Speeding on bike paths? Riding on sidewalks? Bike blogger Tom Babin gives the gears on cycling etiquette

Many Calgarians are bringing their bicycles out of winter hiatus, which always causes a bit of conflict on city roads, cycle tracks, pathways and sidewalks. Bike blogger and cyclist Tom Babin on the dos and don'ts of etiquette for cyclists — and drivers.

Is it OK to ride on the sidewalk? Wear headphones? Speed on bike paths?

Cyclists make their way down the 5th Street S.W. cycle track in Calgary. Author Tom Babin says improvements to infrastructure like this cycle track help reduce conflict on the roads. (CBC)

Many Calgarians are bringing their bicycles out of winter hiatus, which always causes a bit of conflict on city roads, cycle tracks, pathways and sidewalks. 

Bike blogger, author and cyclist Tom Babin spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener's David Gray about the dos and don'ts of cycling etiquette — and drivers.

Q: As a cyclist, what are the things you see other cyclists do that drives you crazy?

A: The thing that drives me most crazy are cyclists who speed on the pathways. I know there are a lot of cyclists who complain about the low speed limit on pathways (20 km or 10 km/hour depending on the location, according to the City of Calgary).

Pathways are shared, we need to be respectful of all users on there. And if you are wearing your Lycra and have your $10,000 carbon fiber road bike you probably shouldn't be on the pathway in the first place. Let's just slow down on those pathways and make it safe for everybody. Although I should say that walkers — pedestrians — need to be that too. Those ones who walk four abreast on the pathway or have their dog on a leash stretching across the route, they need to be conscious of those cyclists out there too.

Q: How do you feel about headphones? Should you even be wearing headphones when you are on a bike?

A: No, probably not. You probably shouldn't wear them when you are walking either. But that's the way it is. I wouldn't wear headphones if I was on the road on a bike, that's for sure. If you are by yourself on a lonely pathway, that's one thing. I wouldn't do it. Take the headphones off. You've got to pay attention to what is around you.

Calgary has more than 500 km of bike lanes and pathways open in the summer, but cyclists should consider both etiquette and the rules, says cyclist and author Tom Babin. (Tom Babin/Twitter)

Q: Is it ever OK to ride your bike on the sidewalk?

A: Legally no. You will get a ticket, absolutely. Have I done it? Yeah, I do it all the time. That also drives a lot of people crazy. I get that. But  a lot time people make that choice because it's the safer option. I did it recently riding in the winter. I'm facing a busy road, that hasn't been plowed and right beside me is a completely empty sidewalk that is nicely cleared, which one am I going to choose for my own safety? I'm going to choose the sidewalk there. So yeah, don't do it.

Q: The law says under age 14 OK, over 14 don't.

A: Right, so take your kids out there — it's all good. (There's also occasions when city signs indicates that it's OK)

Q: What about pedestrian crosswalks?

A: As a cyclist? Don't use them. Get off your bike. I would say often I find myself on a bike using a pedestrian crosswalk if I have to make a left-hand turn and that's because it's so hard to make a left hand turn on a busy road in Calgary. If motorists would give you the space to cut across a lane, let you make that left hand turn, you probably wouldn't have to stop and use that crosswalk in the first place. So if everyone gave a little on that one we might reduce the incidences of that.

Q: What message would you like to relay to people sitting in their cars about the cyclists they see on the road?

A: Have a little respect for them, that's all it is. I think it's that simple. Slow down a bit, give them some space. Go around them. When you pass a cyclist, give them at least a metre, that's the law in many places — it's not in Alberta, but that's a reasonable expectation, I think. If you have to slow down behind a cyclist for a little while, that's OK, it's not going to kill you that much … I think most cyclists feel that (frustration) and want to get out of the way as quickly as they can. But sometimes it's just safer to get out of that gutter and go in the middle of the lane for a small stretch …You can be seen and it's safer to maneuver.

Q: Are we getting any better in this city? Have the cycle tracks and the pathways and the renewed attention changed behaviour?

A: Absolutely. I used to get yelled at all the time on roads. I can't remember the last time I got honked at now. With more cyclists out there people get more used to it. Most cyclists are also drivers, so they understand … And with improved infrastructure, you reduce a lot of these problems.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener

What are your peeves or tips as a cyclist or motorist? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?