Motorcycle safety and parking issues debated

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      When it comes to safety and parking, things have been getting more precarious for motorcyclists in B.C. According to a recent report by a B.C. Coroners Service panel, some 286 riders died in accidents between 2000 and 2007. Do the math and that comes to about 40 riders a year. Whether you ride a cruiser, tourer, scooter, dual-purpose, crotch rocket, or supermotard, when you climb aboard you’re taking more of a risk than ever. Things are so bad out there, some riders describe riding in traffic as Death Race 2000, in reference to the old blood-and-guts David Carradine/Sylvester Stallone flick of the 1970s.

      To that end, the solicitor general recently announced that said report is going to be forwarded to the superintendent of motor vehicles, along with recommendations from the panel aimed at improving conditions for riders. “It’s clear that with more riders on the road, motorcycle safety is an area where improvements need to be made,” said Kash Heed in a March 18 news release.

      The report includes recommendations to:

      Require mandatory industry certification for all motorcycle helmets.

      Establish a graduated-licence program for new riders.

      Implement a zero-tolerance blood-alcohol policy for new riders.

      Issue a different-coloured licence plate to motorcyclists who hold a learner’s licence.

      Re-evaluate existing standards for training schools and instructor certification.

      Expand the scope of coroner’s investigations involving motorcycle deaths to include more data and compile it in a specific section for better analysis in the future.

      While British Columbia Coalition of Motorcyclists executive director Adele Tompkins thinks some of these suggestions make sense, she says the report as a whole doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.

      “The bigger picture here is more about proper training for riders and raising public awareness than it is about legislating helmets,” she says. “It’s my opinion that the coroner’s office just listened to ICBC and law-enforcement people, and did not talk to the people who are directly affected—the motorcyclists.”

      Tompkins points out that BCCOM has been advocating public awareness and graduated licensing for some time now, but worries that the coroner’s recommendations will be used to ram through new helmet legislation, which has been a thorn in the side of law-enforcement personnel for years. The famed “B.C. beanie” has been the subject of controversy since it first fell through the cracks of the Motor Vehicle Act in 1987, when this legislation was challenged in court and found to be wanting. Hence the undersized—but perfectly legal—skid-lids used by some riders that offer about as much protection as a cereal bowl. “This report is kind of a knee-jerk reaction,” Tompkins adds, “and is focused in the wrong direction.”

      Interestingly, it isn’t just beanie wearers who may be affected by the recommendations. Sikh motorcyclists have also challenged this section of the Motor Vehicle Act, on the grounds that their religious headgear prevents them from wearing a helmet of any kind. In order to wear a helmet, they say, they would have to remove their turbans, which they are not willing to do. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

      Another hot-button issue for motorcyclists in Vancouver these days is parking—or the lack of it. Vancouver has over 26,000 registered motorcycle and scooter riders, and they have a grand total of 42 dedicated parking spaces to choose from. As a result, riders pretty much park wherever they can, often receiving a ticket or a tow-job for their efforts. Multiple parking by bikes in automobile parking spots, for example, is illegal, and you still can’t park your bike on the sidewalk. In Toronto, parking for motorcycles is free virtually throughout the city and you’re allowed to park your scooter on the sidewalk, provided it doesn’t block pedestrians.

      Responding to various complaints, the City of Vancouver did have a look at the parking situation and came up with some recommendations. Chief among them are free parking for pedal-assisted scooters, limited-speed motorcycles/scooters, and zero-emission scooters; and a provision for multiple motorcycle parking in regular automobile spots, provided users use the city’s pay-by-phone system.

      These recommendations were part of a report that was to be presented to city council. However, the report has apparently gone missing, and at this point everything seems to be in limbo. “Geoff Meggs was supposed to be stickhandling all this,” says motorcycle activist Ian Tootill, “but he’s been hospitalized, and no one seems to know where the report is.” And anyway, says Tootill, the recommendations are stupid and pointless. “There are so few of these kinds of scooters, they might as well not have bothered. And the pay-by-phone system is cumbersome and hard to use.

      “Vancouver staff have virtually ignored any public input,” continues Tootill, “and the city is fixated on everybody paying for parking. The core of the problem is that city staff cannot shake their dogma concerning paid parking, and instead of providing free parking that is clearly in the interests of everybody, they hatched a complicated, costly plan that would not make the city any money and would do nothing for motorcyclists and scooters.”

      Stay tuned.



      Grumpy Auld Scot

      Apr 3, 2010 at 7:48am

      I've been riding since 1970, no I'm not a "born again" rider who has taken it up again in a high risk mid-life crisis, I have had a bike on the road for most of my adult life.
      Riding a bike is a choice. You accept the risk. Like back country skiing or going to a comedy club, bad things can happen no matter how good you are and how much you paid for your helmet. This is one of the few choices we have left, please don't add more laws and standards to complicate our lives and confuse the issues.
      If someone gets on a motorcycle with a B.C. beanie on their head then maybe (in a Darwinian sense) it's not exactly a bad thing.


      Apr 6, 2010 at 10:48am

      I'm confused as to why motorcycle riders feel they should get free parking?

      Sandy Mike

      Apr 17, 2010 at 8:11am

      When parking spaces are at a premium for everyone (as it always is in Vancouver) it makes absolutely no sense to not allow 3 or 4 motorcycles or scooters to park in the same spot. Not only is it ridiculous to suggest or require that each one of them take their own spot, effectively using about 20% of the spot up, but it is also counterproductive to the space and fuel savings initiatives the city seems hell bent on pursuing.


      Apr 17, 2010 at 8:49am

      Most motorcycles get over 50 MPG and use less energy to move a person around. I think we should promote all forms of energy reducing transportation and than starts with free parking. I wouls also recommend that all Hybid cars/electric vehicles be tax excempt.

      shovelhead pete

      Apr 17, 2010 at 9:18am

      yes bob57 you ARE confused.Learn to read before wasting bandwidth with your stupidity. The only contentious issue is the beanie helmet law...and it has nothing to do with public safety, but has everything to do with just another arbitrary reason for police to be able to investigate bikers without probable cause.


      Apr 17, 2010 at 10:03am

      Because it's the "Green" thing to do!

      JJ Joseph

      Apr 18, 2010 at 11:51pm

      In case you haven't noticed, bob57, scooters are only 2' wide and 5' long. They're really tiny and shouldn't have to pay for an entire automobile-size parking space. I thought this was totally obvious, but I maybe I'm wrong.

      Island Man

      Oct 5, 2010 at 9:00am

      Look at it this way...if 3 or 4 bikes are in one parking spot then that's several spots available for's win win.