Edmonton should copy Calgary 1-metre clearance rule, cyclists say

Cycling advocates in Edmonton are hoping the city will take a cue from Calgary and adopt a new rule requiring motorists to maintain a one-metre distance when passing bikes.

Bylaw requires motorists to keep buffer zone when passing cyclists

A cyclist on 109th Street south of Saskatchewan Drive competes with vehicles for space on the road.

Cycling advocates in Edmonton are hoping the city will take a cue from Calgary and adopt a new rule requiring motorists to maintain a one-metre distance when passing cyclists.

Calgary recently changed its bylaw to make it mandatory for motorists to mind the gap.

If the speed limit is above 60 km/h, drivers should be 1.5 metres from a cyclist, the bylaw states. 

It's a no-brainer for people like Sarah Hoyles, executive director for Paths for People in Edmonton. 

"I think a lot of people kind of get the notion that cars are the only ones allowed on roadways," Hoyles said. 

Holyes suggested that creating a one-metre distance rule will remind people that bicycles and electric scooters are supposed to be used on streets, not sidewalks.

"Any adult that heads on a bike, they're technically supposed to be on the road. And so by law, they're being told, 'Get on the road.' But how safe do they feel?"

Aaron Schooler, a co-chair of the Alberta Cycling Coalition who lives in Edmonton, said drivers sometimes don't realize how dangerously close they come. 

"What's safe to the car driver might be passing within inches — they don't really feel the difference between the distances," Schooler said. "To the cyclist, someone passing within a foot scares the living crap out of you."

More and more and more coddling

Russell Timmerman, who rides a motorcycle, said he thinks motorized vehicles are necessary for most people to get to work, while bicycles aren't used as much for commuting. 

"I think that cyclists are not numerous enough to deserve the kind of rules and special treatment they're getting on our roads," Timmerman told CBC News Monday. "As a motorist, I'd like to get where I'm going, if that's not too much trouble." 
Russell Timmerman doesn't agree with rules and infrastructure geared toward cyclists. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Timmerman said he commuted by bicycle for years and feels mandating a minimum distance shouldn't be necessary.

"We seemed to have managed without more and more and more rules, more and more and more coddling, more and more and more special bike lanes and special this and special that." 

Injured on the freeway

Schooler and fellow cyclists formed the Alberta Cycling Coalition in 2018 after a group of riders was struck by a truck on the Sherwood Park Freeway. 

Annie McKitrick, co-chair of the coalition and former NDP MLA for Sherwood Park, introduced a private member's bill in December 2018 to amend the provincial traffic safety act. 

The proposed changes call for the distance gap across the province; it would also make it legal for two cyclists to be to ride side by side where they don't impede the flow of traffic. 

Bill 214, Traffic Safety Amendment Act, passed first reading in the legislature before the UCP were elected in the spring. 
Many people still ride their bikes on sidewalks when they're supposed to be on the road. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

"We're hoping that in Red Deer and Lethbridge — as the City of Calgary changes come into effect — it's going to be easier for us to work with other municipalities through AUMA [Alberta Urban Municipalities Association] and RMA [Rural Municipalities of Alberta] for them to make the same changes," McKitrick said.  

Schooler said some motorists maintain the attitude that bicycles shouldn't be on the road and along with changing a bylaw, municipalities need to launch an education campaign. 

"The city of Calgary did a really great job at following up and educating the public on how this affects them." 

Hoyles thinks Edmonton is up to the challenge of making the change.

"If Calgary's doing it? Let's use the rivalry of Alberta: the city of champions going against the Stampeders and the Flames."

While Edmonton works to expand its south-side bike lane network, no changes have been made requiring motorists to always be one to 1.5 metres from cyclists.



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