Minimum passing distance makes roads safer for everyone

The City of Edmonton may introduce bylaw changes which could afford cyclists and drivers a safer experience on our roads. During the council meeting scheduled February 3-5 2020, Councillor Henderson is introducing a motion regarding safe passing distances between vehicles and bicycles.


These bylaw changes will further solidify provisions of the Province’s Alberta Traffic Safety Act. It states that motorists must pass cyclists safely. It is valuable that this direction exists and highlights that roads are shared spaces. But as those who use our roadways know, more must be done, especially in urban environments where vehicles and cyclists share space more often.


Most cyclists can tell you their “close-call” story, where a vehicle passed too closely, putting the cyclist in an uncomfortable and even dangerous spot. Some cyclists will have more than one “close-call.” And some people have stories that aren’t just “close-calls.” These stories result in serious injury or death.

Roads are shared spaces that should be safe to use for every mode of transportation.


Cyclists have their part to play, including ensuring they are visible on our roads.

This includes having:

  • tail lamps
  • reflectors

*Directed within the Traffic Safety Act’s Vehicle Equipment Regulation (specifically, section 113(1)a-c).

The City of Edmonton can spell out another specific way to foster safer roads by requiring a minimum passing distance for when passing a cyclist. And this bylaw would work both ways. Cyclists would have to pass vehicles using the same safe passing distance, meaning that cyclists couldn’t be dangerously weaving in and out of traffic.


Dishearteningly, the City of Calgary has beat us in this Battle of Alberta and has a bylaw that requires a safe passing distance of 1.5 m between cyclists and pedestrians. But to know it’s already been done elsewhere in Alberta means that we should follow suit as well.

Word on the street in Calgary is that there hasn’t been a single traffic ticket issued yet. But that shouldn’t matter. Some cyclists in Calgary have already said that the streets are feeling safer.

There are also technologies that can be used to enforce these bylaws, like sonar devices. Acquiring these is simply a matter of priority.


Overall, this bylaw will shift the culture of our roads. Mandating a rigid passing distance makes it clear to all users that caution must be exercised when passing one another on the road. Bringing drivers and cyclists (as well as those who use both) up to speed on how to safely share the road will positively impact our transportation system.

As we see an uptick in cycling in the city and continued commitment to Vision Zero goals, it’s important to introduce bylaw changes like these to ensure our roads are safe for all road users. No one should have to have a “close-call” story. Beyond this, the way we build and use our roads should ensure that no one is ever in an unsafe or deadly scenario. That’s the point of Vision Zero.

We encourage Councillors to support this Notice of Motion so that administration can prepare the required bylaw changes to ensure our roads are safe for all who share them.