Winter cycling hazards
Open letter to the manager of public works:
First of all, I would like to thank Whitehorse’s Public Works department for making an effort to maintain one bike lane/pedestrian trail along Two Mile Hill in winter.
I understand that it is not possible to have a clear trail at all times.
At least, the lane is clearly separated from the general roadway used by motorized vehicles, which makes it less dangerous if a bicyclist is struggling uphill (or downhill) in layers of snow dust and sand.
I can tell you from experience, it feels like riding on the dunes in the Carcross desert.
I am a committed bicycle commuter and have been showcased for the city’s “look who is wheeling to work” campaign.
Therefore, I venture further than just along Two Mile Hill on the public road system and, obeying the Motor Vehicle Act, not on sidewalks.
This becomes increasingly difficult and dangerous.
Range Road, a bus, school bus, and emergency vehicle route is reduced to two tire tracks each way. There is no way I can stay out of the motorized traffic’s way this time of the year.
I cannot remember that the conditions on Range Road were ever that precarious any time last winter, except for during a severe snowfall on a weekend.
Even worse is Fourth Avenue. The churned up snow is accumulating along the curb several inches deep, making the marked bicycle lane absolutely impassable for any kind of traffic, not just self-propelled two-wheelers.
Furthermore, by not maintaining the main traffic arteries, the city is putting my life at risk due to the increasing road rage by citizens in their posh vehicles who don’t hesitate to roll down the window, despite the cold and wind chill, wave fists and erect middle fingers at me, shouting at me to get off the road, at the same time as they try to clip me off the bicycle by passing with margins of a few inches.
These conflicts could be easily avoided by having the main traffic arteries maintained to drivable standards for a mix of vehicle uses.
As I mentioned before, last year I never encountered a mess as experienced this week. It almost seems like the city is banking its road maintenance and snow-removal budget for the period of the 2007 Canada Winter Games when all the visitors and press are in with their cameras on.
It is tempting to be blinded by the potential fame and economic spin-off from the Games.
But this can never justify putting long-term citizens at preventable and unnecessary risk.
In the long-term, a fully developed system of bicycle lanes or trails will increase the attractiveness of Whitehorse, reduce the volume of polluting traffic and increase the safety of self-propelled commuters.
Othmar F. Arnold