CASTLEGAR — Cyclist Sarah Jackman has a new nickname for her hometown — Castle-Car.
After observing the deterioration of drivers’ awareness of cyclists over the last five years and then becoming the victim of two accidents in a matter of weeks, she couldn’t help but come up with the name that she feels reflects the attitude of many drivers — that roads are for cars only.
Jackman lives in downtown Castlegar but works uptown so she rides the length of town almost every day. Cycling is her primary mode of transportation and she counts herself as an avid cyclist with years and years of experience.
“It is an increasing problem,” said Jackman. “Five years ago, drivers in Castlegar were very respectful of cyclists and now we are invisible.”
Jackman feels that motorists’ tendency to hurry and distracted driving are part of the problem.
“Texting, talking on their phone while they are driving, even Bluetooth — you are distracted … you are not thinking abut looking left, right and center.”
“In five years, phones have come a long way, and people are very plugged in, people are conducting business,” added Jackman, who thinks that motorists are primarily only looking for another vehicle when they are distracted, and are forgetting about cyclists and pedestrians.
One afternoon in July, Jackman was headed down Sherbico Hill on Columbia, when she reached the intersection at 10th Street, a car ignored the turning lane on Columbia and turned right from the main lane into her path. To avoid a collision, Jackson bailed off her bike. She ended up with an injured hip, multiple bruises and a sprained shoulder. Her bike was not salvageable. The motorist did not stop.
Two weeks later, while still recovering, Jackman was riding home from work at about 10 p.m. clad in reflective gear and with her lights on, when once again, she had another close call. This time she was on Columbia Avenue near City Furniture. According to Jackman, a semi-trailer that had just come off of the highway pushed her to the side of the road and clipped an extension on her handlebar. This forced her pedal into the curb and sent Jackman flipping onto the sidewalk.
“He didn’t see me,” said Jackman. “I went flippy, flippy, flippy and landed on my face. The driver was totally unaware.”
Once again, the driver didn’t stop or even seem to notice.
She also ended up with a broken wrist, facial lacerations and bruising and temporary loss of vision from all of the swelling.
“There I am, standing there dazed, confused, my bike unrideable,” she explained. “I put it on my shoulders and proceeded to walk all the way back downtown to where I live, and nobody stopped to help me — bleeding, stumbling.”
Jackman hopes that by sharing her story she can raise awareness to the problem.
“I want people to look around and see us,” said Jackman. “You guys are not the only units on the road — there’s pedestrians, motorcycles, cyclists, wheelchairs.”
“Look around, get off your phones and pay attention. I want people to look around and see us.”
Director of transportation and civic works for Castlegar Chris Barlow was concerned to hear that a cyclist had experienced these trials and hopes that upcoming cycling lane improvements on Columbia will increase safety as the city works to support all demographics of cyclists from children to seniors.
“The City of Castlegar is committed to supporting alternative forms of transportation to give residents and visitors other options than vehicle trips,” said Barlow.
“To support that commitment we have been making investments in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure that raises the level of safety for users and creates distinct travel corridors for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle traffic. To be able to increase the number of cyclists and support people choosing to leave their cars at home, we believe that bike lane improvements like those proposed for Columbia Avenue will make travel safer for all.”