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Vancouver’s mild climate means most people don’t install winter tires on their cars. Given the problems of last winter, City Hall thinks it might be time to change that. Council is considering a proposal to fine drivers who do not use winter tires in the colder months.
While the city’s political leaders mull over this idea, there are a few things you should know about winter driving.
In most parts of BC, winter tires are necessary. On some highways, signs indicate that winter tires or chains should be in use between October 1 and March 31. You’ve likely seen these along the Sea-to-Sky highway and the Coquahalla. Police can ticket you and send you back if you don’t have snow tires or chains.
Transport Canada regulations require winter tires to be specifically designed to grip the road at temperatures below 7°C. Your summer and even all season tires are not equipped to handle colder conditions.
If you do get into an accident where it is determined that winter tires could have helped, ICBC may consider you at fault for the crash. ICBC offers a helpful guide for selecting and storing winter tires.
And what about your all-season tires? Won’t they do? Not necessarily and the reason essentially comes down to science and design.
While all-season tires can handle many different road conditions, they are not all that good at handling the cold. The harder rubber in all-seasons gives them great durability, but when temperatures drop, the rubber gets even harder and starts to lose traction. The softer rubber in winter tires is much better at remaining flexible enough to grip cold, icy roads. The treads on both tires are also different, with winter tires being the best for pushing away slush, ice, and snow and getting a solid grip on the road surface.
With winter fast approaching and city council continuing to debate the issue, this is a good time to assess your driving needs. Think about the kind of driving you do, find out what kind of tires you use and need, and talk to a tire or automotive specialist today about installing winter tires on your car.
In BC there is a car crash nearly every 2 minutes. It’s costly and can be devastating for some families. Just last year, ICBC paid out nearly $4 billion in injury and vehicle damage claims. And the year before, 300 people died on our roads.
If you think things are getting worse, you’re right. ICBC reported a 23% increase in crashes between 2013 and 2016. A lot of that is because there are more cars and people on the roads and too many drivers let themselves get distracted by their electronic devices.
Driver attitude is also a factor. A recent survey showed that 99% of BC drivers think they’re good or excellent drivers. But 75% had wrong answers on a road test quiz. Another 20% admitted they were aggressive drivers, and a third said they bend the rules when they think there’s no one else around. These are not the traits of excellent drivers.
So what can you do to make our roads safer?
The number one thing is to follow the rules. That means no speeding, no reckless driving, and never allow yourself to become distracted by an electronic device. No text or tweet is worth a crash. Driving requires your full attention. You have to be cautious and alert when behind the wheel. Be aware of what’s going on around you and keep your focus on driving.
If you have kids that are approaching their driving years, there are two things you can do. First, be a good example. They learn from your habits – good and bad – whether you’re aware of that or not. Second, send them to an accredited driving school. They’ll learn proper driving techniques, avoid your bad habits, and they might even teach you a thing or two.
We all have a responsibility to be better drivers so our roads are safer and fewer families are hurt. Do your part and help make BC roads safer for everyone.
Sun’s out, bikes out, right? It’s a joy to get on your bike and spin around the city – soaking up the rays and feeling the breeze in your face. But before you pedal your way around, it’s a good idea to brush up on your safety tips and know the rules of the road.
Summer brings a spike in bike related crashes and accidents. ICBC stats show that between June and September of every year, 740 people are hurt and seven die in collisions between cars and cyclists. That’s six injured people per day! We need to share the road but we also need to share the responsibility for putting safety first.
If you’re our there biking on one of the beautiful and scenic trails throughout British Columbia or in Vancouver’s network of protected bike lanes, there are a few basics you need to do to keep yourself out of harms way:
Always obey the rules. That means going with the right flow of traffic, sticking within speed limits, and following all signs as posted. Need to brush up on what the rules for cyclists are in BC? Check the government website for full details.
While it isn’t the law in BC, you should also follow the “One Meter Rule” when it comes to biking beside cars. You don’t want to slam into an opening car door or a pedestrian slipping through a few parked cars. Give yourself room to avoid the risk of a crash.
When it comes to life in the great outdoors, few places on earth are as blessed as BC. With the spring and summer hiking season about to get going, you may be thinking about hitting one of the many hiking trails in our area. There are many to choose from but your first choice is always to put safety first.
Here are a few tips and ideas for making your trek a safe one.
Choose your trail
Before you head out, always make sure you plan ahead. Check out Vancouver Trails for an excellent rundown of nearly every hiking trail in the BC South Coast. They provide information such as length of the trail, incline and difficulty, where to find it, whether or not it is pet friendly, and amenities on or near the trail. Some trails can be extremely challenging and long, requiring an overnight stay. Know your ability and don’t push yourself to the point of injury.
Check weather and gear
On the day of your hike, check weather conditions and make sure you have the appropriate gear – including a change of clothes, the right footwear, and rain gear. Conditions can change quickly especially if you’re hiking through different elevations and things like wet rocks can be very slippery.
Pack snacks and water
While some trails are very close to amenities or even within city limits, others can take you deep into the forests and backcountry. Make sure that you’ve packed enough water and food to last the journey. You need to stay hydrated and fueled for both the physical demands of a hike and your own mental alertness.
Tell your friends
Never go hiking alone – not only is it more enjoyable with friends, it’s safer that way. Even after recruiting a hiking buddy or two, make sure that someone else knows your plans including where you are going, when you are leaving, and when you expect to be back. Bring along a charged cellphone to contact your friends if you get separated, run late, or change your plans. And check in again when you’re back.
Respect our four-legged friends
Metro Vancouver may be one of the most populated parts of Canada, but it’s also home to many wild creatures like coyotes, cougars, bears, and more. Some of these you don’t want to encounter when you’re in the middle of the forest. When they feel threatened, they can be a danger. Make a bit of noise along your hike to let them know you’re there (they really don’t want to be around humans and will gladly stay to themselves if they know you’re coming), but if you do come across a bear or other large animal, give them their space and calmly back away.
From the weather to the trail itself, in rain or under the hot sun, trail conditions change all the time. And some trails have special requirements or rules. Many of the marked trails in the area will have signs posted throughout to let you know what the conditions and rules are. Follow them! They are they for everyone’s enjoyment and safety.
Like cherry blossoms and daffodils, every spring in Vancouver sees the return of something truly spectacular – thousands of people out enjoying the Seawall. But 30 kms of seaside trails can result in conflicts between people wheeling it and people heeling it. Cyclists, rollerbladers, pedestrians, and joggers need to share the Seawall and follow the rules.
You’ve probably experienced it. Out for a sunny stroll near Granville Island when a speeding cyclist takes a turn too quickly and nearly crashes into you. Or you’re enjoying a leisurely bike ride around Stanley Park when a group of walkers and gawkers wanders off the pedestrian path and into the bike route to snap photos of the totem poles.
It can be frustrating and dangerous.
As the crown jewel of the city, the Seawall is meant to be enjoyed. Here are four easy things you can do to make it a safer, more delightful experience for everyone.
Stick to your lane
There’s a simple reason why most of the Seawall has two separate lanes: it’s safer that way. While there are spots where space is limited and the path has to be shared, it is mostly separated into two well-marked lanes. Generally, people on foot take the water side and their trail is often “bumpy” (made of paver bricks, cobblestones, or grooved concrete). The path for the faster moving wheeled set is on the inside and is smooth (except in shared areas where the “bumps” help slow those wheels down). If that isn’t apparent, there are signs to let you know which lane is yours. Stick to your side and stay safe.
Watch your speed
If you’re on fast-moving wheels – mostly bikes and inline skates – mind your speed and stick to your paths. You’re travelling at a faster pace than walkers or runners and need more space for sudden stops. And in case you didn’t know, the Seawall has a speed limit: 15 km/h. And yes, police will enforce it. For runners, be mindful of pedestrians ahead and navigate your way through them carefully when going by.
Beware of sticky points
While you should be careful and alert at all times, there are a few areas where things get quite congested and require much more caution and attention. These include areas:
If you decide to skip Vancouver’s Seawall for West Vancouver’s Seawalk, leave your wheeled equipment at home. Bikes and rollerblades are not permitted there. Check local rules for what’s allowed on other municipal trials and paths.
Share and share alike
There are some parts of the Seawall where there’s just not enough room for separate paths (like just west of the Lions Gate Bridge in Stanley Park or near Leg-in-Boot Square on False Creek). In these areas, you have to share the path and the responsibility for safety.
Another thing to share is this message: the Seawall is for everyone’s enjoyment but it also has rules, including rules of etiquette. Ring your bell when you’re biking by and politely point out to people if they’re not in the correct lane. Keep your dogs on a leash, a close eye on your kids, and don’t get your head stuck in your phone when you’re walking through busy parts of the Seawall. Just a few simple things can make for a great day on our magnificent crown jewel.
Rain, rain, go away – right? But this is British Columbia, so we live with it. To make our lives safer and better when our rain forest cities live up to their “Wet Coast” reputation, approaching rainy roadways takes a different skillset than the during the drier days of summer.
Here are a few things to do when the when driving in the rain.
Check your car
Rain hampers visibility and on the road, you need to see and be seen. This means clearing dirt and debris from headlights and tail lamps and seeing that all lights are working. Also make sure your wipers function properly and that you have topped up the washer fluid. Check to see your tires are inflated properly and that there are no problems with the brakes.
Check your speed
Once you are on the road, take it slow. Wet roads are slippery roads and excessive (or even normal) speeds are dangerous. Rain will bring out oil and gas residue in the pavement and that adds a layer of slickness. Braking takes longer when you speed. Add a slippery surface and you’re adding more to your braking time.
Adjust your driving
Aside from a safe speed, rain requires a few other changes to the way you drive. Leave plenty of room for sudden stops, and no tailgating. Watch for larger vehicles like trucks and buses. Give them plenty of room and keep an eye out for when they’re travelling through puddles. An 18-wheeler plowing through water can blind you as it hits your windshield.
Hydroplaning can be one of the scariest experiences on a rain-soaked road. In an instant, you can feel like the car has taken on a mind of its own. But if you do hydroplane, don’t panic. You’re still in control. Stay calm, focus on where you want the car to go, ease off the gas and ease on the brakes to adjust speed (don’t slam either pedal!), and steer yourself away from the water.
Into each life a little rain must fall. But just a few minutes of preparation, a few adjustments to your regular habits, and a calm attitude will help you make it through the storm and back home safely.
Vancouver is becoming as well-known for its cycling culture as it is for its rain. But what happens when the two intersect? Yes, slick roads and cold, wet commutes are part of it. But just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you have to lock up your bike for the season.
We have an extensive network of bike lanes and thousands are commuting by bike every day. Biking in the cold Vancouver rain does require some changes in the way you prepare and cycle. Here are five quick tips to keep you safe in the rain.
Dress for the rain
Being cold and damp is neither fun nor comfortable. Wear waterproof clothing and footwear to keep dry and wick any wet off you. Use a light backpack or a panier (or bike basket) to carry a change of clothing and keep something on hand in case the weather changes. While they can cover you in a pinch, do be cautious when using a rain poncho – keep them clear of your gears and chain so they don’t snag and suddenly seize up your bike.
Light up your way
Make sure you have a bright white light for your bike or helmet. In Vancouver, it’s the law. The light does two very important things. First, it helps with your visibility. Rain can reduce your ability to see and it gets worse if it is dark or foggy. Second, a light lets pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists see you.
Slippery when wet
You should always plan out your route but if you’re a daily bike commuter, you probably have the same route every day. On drier days, take note of the surfaces you’re biking on. Things like grates, manhole covers, and painted markings all become slick when wet. Know where they are on your route and adjust your speed when you approach them.
Cycling over the rainbows
You know those little rainbow-hued patches that pop up on pavement when the rain starts to fall. That’s oil and gas residue from the asphalt and passing cars. They can be very slippery so keep an eye out avoid hard braking when you’re cycling through them.
Maintain your bike
Keep your bike maintained and in good working order. That means checking brake pads and brake lines, making sure reflectors and lights are working and clear of dirt, and that the chain is well-oiled. Also, slightly deflate your tires. This will extend the width of the tire, giving it more surface contact and greater grip on the road.
Unusually cold weather causes an equally unusual problem in Metro Vancouver – icy sidewalks. With the risk of people slipping and falling, this also poses some legal questions. Who is responsible for clearing sidewalks? And by when?
All of the local municipalities have bylaws covering this. In Vancouver, Richmond, Port Coquitlam, and Maple Ridge sidewalks must be cleared by 10:00 a.m. while in Surrey and North Vancouver they must be cleared “as soon as possible.”
So who cleans up the mess? That’s less clear. Most bylaws state that shoveling or salting sidewalks is the job of the “owner or occupier” of the property. But that can vary. Check with your local municipality for the rules in your area.
In Vancouver that means both landlord and renter for residential and business properties. The city’s website says both are responsible for clearing snow and ice “from the full width of sidewalks around your residence and business.”
Yet provincial guidelines say it depends on what you rent. For multi-unit buildings, landlords are responsible. If the whole property is rented, such as a house, the tenant is generally responsible, unless stated otherwise in the rental agreement.
If you live in a condo, the job of snow and ice removal falls to your strata. The cost of clearing sidewalks is covered by your maintenance fees. Your property management company should be on top of it.
The City of Vancouver will enforce these bylaws if it receives complaints or if city crews note safety concerns. First time offenders will receive a notice, but fines may be handed out if there are repeat offences. That can cost $250 per offence for single-family and duplex dwellings and can reach up to $2000 for apartments and business sites.
So what should you do? The first step is to know your local bylaws. Check their website or call for information. From there, make an action plan for the future. Agree on who is going to clear the sidewalks and how and when it will be done. And keep supplies on hand to get the job done. Some shovels, picks, salt, and other deicing solutions, in particular.
Aside from avoiding fines, you want to make sure all responsibilities are taken care of so that no one falls and gets hurt. That can lead to serious injuries for unwitting pedestrians and costly legal issues for you. A few preventative steps planned in advance can save all sorts of future hassles.
From Whistler to Silverstar and all resorts and slopes in between, BC is a skier’s and snowboarder’s paradise. Unfortunately, all that shreddin’ and swooshin’ can lead to some severe injuries. Every year, over 5000 Canadians are seriously hurt in skiing and snowboarding accidents across the country. So whether you’re riding hard through 7th Heaven or gliding gently down the Cut, make safety your first priority on the mountain. Here’s how.
Before strapping your boots into the bindings, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the safety guidelines for your resort. Nearly every ski mountain in BC is a member of the Canada West Ski Areas Association (CWSAA) and they all operate under the Alpine Responsibility Code. Those are the ten rules you see posted on yellow signs all over ski areas, like the one below.
The Code is about staying in control, respecting others on the slopes, and respecting the resort’s staff, rules, trails, and equipment. Knowing your abilities and limitations is also vital to your safety and the safety of others.
In addition to following the Code, there are a few other things you can do to stay safe and have a great day on the slopes. Begin by making sure you have the right equipment with everything fitting properly and suited to your ability. Also see that your skis, boards, and bindings are tuned up and checked each season. A loose binding or a dull edge can hamper your ability to stop safely and quickly.
Always check the forecast before heading to the mountain and dress accordingly. And remember that conditions can change quickly. You may need to bundle up with water- or wind-resistant gear and multiple layers on one run, and then slather on the sunscreen on the next. Come prepared for different conditions and if you’re not comfortable or find yourself getting tired (heavy snow and icy runs can be exhausting), then take a break or simply call it a day.
And of course, wear a helmet. While not a guarantee of protection, studies show a significant decrease in the incidence and severity of head injuries while wearing a helmet.
If a massive earthquake hit right this minute, what would you do? Panic? Cry? Pray? Those might be your first instincts, but there are three simple things you can do to immediately reduce the risk of getting hurt during a temblor. That’s part of what the Great British Columbia ShakeOut is all about.
On Thursday, October 20 at 10:20 am, millions around the world will take part in earthquake simulation drills in their communities. Earthquake preparedness in BC is a serious matter. Our province is home to hundreds of fault lines. Even though you can’t feel all of them, there are quakes here every single day.
When a big one does happen and the earth starts to shake violently, the immediate risks to people come from falling objects (like furniture, ceiling tiles, and light fixtures) or from your own body flailing about the room. To minimize your risk of getting hurt:
If you can’t duck under a desk or table, crawl into a corner of the room you’re in, staying as far from windows as possible. Shattering glass is another serious hazard in the initial moments of an earthquake. A crawling position, with your head and neck covered by your arms, is also the best way of protecting your body from falling and flying objects.
Once you’re sure the shaking is over, it’s time to pull out your earthquake preparedness kit. Don’t have a kit? Then this is a good time to start one. Here is a link to some tips and suggestions on preparing or buying a kit.