The Highwood Pass is a stretch of road thru Kananaskis Country, Alberta that is only accessible to Motorcycles (IE Traffic) six months of the year. At 2,200 meters (IE 7,200 Feet), the Highwood Pass is the highest paved pass in Canada lying within the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on Alberta Highway 40.
Because of its limited-access-window & breathtaking vistas, this section of road is a magnet to curiosity seekers the moment it opens June 15th. I mention this so you can anticipate that which awaits you (IE Unpredictability of weather & unpredictability of traffic) if you plan to visit. Like hiking, I always prepare for the unexpected, and on this ride, the unexpected happened.
Although sunshine & 22 Celsius was in the forecast for Calgary (starting point) that day, the anticipated forecast for the Highwood Pass was 12 Celsius and overcast…still ridable but still unpredictable. Another factor that was going to play a roll in the trip was that was the opening weekend to the pass. So, curiosity seekers & adventurers, in the forms of trucks, cars, RV’s, Motorcyclists, and cyclists would be on this road today.
The plan, which the group I was with followed, was to stop for lunch at Stoney Nakota Lodge then continue thru to the pass. The lodge is a popular resting stop for Motorcyclists to grab a bite and to fuel up. Once ready, we headed on our way. As anticipated the weather was changing. There were sweeping clouds, increase in wind strength, a drop in temperature and traffic congestion. As a rider, we are constantly reminded to ride safe, and never truer words were spoken that day. This is where anticipation comes in …your Spidey-senses, if you will, must be on high alert at all times.
Twenty minutes from our rest-stop our group met-up with a group of 6 other riders. Following the rules of the road, we continued in a staggered formation. So far so good. With the increase in traffic on and along Highway 40 and with being in the mountain park where the likelihood of a wild animal encounter being high, my alertness was at an all-time high. This I could not say of those riding with me.
On a long stretch of straight road ahead of me I could see 2 cyclists riding one in front of the other along the shoulder. A quick glance to the shoulder it was clear that the rumble-strips and gravel dominated the surface area (IE Shoulder) of the cyclists making their ride uncomfortable. A cyclist myself, I was aware of the hazards these riders were facing and in anticipation of coming upon them I gave them some additional room to manoeuvre (IE Shimmied left in my lane). Unfortunately, the motorcycle rider, 2 bikes ahead of me, did not provide the cyclists the added space.
Within an instance, the Motorcycle rider ahead of me and one of the cyclists collided. The impact sent the Motorcycle & rider, sliding out of control. The impacted cyclists was sent off his bike into the nearby ditch. The Motorcyclist was able to push his bike off the road, but the cyclist remained motionless, but conscious, until authorities arrived.
This real account is intended to have a real discussion about #RideSafe. A phrase seen in numerous advertising campaigns throughout Canada. This is all I have been thinking about for the past week. Wondering whether the phrase #RideSafe has the impact as a statement as we have been led to believe. Could this accident have been avoided? Were the decisions of one or both riders contributing factors to the accident? Is there something to be learned by what I witnessed? I’ll leave that for the experts to decide. But for you and me, what can be learned? I believe we should replace the statement #RideSafe with statements like, #RideAware or #RideInTheMoment. Here’s why.
I believe the phrase #RideSafe does not go far enough. I believe that what we need is a call to action. Being responsible for the moment we consider going for a ride to the moment we arrive at our destination. Riding Safe is an obvious. Riding Aware is the next level to our consciousness. From this point forward I will be including this in my Social Media posts & I encourage you to do the same. As always, I welcome your comments & feedback. You may have other suggestions, and let’s share, because no one should ever have to witness or be a part of the accident I saw last weekend.
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