Motorists in Edmonton are now required to give a little more breathing room when passing cyclists.
The city's new passing bylaw went into effect on Thursday. Vehicles now have to leave at least one metre of space while passing a cyclist on roads less than 60 km/h or 1.5 metres on roads with higher speeds.
Paths for People was one of the organizations that pushed for the change. The group is focused on making Edmonton safer for active transportation users like cyclists and pedestrians.
Chair Stephen Raitz thinks this will help cyclists of all levels feel more comfortable riding on city streets.
"There's just a greater level of safety that people will feel because they know that when they're a bike on a road a driver won't get too close to them with their vehicle. They have a safe bubble to be within."
Jessica Lamarre, director of safe mobility with the City of Edmonton, says the new bylaw helps drivers have a clear understanding of the amount of space needed. Before the bylaw drivers were simply directed to "safely pass" a cyclist as outlined in the Traffic Safety Act.
"This bylaw helps to recognize that people who are driving vehicles have a responsibility to think about the impact that that vehicle might have on the people outside of them," Lamarre said.
The city regularly does a traffic safety culture study, the most recent data available is from 2018. That study showed eight in ten cyclists will try to avoid certain streets or intersections because they feel they are too dangerous.
"It helps avoid the potential tragedy that could come from getting just a bit too close to someone," Lamarre said.
The city is planning social media campaigns to inform drivers about the change but there will be a stronger messaging push in the spring when more cyclists will be on the city's streets.
Lamarre notes that drivers that they can cross a solid yellow line to safely manoeuvre around a cyclist, as long as there is no oncoming traffic.
Those who violate the bylaw could face a fine of up to $250 but Lamarre said the focus is more on changing behaviour than punitive measures.
"It's really more around trying to help people understand those expectations and define what it means to safely pass. This really gives us more of an opportunity to talk more about that with people," said Lamarre.
The cCty of Calgary also has the same passing bylaw in place. Lamarre said both cities have written to the province urging them to clarify the language in the Traffic Safety Act as well.