From protected bike lanes in Calgary and Edmonton to free borrow-a-bike programs in Vegreville and Medicine Hat, municipalities across Alberta are making cycling safety and accessibility a priority. It’s welcome news to the province’s growing number of recreational and commuter cyclists, and advocates are looking forward to continuing to build on this progress.
One place leading the charge is Canmore. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, Canmore has long been wonderful for cycling, says Andy Esarte, the town’s manager of engineering. But to alleviate growing car traffic and parking challenges—and to promote active mobility—bike-friendly initiatives have ramped up.
Among them are a studded-tire rebate for residents cycling in the winter (based on a similar program in Banff), plus incentives for local businesses to add bike storage and maintenance stands. And construction is underway on the town’s second major “complete streets” project, whereby roads—in this case, Canmore’s busiest intersection—are redesigned with all transportation modes in mind.
“This is about how communities treat their most important public spaces: streets,” Esarte says. “It’s a shift in philosophy for North America, but one that we can model after many successes elsewhere.”
The changes come as more Albertans take up cycling, in part thanks to new types of bikes. Battery-powered electric bikes make cycling accessible to a broader demographic, while others are drawn to the advanced technology that’s making bicycles lighter and speedier.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has also amplified cycling’s growth; bikes offer a way to get around, exercise and socialize while maintaining physical distance. “It’s a great pastime, an exhilarating activity and an excellent way to stay in shape,” says Santino Pasutto, past chair of the Alberta Cycling Coalition. An avid rider, he has been cycling with a club in Sherwood Park for six years.
Whether you’re on a road bike or a cruiser, riding for fitness or to commute, safety considerations remain paramount. “We have to remember that cyclists have the same rights as drivers, but also the same responsibilities,” says Melissa Malejko, an AMA member and owner of Safer Cycling Calgary, which offers cycling courses to people of all ages.
Riders, she says, can make themselves more visible to drivers by wearing bright clothes and using appropriate reflectors and lights. And both cyclists and motorists should be more mindful of fully stopping at all stop signs.
A common driving mistake also occurs at intersections, when motorists give up their right-of-way to people on bikes. “Drivers think they’re being nice, but they’re actually putting the cyclist and themselves in more danger” by making the road more unpredictable for everybody, Malejko says.
Whether you’re on two wheels or four, abiding by the rules of the road is key: We’re just trying to get around, and we need to respect whatever mode of transportation other people choose.”
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PROTECT YOUR RIDE
How to keep your bike secure when you’re out of the saddle.
Document it: Photograph yourself with your bike, record the serial number and register it online at bikeindex.org. If it’s ever stolen, you’ll have documentation.
Insure it: Bikes are covered under your home insurance (subject to the policy’s limits), but if you have a premium ride, consider asking your insurer about enhanced coverage options.
Lock it well: A premium hardened-steel chain and padlock—or reinforced U-lock—should protect against all but the most motivated thieves. Cable locks, however, are more easily cut.
Park it smart: Fasten your bike to a solid, immovable fixture in a well-lit, high-traffic area. Take easily removable items with you, like lights, bags and quick-release seats.
RIDE WITH AMA
Got a flat or broken chain? AMA’s got you covered with Bike Assist—it’s roadside assistance for your bicycle