Time to move forward with minimum passing distance

On February 17, 2021 Paths for People spoke to members of the City of Edmonton Community and Public Services Committee regarding potential Traffic Bylaw changes to identify bicycle safety passing protocols.

In the meeting, Committee unanimously passed a motion directing administration to amend the Traffic Bylaw to add the safe passing distance requirement. We will keep our community updated on the changes.

Last year when the original motion was brought forward regarding Safe Passing Distances, Paths for People was eager to voice our support. Enshrining a clear passing distance for all users of our transportation system via bylaw makes for a safer, more comfortable, and more efficient experience for all users.

Our roadways are primarily shared spaces that should be safe to use for every mode of transportation. 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.”

Some people have stories that aren’t just “close-calls.”

These stories result in serious injury or death. Mandating a safe passing distance is a way to move us towards Vision Zero and mitigate the loss of life within our transportation system.

Based on the number of stories we hear from our members across Edmonton regarding close calls, it’s clear that when we are driving we don’t always realize how close we may get to other road users (like cyclists) when passing them. This bylaw change will be an opportunity to educate those who drive and convey how dangerous close passing can be.

Cyclists have their part to play too. When we’re biking, we already must ensure we are visible on our roads. This includes having: tail lamps, reflectors (as outlined in the Traffic Safety Act’s Vehicle Equipment Regulation). To our understanding, a bylaw amendment mandating safe passing would keep all modes accountable.

The key thing to note is that, out of the two types of transportation, driving is inherently a less vulnerable form of transportation. In regulating and building our transportation system, we need to ensure that more vulnerable forms of transportation (like walking, rolling, and cycling) receive higher levels of protection to adjust for their inherent vulnerability.

This bylaw will shift the culture of our roads, for the better.

Mandating an explicit minimum 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. 

Most communities in Canada already have a minimum safe passing distance, as outlined by provincial regulations. In the absence of this direction Alberta, the City of Edmonton needs to amend our bylaws and continue advocating to the province as a means to create a safer system.

We urge the City of Edmonton to introduce amendments to the Traffic Bylaw to require a safe passing distance between vehicles and cyclists. We also encourage the City to communicate these changes effectively to Edmontonians to ensure we achieve a safer transportation system for all users.