Kamloops RCMP’s traffic unit has found a Juniper Ridge cyclist’s speed was the main reason for a collision with a water truck last month along Highland Road.
The crash sent Dr. Andrew van der Westhuizen to the intensive-care unit of a Vancouver hospital where he remains as he recovers from multiple injuries, particularly to his abdomen.
On May 11, van der Westhuizen was biking north (down) on the multi-use path on the east end of Highland Road with his parents when the truck, going the same direction, began turning right across the path to enter a dump site at a break in the concrete barrier separating the path from traffic.
“Unfortunately, it was just imperfect timing where the truck obviously didn’t see him and Andrew didn’t stop in time — and then they collided,” van der Westhuizen’s wife, Jen told KTW.
Investigators have now concluded their investigation, determining “the speed of the cyclist appears to be the primary contributor to the collision,” according to the Kamloops RCMP.
The investigation also determined there is no evidence to support there was any wrongdoing by the commercial vehicle involved.
“That being said, our thoughts go out to all of those involved in this unfortunate situation,” Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Crystal Evelyn told KTW.
Evelyn said the investigation involved traffic officers analyzing the scene with diagrams, photos and measurements, as well as interviewing witnesses.
She said the truck had its flashers on and was moving below its 50 km/h speed limit on Highland Road when the collision occurred.
Asked who had the right-of-way in the situation, Evelyn explained that regardless, there are multiple factors to be considered in these types of investigations.
Highland Road’s multi-use path is a separated fourth lane, with a posted speed limit for cyclists of 20 km/h.
There is also signage warning to watch for crossing trucks. The stretch of road is steep and winding, but the location of the collision is on a straightaway portion.
The site the truck was trying to access appears to be where excess dirt from residential construction in the area is being dropped off.
Dump site blocked, city to collect data from Highland Road
The entryway into that dump site has been chained off and locked since the collision.
City of Kamloops transportation manager Purvez Irani said the municipality hasn’t taken any steps, at this point, to address safety along Highland Road, noting access has been closed by the property owner.
“I believe right now the access is closed temporarily, but it could restart later on in the year, we understand,” he said.
Over the summer, Irani said, the city plans to collect data along Highland Road, studying traffic volumes and speeds, including those of cyclists and pedestrians along the multi-use path, to determine if any improvements and/or pilot projects should be implemented to enhance safety along the corridor.
“Could be a combination of things that we may look into,” Irani said. “Based on data collection, we’ll see how much of speed differential are we seeing — is there some way of reducing speeds on that multi-use pathway? Is there anything we could do to separate cyclists?”
He said the data will also show whether cyclists are adhering to the 20 km/h speed limit. He noted those who are travelling faster can use the main road, single file, with vehicles.
Asked what can be done to prevent future accidents at that particular intersection if the access is reopened, Irani said that is why the city wants to collect this data, adding vehicular crossings over multi-use paths are not uncommon.
Asked if a separate bike lane could be considered on the west side of Highland Road, Irani said there might not be enough space there.
Jen van der Westhuizen previously told KTW flaggers for trucks turning into that site could help improve visibility. She also called for more access in and out of Juniper.
Asked about the idea of having flaggers in the area, Irani said the city wants to complete data collection before making any decisions.
Cyclist group sees chance for change on Highland Road
Kamloops Cycling Coalition co-founder Cheryl Fraser said she doesn’t think it is fair to focus solely on the cyclist’s speed in the collision, arguing a larger conversation about pedestrian safety on Highland Road needs to occur.
“I don’t think it’s fair to end the conversation at ‘the cyclist was speeding’ and that’s the only takeaway here,” Fraser said, noting the cyclist had the right-of-way.
According to DriveSmartBC, drivers must yield to cyclists before turning right across bicycle lanes.
Fraser said drivers of trucks need to be watching for and expecting cyclists from much farther away — given the grade and length of the route along Highland Road.
She said more needs to be done with traffic control at the Highland crossing if trucks are going to be allowed to turn there, noting flaggers at the site could help slow down cyclists passing through.
Fraser said it’s easy to pick up speed travelling down the multi-use path, estimating she has sometimes gone 40 km/h or 50 km/h down the route. She said she doesn’t think the current speed limit is reasonable as it involves bikers having to ride their brakes.
Fraser questioned how 20 km/h was determined and feels it should be reviewed.
She said cyclists should be separated from pedestrians rather than having shared paths and believes now is a good time for the city to review safety standards on the Highland Road multi-use path and consider if something different is more appropriate, given the road’s length, grade and high usage.
“While this was such a horrific accident, that I am heartbroken to hear about, I think the silver lining is that it’s an excellent opportunity for a larger conversation to happen,” Fraser said.