Concerns rise over bikes on rural roads

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Some Priddis-area residents are fed up with cyclists riding two and three abreast on Foothills roads.

The area has become popular with recreational riders over the past three years and some long-time residents say they’ve had enough with inconsiderate cyclists and a lack of parking in the small hamlet.

Sharon Pelachuk has lived in her home near the Ann and Sandy Cross Conservatory for 22 years and said she never worried about driving until the last two years. This summer has become particularly worrisome, she said.

“They won’t move over,” said Pelachuk. “They ride double, and sometimes even triple, on the side of the road. It’s very dangerous and I would hate to hit somebody.”

She said she was driving on Plummers Road on July 23 when she came across a pair of cyclists riding side-by-side and honked to warn them she was there. It took three sharp blasts of the horn to get them to move single-file, she said.

The situation is common in the region, she said, and drivers are often laying on their horns. She’s worried something tragic might happen if the issue isn’t addressed.

“It’s not flat land here,” said Pelachuck. “If you come up the hill from Priddis at 80 km/h and they’re right there at the top on the way down, not single file, it could end badly.”

The MD of Foothills erected signs in 2015 telling cyclists to ride single file, and reminding motorists and cyclists to share the road. Pelachuk said the signs aren’t working.

“I would like to see them obey the rule that says ride single file and not just when they hear a car coming, but all the time, because what if they don’t hear that car?” said Pelachuk.

Besides safety concerns, Pelachuk said parking in Priddis is a problem. On weekends it’s difficult to get to the store or the community hall because parking is taken up by cyclists, she said.

“They’ve just got to be considerate of the people who live out here,” said Pelachuk. “I’d like to be able to drive these roads and not get frustrated. You try to be co-operative and be a good neighbour, but it’s really getting to us.”

Avid cyclist and Okotoks resident Kevin Ostlund said it goes both ways, and cyclists and motorists need to exercise patience on the roads. He said he’s had a few scary situations out in the MD when impatient drivers get a little too close for comfort.

“I’ve had people come up behind me when there’s no car coming toward us and just laying on the horn,” he said. “At the end of the day, you shouldn’t be passing a cyclist so close anyway, you should be moving into the other lane and passing cyclists like you would pass a vehicle.”

According to the Traffic Safety Act, cyclists have the same right to the road as vehicles and while they are expected to stay as far to the right as possible, they have the right to the lane.

Ostlund said he rides as close to the ditch as possible, but still runs into impatient drivers.

“The biggest thing for me is patience on everyone’s part,” he said. “There are bad motorists and bad cyclists, but we need to share the road and give each other a wide berth.”

MD of Foothills Coun. Suzanne Oel said the Priddis Community Association and the MD are working to find solutions to issues between cyclists and motorists. The signs have helped somewhat, she said, but getting cyclists to ride single file continues to be a challenge.

“Riding single file is really important on busy roads,” said Oel. “The northwest area is beautiful and it’s a target at this time of year for recreational riders, but we need to keep everyone safe.”

Roads are getting busier all the time so it’s important for cyclists and motorists to remain vigilant and she said it’s important to remember not every person on a bike is being ignorant.

“Some cyclists are giving all cyclists a bad name and some drivers are giving all drivers a bad name,” said Oel. “You have really well-behaved, conscientious, respectful folks and then entitled folks.”

She said tensions are high between cyclists and residents in the Priddis region this summer. Learning how to manage the situation amicably is a difficult task, but one Oel is ready to take on.

The Priddis Community Association and the MD are looking into ways to find more parking in the hamlet to accommodate local residents and visitors. Parking studies and options will go before council in the fall, she said.

Oel is also looking at ways to engage cyclists to find solutions. She met with cycling groups two years ago to discuss some of the concerns and it may be time to have another meeting, she said.

She’s also had conversations with RCMP and municipal enforcement, but ultimately the issues are difficult to monitor in the Foothills.

“The police do check for it and take it seriously, but it’s also a large area and they can’t be everywhere,” she said. “Some roads are just too dangerous for them to sit there because they don’t have shoulders and it’s those inside MD roads that are more concerning for our residents.”

Turner Valley RCMP Cpl. Tiffany McGregor said the detachment is aware of the increasing number of cyclists using MD roads, but hasn’t received complaints.

“I can think of no complaint in particular where people had a close call or said anything to us,” said McGregor. “We do have a lot of roads without significant shoulder though, so it could be a problem.”

While they have not received complaints, she said RCMP can stop cyclists and issue tickets if they’re breaking laws under the Traffic Safety Act.

Cycling rules of the road

According to the Traffic Safety Act, cyclists have the same rights as motorists, but are also subject to the same laws and responsibilities on the road. In addition, cyclists are expected to adhere to these laws under the act:- on roads with paved shoulders, cyclists must be on the right shoulder.- on roads without paved shoulders, cyclists must be as far to the right as possible.- cyclists must ride in the same direction as vehicle traffic.- a cyclist may not ride adjacent to another cycle travelling in the same direction.

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