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Priority #1: Safety

How do you like the new bike lanes along Glenbow Drive? It is nice to have a designated spot for cyclists, if for no other reason, to keep them from travelling in the middle of the road with gas- and diesel-powered vehicles.

How do you like the new bike lanes along Glenbow Drive? It is nice to have a designated spot for cyclists, if for no other reason, to keep them from travelling in the middle of the road with gas- and diesel-powered vehicles.

Which brings us to our one issue with the bike lanes: the fact that they end and then advise cyclists to travel single file with motorists along the end of Glenbow Drive, through the intersection with 5th Ave. and then also along Railway Street, among other places.

Most of us here in the Cochrane Eagle editorial office own and ride a bicycle from time to time, but if there’s one thing most of us can agree on, it’s that there may not be a time, but there certainly is a place for bicycles, and that place is not on a busy road with those large, steel and speedy things called vehicles.

There seems to be a sort of friction at times between those who label themselves as cycling enthusiasts and…well, most everyone else.

Cycling enthusiasts tend to get perturbed when a non-cycler provides any input into how, when or where a cycler should cycle.

On the other hand, many non-cyclers (and casual ones) get annoyed when a cycler does pretty much anything on a bike, which is incredibly unfair.

As no one in our editorial office could be labeled an avid cycler, we will naturally come at this issue from the casual-cycler perspective.

And that perspective is this: bicycles do not belong in the middle of our roadways, operating as if they were vehicles.

This is not simply a speed issue, where bicycles travelling at 20 km/hour hold up and slow traffic in areas where it is safe and legally posted to travel 50 km/hour.

No, this is more about safety – safety of motorist, but more so of cyclist.

Cyclists don’t stand a chance when they are struck by a vehicle…that is simply commonsense.

Also, bicycles do not require insurance, like all motorized vehicles do by law. And why do we have insurance? Because people are not perfect, and from time to time they make mistakes when behind the wheel of an automobile, and, yes, a bicycle as well. When that motorist at the intersection of 5th Ave. and Railway Street swerves to miss the cyclists, who just made an error in judgment, and collides with another vehicle, who pays for the damage?

There have been times when cyclists have been sent bills from insurance companies looking to collect when a cyclist hits and damages a vehicle, but this is an extremely gray area of the law and is seldom the case, as in most instances this can only be done when it involves two motor vehicles, not a bicycle. Cyclist can acquire liability insurance, but we would be willing to guess that if a poll were taken on how many cyclists actually pay for liability insurance, it would be a very small percentage. Kudos to those who do.

The argument between cyclists and non-cyclists over who should rightfully be utilizing our roadways has become more of a battle over which side can pump their chest out further. Ego, along with the ‘it’s my legal right’ quibble, has taken the front seat to whether or not it’s actually safe and in everyone’s best interests.

There will be those who make the simple black and white contention that if divers simply slowed down and respected cyclists that accidents (and tragedies) would not happen, but that is not the case. Like mentioned prior, humans make mistakes, and no one is immune, so to abridge the matter down to ‘slow down and respect cyclists’ does not put to bed what can and does occur in the real world when these mistakes happen.

Cyclists belong on the side of the road, and, dare we say it, on the sidewalk.

Cochrane’s bylaw addressing cyclists on sidewalks is only partially correct and should be changed.

At present, the town’s bylaw states: “Persons over the age of 12 years shall not operate a bicycle on any sidewalk.”

It also states: “Persons under the age of 12 years who operate a bicycle on any sidewalk shall do so under the supervision and control of a parent or guardian.”

And, just for entertainment value, the bylaw also says: “Persons under the age of 12 (years) who operate a bicycle on any sidewalk shall do so in a safe and courteous manner and must yield the right-of-way to pedestrian traffic at all times.”

So, if you’re a parent who wants to go cycling with your under-12-year-old child, and you want them to be safe on the sidewalk and not on the road, you will have to ‘supervise’ them from the street you have been regulated to (if of course, under the town’s bylaw, this would be considered adequate supervision). Why on Earth is it OK for an 11 year old to bike on the sidewalk but not a 39 year old? Adults (at least most) are more seasoned cyclists, more in control and, hopefully, more mature, so it goes without saying that if a 39-year-old cyclist comes upon a pedestrian on the sidewalk, they would be perfectly capable of passing them in a safe and ‘courteous’ manner. No parent wants to admit that their little ‘angel’ can be a little ‘rascal’ at times, but young kids can be little ‘hellraisers’ and are often less likely than adults to be ‘courteous’ to pedestrians.

Allowing cyclists on sidewalks is not a war on pedestrians. Cochrane is not New York City, or, closer to home, Banff…our sidewalks are not jam-packed with people.

The town bylaw allows cyclists of all ages on our pathway system, which isn’t any different than allowing them on sidewalks...pedestrians and cyclists have to meet face-to-face and pass each other all the time.

A parent bringing their two year old on a bike ride, with their little one sitting in a bike seat on the back, should not be forced to travel on the road…it just isn’t safe for anyone of any age.