Foothills safety campaign asks cyclists and vehicles to share the road

The Foothills traffic patrol is stepping up efforts to keep the peace between cyclists and motorists this summer, but a local cycling club disagrees with the campaign's focus.

Safety a good start but more work needed on bicycle advocacy, says Highwood Cycling Club

A new campaign from peace officers in the M.D. of Foothills is designed to ease tensions and improve safety between cyclists and motorists. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

The Foothills traffic patrol is stepping up efforts to keep the peace between cyclists and motorists this summer.

Darcy Beaudette, a peace officer with the M.D. of Foothills, says the new Share the Road campaign is aimed at educating motorists and cyclists about road safety. It comes after officers received multiple complaints from both groups in the large rural municipality south of Calgary.

"Of course, there's opinions from motorists that these cyclists are taking over the entire road and they're being unsafe and they're not following traffic laws and so forth," Beaudette told the Calgary Eyeopener.

"But we're also hearing that [motorists] do not want to pass safely."

Beaudette said the Foothills Patrol has been handing out pamphlets to cyclists and posted roadside signs to inform drivers to stay alert, remain patient and slow down when passing.

Part of the education campaign is teaching cyclists what equipment is required when riding on the road. The required equipment includes a headlamp, a red tail light and at least one red reflector mounted on the rear of the bicycle.

Mixed message

While he praised the initiative for trying to improve road safety, Tom Maier, president of the Highwood Cycling Club, said the new signs may actually be a source of conflict between motorists and cyclists.

"It's more of a negative messaging with regards to talking about regulatory and legislative enforcement and talking about fines and other things," Maier said.

The Share the Road campaign looks to educate cyclists about proper safety equipment, including a headlamp, a red tail light and at least one red reflector mounted on the rear of the bicycle. (Marina Von Stackelberg)

Maier said the campaign's focus should be on more positive messaging around safe driving, cycling advocacy and safety education.

"These are awesome roads that we have in the M.D. of Foothills and Rocky View County, and we're going to see more and more cyclists riding them," Maier said.

The one metre rule

Under the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation, cyclists are not permitted to ride side by side on Alberta roads.

Ontario now allow cyclists to ride two-abreast, and New Brunswick recently passed Ellen's Law, requiring drivers to stay one metre away from cyclists or face a $172.50 fine and three demerit points.

Ellen Watters, widely hailed as a rising star in Canadian cycling, died after being involved in a collision with a vehicle during a training run in New Brunswick last December. She was 28. (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

Maier said introducing similar legislation in Alberta could improve safety for both motorists and cyclists.

"It makes you more visible," Maier said. "It makes you more like a motorist, so it actually makes the vehicle slow down."

For more information on the Share the Road campaign, visit the M.D. of Foothills website.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener