Calgary

Best behaviour: Cyclist workshop stresses etiquette before big race

Cyclists taking part in a massive bike race next month are being encouraged to take part in an etiquette workshop. The race's organizer, himself a veteran cyclist, has suggested courteous cycling may build goodwill with rural homeowners and drivers.

'Courteous' road racing can help temper driver-rider tension, organizer says

(Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Cyclists taking part in a massive bike race next month are being encouraged to take part in an etiquette workshop.

The Chinook Gran Fondo, new this year, will see hundreds of bicycles on June 15 traversing highways in the Foothills, through communities that include some who have long resented packs of cyclists.

The race's organizer, himself a veteran cyclist, has suggested courteous cycling may build goodwill with rural homeowners and drivers.

Road cycling is booming in Alberta, a province with beautiful prairie and mountain vistas and thousands of kilometres of highways. But tension is growing between cyclists and drivers, says Tom Bamford, chief sweat officer for the Gran Fondo.

Rural homeowners and drivers are upset, for instance, with cyclist who form packs and obstruct traffic, rather than riding single file. And those drivers can respond dangerously.

"They're irritated sometimes just to see you. They slow down and they … blow the smoke in your face. They might buzz by or throw a can or two," said Bamford, who is both a cyclist and driver. "You hear rumours of it but it's happening now here and it didn't happen years ago."

It's gotten to the point, he says, that Foothills County refrained from giving the race permission to run through certain areas.

So the veteran road cyclist is encouraging riders to learn better manners, in hopes of reducing some of the tension and thus the danger for cyclists, who are dramatically more vulnerable in car-versus-bike collisions.

"It's just a matter of understanding that we don't want friction," he said. "We're guests in their backyard, essentially."

Riders head out of the city during the first stage race of the Tour of Alberta cycling race in Lethbridge, Alta., on Sept 1, 2016. (David Rossiter/Canadian Press)

The free workshop, called a coached clinic, will offer a teaser to next month's race and guided tours of the race route. 

It'll also include a discussion about riding etiquette, from cycling single file to parking without obstructing intersections or sight lines. It'll be held Saturday at 9 a.m. at Granary Road Market, southwest of Calgary. Cyclists of all abilities, whether or not they're competing, are invited to attend.

"We're talking about bringing people back home again at the end of the day," Bamford said. "And a little bit of trying to temper the arrogance of owning the road — and sharing the road."

Cycling is a sport that's well suited to socializing, which often leads to riding four or five abreast, Bamford told the Calgary Eyeopener. In Calgary, the sport has increasingly been used as an athletic option for business networking.

Tom Bamford is the chief sweat officer for the Chinook Gran Fondo. (CBC)

But on windy, rural roads, a truck might come around a corner at 100 km/h to find a pack of cyclist going 25 km/h. That can be very dangerous, Bamford said. Instead, he'll urge riders at the clinic to stick to the shoulder of the road.

"We're going to have more and more people coming on, enjoying this great place to live and ride," he said.

"And I think the drivers will appreciate if we're just, you know, courteous. I think that in the big picture, small steps make big gains."

The Chinook Gran Fondo includes three races: the hallmark Gran Fondo of 152 km, the Medio Fondo of 98.7 km and Piccolo Fondo of 55 km. The routes and elevations are available online.

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