Safe passing distance quantified, but precision isn't the point

Safe passing distance quantified, but precision isn't the point

· The Pulse
By Karen Unland

We now know how close is too close when a motorist is passing a cyclist in Edmonton.

As of Sept. 30, drivers need to stay at least one metre away on roads with a speed limit of 60 km/h or less, and 1.5 metres on faster roads, after city council unanimously passed the safe passing distance bylaw that has been in the works since February. Drivers risk a fine of $250 if they fail to give bikes the prescribed amount of room.

"This is one of those bylaws that I'm like, 'This isn't already a bylaw? I'm surprised,'" said Troy Pavlek on Episode 145 of Speaking Municipally, Taproot's municipal affairs podcast.

The province's Traffic Safety Act says drivers must pass cyclists safely, but it doesn't define what that means. The bylaw brings some precision to the matter, though it's not really about the exact distance, co-host Mack Male suggested on the episode.

"People have horrible depth perception when they're parking; how are they going to know what a metre is when they're driving?" he said. "But give cyclists space — that's the point here."

Awareness is indeed the objective, rather than issuing fines, said Jessica Lamarre, the city's director of safe mobility. Motorists might find themselves behind a bike for a little bit, but that's what it means to share the road in a city aiming for Vision Zero.

"One of the biggest things here is patience," Lamarre told Postmedia. "Everybody take a deep breath, wait that five seconds you need until it's safe for you to pass, and do so with enough distance between you and the bike to make it safe."

Episode 145 of Speaking Municipally also takes a look at city council's decision to reactivate Edmonton's mask bylaw (which happened before Alberta reinstated a province-wide mandate), as well as increases to the city manager's signing authority limits and some accusations flying during the municipal election campaign.

Photo: A car comes up behind a cyclist in this screenshot from Safe Streets are for Everyone from the City of Edmonton.