly 250 cyclists who, when stationary, spoke about how they’ve had similar experiences to Patricia Keenan, who died July 16, two days after crashing into a car door that unexpectedly opened as she was cycling down the city’s main strip.
Nigel Brown was one of the first cyclists waiting at the Sails for the ride to begin.
He knew Keenan a little, and he rides his bike a lot. So, he’s well versed in what’s happening on Kelowna streets, and wants to see change.
“It’s important for the city to understand that cyclists take this kind of thing seriously,” he said. “It’s tragic and shouldn’t happen.”
But, he said, the onus to create a safer environment is not just on the city, it’s also on motorists and his fellow cyclists.
“The biggest problem right now is parked cars,” he said, noting the angle parking around the city puts cyclists in a particularly vulnerable position.
Motorists should be more diligent about shoulder checking and, he said, more cyclists need bells.
The city, he added, is doing some good work with their SmartTrips system on their website and the creation of more bike lanes, but they need to keep the pressure on to more fully transform the area into a cycling safe zone.
Bike commuter Christel Dahlberg had a similar sense of the safety issues at play, noting that she plans her routes around the city very carefully, avoiding certain streets due to the risk they pose.
Ultimately, however, she was at the event because she was simply devastated for Keenan and the child she left behind.
That compassion for a fellow cyclists, said organizer Michael V. Smith at the beginning of the ride was at the heart of the event, as was made clear by the many wearing mourner’s black.
The number of those involved doubled the largest critical mass ride ever previously held in Kelowna.
The Critical Mass Ride started from the sails shortly after 6 p.m., and then proceeded in a slow procession up Bernard.
At Ellis, the cyclists headed north in a large loop that took the procession up Clement, backsouth along Ethel, and then west on Bernard past the spot where Keenan was fatally injured.