Arrow Lakes News
Driving on Crescent Bay Road or Billings Road it might be easy to miss the yellow highway signs with a horse and rider on them, indicating there could be horse and rider traffic in addition to traditional vehicles. Even if a driver misses the signs, they mean something very important to the horse riders in the area. In a perfect world, motorists would take additional care to drive respectfully where these signs are present and watch out for riders, yet this isn’t always the case.
“In some circumstances, a horse and rider sign may be installed at the beginning of a road that is used by a significant amount of horseback riders,” says the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in an email to the Arrow Lakes News.
Farrier and local business owner Charlotte Ruse lives in Crescent Bay offers lessons and trail rides from her home-based stables. Part of her business involves taking clients and students on horseback along Crescent Bay Road and Billings, as well as using the roads to train and exercise her team of horses.
“A lot of people don’t slow down and I often have kids on horses or we ride young horses for training purposes, and vehicles can cause a huge problem,” Ruse wrote in an email to the Arrow Lakes News. “A man almost hit one of my horses with a student because he was in a hurry to get by; (he) came within inches!”
According Lisa Laycock, Executive Director of the Horse Council of British Columbia (HCBC), taking special care when driving past a horse and rider offers the best prevention to accidents.
“Horses are a flight animal. They have their own brains and can become unpredictable if they are frightened. As prey animals, their ancestors were hardwired to take sudden flight to avoid being attacked and killed by predators. A rustle in the ditch or behind a bush, a sudden movement they catch out of the corner of their eye, an unexpected noise behind or beside them, can stimulate their instinct to run away from danger,” she said, referring to vehicles speeding by or coming too close to the animal. The HCBC produces pamphlets regarding horse and road safety which are available at most ICBC outlets province-wide. “
In this day and age, many people aren’t aware that a horseback rider, or someone driving a horse hitched to a cart, has the same rights and is subject to the same rules as the driver of a motor vehicle on B.C. roads, but that is the case according to the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act. Nonetheless, horseback riders should ride as far onto the shoulder as they can as a courtesy to other road users. In exchange for this courtesy, motorists and motorcyclists should always pass slow and wide. Ultimately, riders have the same rights and responsibilities of other vehicular traffic.”
A similar reply was contained in an email from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“People riding horses are considered a type of traffic similar to pedestrians and cyclists. As is the case with all traffic, horseback riders are responsible to use roads in a manner that is safe for all road users, including themselves.”
Ruse is worried that a close call is going to turn into an accident or a fatality, saying that even though riders wear helmets, better safety is required on the part of the motorists, “…before the headlines read that someone was injured or even killed.”
The Ministry recommends contacting the local RCMP detachment with their concerns if residents and road users feel that there is a significant speeding issue.
Laycock stated, “We encourage members to work with their local governments and community members to make the improvements to equestrian and driver awareness, signage and incorporate wide unpaved shoulders which improve safety for walkers and horses. In a perfect world separate adjacent trails for walkers, bikes and horses are a great community feature.”
Many areas of Crescent Bay Road and Billings Road are too narrow for a shoulder, so this could be what is causing some of the safety concerns.