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Calgary safe passing bylaw set to take effect

Calgary drivers passing city cyclists can expect a stiff fine if they don’t leave enough space when the city’s safe passing bylaw takes effect Sept. 1.

Earlier this year, the city approved a handful of new transportation bylaws, among them is a safe passing bylaw that requires a minimum of one-meter distance between a car passing a cyclist. The cyclist is required to ride as close to the curb as is safe to do so, the city said.

In areas where the speed limit is 60 kilometres per hour, the minimum distance required is 1.5 metres.

The fine for an offense is $203.

Andrew Sedor, Business Development Coordinator with the City of Calgary, said there’s always been a safe passing bylaw in Alberta, however it lacked any criteria for enforcement.

One of the new powers given to the City under the revised city charter was the ability to create that definition, and ultimately, enforce it.

“There just wasn’t an objective criteria for (safe passing distance),” said Sedor.

“So (The Alberta Traffic Safety Act) says, basically, thou shalt not unsafely pass someone. And so, the problem with that is if a police officer… sees someone unsafely passing, it’s difficult to uphold in court.”

Sedor compared it to the rules around parking distance from a fire hydrant. Without a set distance of five metres, drivers may park any distance away they deem appropriate.

“It provides a lot more clarity,” he said.

Other transportation bylaws enacted right away

Sedor said they took some time to work with Calgary police on how enforcement would work and time to educate transportation staff on the new safe passing rules.

The changes that went into effect immediately in March include: Allowing skateboards, scooters and inline skaters in the city’s cycle track network; e-bikes on allowed on Calgary Transit during the same times as regular bikes; cyclists can use either arm to signal a right hand turn; cyclists can yield instead of coming to a stop when entering a roadway or sidewalk from a pathway.

Sedor said that these bylaws essentially codified the existing cycling behaviours and provided more multi-modal options for riders.

They haven’t got the full data yet on the use of different modes (inline skates, scooters or skateboards) yet, but they’ve definitely seen more scooters.

Safe passing: ‘Everyone has a responsibility’

Calgary drivers are the ones facing the potential penalty. Sedor said, however that combining cars and bicycles on the roads is a shared responsibility.

“Drivers have a responsibility to be safe and give cyclists space. The cyclists, under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, they have to ride as close to the curb as safely as they do so,” said Sedor.

The bylaw does allow for vehicles to cross over the yellow line – when safe – to overtake a cyclist and give the appropriate space.

Vehicles do have to give a metre space on any roadway, including those with dedicated cycling lanes. Sedor said a good rule of practice is for drivers to think of giving enough space so a car door could be safely opened.

Cyclists told LiveWire back in February that a safe passing bylaw is welcome, providing yet another safeguard in reducing conflicts.

Sedor said if drivers are caught behind cyclists in some situations it’s better to wait the 10 seconds to pass in a safe location rather than overtake them and risk a ticket – or worse.

“It’ll take, you know, 10 seconds extra and you’re probably saving someone’s life doing so. Just be a little bit more patient,” he said.

“If it comes down to waiting 10 seconds or potentially hitting someone and injuring them – just wait that extra 10 seconds.”