Calgary

Skateboards in bike lanes? Councillors debate variety of transportation changes

Cycling might be a bit different in Calgary, should the city approve a wide variety of changes being proposed: everything from new hand signals to allowing skateboards in bike paths.

Everything from new hand signals and safe passing rules may come to Calgary

Bike lane sharing considered 0:35

Cycling might be a bit different in Calgary, should the city approve a wide variety of changes being proposed.

Calgary city staff have pitched everything from changing hand signals to allowing skateboards in bike lanes. They've also recommended back-in angle parking for cars.

Council's transportation committee voted in favour of all the changes Wednesday, which would also mean plugging gaps in the bylaw, said Coun. Shane Keating, chair of the committee.

"What this is saying is, let's get rid of the old stuff and bring it up to date," he said.

City council now must consider whether or not to give it the final approval.

The City of Calgary has proposed a few changes intended to make cycling safer and update the bylaws. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Scooters, roller skates and bikes?

The most controversial change may be, he said, welcoming longboards, scooters, skateboards and rollerblades into cycle tracks and bike lanes.

Some cyclists worry those could slow down their commutes but others have said they agree with the idea, if cyclists would be allowed to pass.

Those new users would have to wear lights after dark and obey the same rules as cyclists.

Some changes are more minor and leftover from oversights in the bylaw. The new rules would explicitly allow cyclists to lock their bikes at city-provided bike racks. Under existing bylaws, bikes can be parked there but not locked.

Hand signals, safe passing

Other changes would bring Calgary in line with other major cities, as well as the Alberta government's goals, he said.

Calgary is currently using old-style hand signals that have been phased out in Ontario, Quebec and B.C. Right now, cyclists must only use their left arm to signal their intention to turn right. 

This dates back to when cars first started riding on the roads, Keating said. They didn't have turn signals or brake lights, so drivers popped their arms out the window to signal.

"We don't need that anymore. If you want to turn right, you point right," Keating said.

Cyclists would be given a full metre's breadth by cars, should this change take effect. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

The city is also considering a rule to mandate drivers give cyclists a one-metre breadth when passing. The province is working on the change, as well, in hopes of keeping cyclists safe.

"It's a little more congested here but I think when you're looking at safety, it doesn't hurt," Keating said.

Enforcing the rule would be "a little subjective," he said, because it would be hard to measure on the fly. Likely, he said, the rule would come up in cases where drivers were being very unsafe.

Angle parking

Another idea being borrowed from other jurisdictions is allowing back-in angle parking. In Calgary now, motorists must drive directly into angle parking, which allows parking enforcement to scan licence plates from the road.

Troy McLeod with Calgary Roads told the committee that back-in angle parking would be piloted in the city before it would be allowed throughout the municipality.

He said it would require in-person parking enforcement but may allow more parking in tight spaces.

Motorized scooters

Missing from the debate Wednesday was a discussion about motorized scooters, which don't have a place on Calgary pathways.

Alberta law says motorized vehicles must be on the road, but motorized scooters are far smaller and don't move as quickly as cars. 

Lime offers electric bikes for rent in Calgary. The company has lobbied the Alberta government for changes to assist in its launch of electric scooters, as well. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

Eventually, the city expects them to be allowed in lanes or pathways, Keating said.

The U.S.-based company Lime is hoping they are.

Right now, the company is renting motorized bikes as part of a Calgary pilot project. And it has registered to lobby the Alberta government to make changes to allow them to offer motorized scooters for rent. 

Another company, which is Calgary-based, is also testing motorized scooters in the city, Keating said.

People had the opportunity to submit their feedback online about the changes but that ended Dec. 9, 2018.

With files from Scott Dippel and the Calgary Eyeopener

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