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  • Writer's picturePhoenix Phillips


Updated: Jun 7, 2020

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 & 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 ride-able 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 of our group 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 one individual in our group.

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. The result, chaos!

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.

I'm giving you this real account so that we can have a real discussion about the term #RideSafe. I've seen this phrase in numerous advertising campaigns throughout Canada. Trust me, after what I saw on this trip, I've since questioned many things, including the marketing campaign #RideSafe. Could this accident have been avoided? Were the decisions of one or both riders contributing factors to the accident? I’ll leave that for the experts to decide. As for the #ridesafe campaign, I believe this hastag does not have the impact needed moving forward. My suggestion is that hashtags like #RideAware or #RideInTheMoment deliver more of a punch. Riding Safe is a statement of fact and not a statement of consciousness. Riding Aware or Riding in the Moment references a more measurable moment of consciousness that requires action. Call this semantics, sure. But when your consciousness shifts to the moment rather than the overall ride, an accident that I witnessed may not have happened.

As always, I welcome your comments & feedback. Keep checking back for more Motorcycle Blogs & there is more to explore on our License To Ride YouTube page

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