Letter: Improvements coming to two intersections in Red Deer to help cyclists

A letter in the Advocate on June 9 with complaints about cyclists jumping from street to sidewalk, and about cyclists not walking their bikes across crosswalks raises some valid points. As a driver and a cyclist, I appreciate the writer’s concern for safety.

I am also teaching my grandchildren the rules of safe cycling so they can get to school. Around their school, there is no child-safe bike access, but by obeying the rules, riding predictably and being able to recognize risks, we’ve been riding to school quickly and safely together (with thanks to patient drivers at the busiest times of the day in the neighbourhood).

But when things get scary, we do ride on the sidewalk. We also bike across the crosswalks — because that’s the fastest, safest way to get across several intersections on every commute.

The letter writer might be interested to know that provincial design standards for street construction across the province now call for curb cutaways back of crosswalks, to allow cyclists street-level entry to the intersection and clear right of way to ride — not walk — across. Red Deer will get two such new intersections this summer heading east out of town on 39 St. this summer. The improvements will modify the curbed concrete peninsulas that have caused so many complaints over the years.

Another provincial change is just entering the legislative process, requiring drivers to give cyclists at least a one-metre gap when passing a bike under 60km/h and 1.5 metres when passing above that speed. If you cannot allow that much space, you must slow down to the cyclist’s pace until you can — or you will be in violation of the law.

I write this on my own opinion, but I am an executive member of both Red Deer Association for Bicycle Commuting, and Central Alberta Regional Trails Society. Both groups need more public participation — so if you’re interested in traffic safety, get involved. I’m also on the steering committee for Alberta Cycling Coalition, who pushed for the safe-passing rules in the Traffic Safety Act.

The rules of the road are going to need changes as the cycling population increases and requires more space in areas where separate lanes are not available. As well, the huge uptake of electric assist bikes, which are heavy and fast, is a true game-changer. Add in the prospect of electric scooters to the mix. Current regulations just do not cover how these big fast bikes and scooters move in traffic — and on our trails. Their rising (and unstoppable) presence will force lawmakers all over Canada to either build separate infrastructure or slow traffic down everywhere to a cyclist’s speed.

Riders don’t get on a bike intending to break the law, just like drivers don’t get in their cars intending to run lights or drive while texting. But it happens, right? Until our infrastructure reflects how society moves in cities today, a simple willingness to donate a few seconds of one’s car commute on occasion can protect lives and livelihoods for many.

Greg Neiman, Red Deer