Consider taking Bike Calgary's one-day Urban Cycling Skills course!
There are many websites and books that deal with bicycle safety and tips for safe riding in traffic (see the Reading Room). For a good introduction that is tailored to the situation in Calgary, start with the City's Cycling Safety Handbook. Download it, and read it. Here's the short of it:
You should have functioning equipment. Nothing's going to help you if your brake cables tear or your chain falls off at a critical moment. So make sure your bike is well maintained, check your brakes and tire pressure before you leave, and if something doesn't feel right, fix it right away (or have it fixed by a professional). The single most important safety aspect when it comes to cycling in traffic is visibility. When you're riding at night or in low visibility conditions (rain, snow, low light), it is imperative that you have functioning lights. The law requires you to have at least one (but not more than two) white headlights and a red rear light, as well as a red rear reflector. Reflectors in the spokes and on the pedals aren't a bad idea, either. Reflective strips on clothing, packs, ankle straps, are also useful. But remember that on the pathway, there's no windshield between your blaring flashing headlight and other pathway users—so be courteous and turn your lights to steady mode and angle them down. It's a good idea to wear a cycling helmet. It's not required by law, unless you're under 18. Make sure your helmet fits you properly and meets industry safety standards.
It is probably obvious that you are safer on quiet neighborhood streets than on busy streets, safer on pathways and in bike lanes than when riding in traffic. Check the route maps to find a suitable cycling route for you. When you are riding in traffic, go in a straight line (no dodging between parked cars) and keep to the right as much as possible but:
Famously, Calgary has one of North America's most extensive pathway networks in North America. Pathways are a relatively safe place to ride a bicycle, as there are no cars (except where pathways cross roads) and pathways are also never adjacent to building entrances or parked cars. Because pathways are, for the most part, shared with pedestrians (and skaters and runners), you still must exercise caution when using them, especially at night. You should be especially careful when crossing a roadway. On a bicycle, you do not automatically have the right of way over vehicles on the road you're crossing, unlike as a pedestrian. If you dismount and walk your bike across an intersection, you're a pedestrian, and have the right of way. Note that speed on pathways is limited to 20 km/h.
On the other hand, it is in general dangerous to ride your bicycle on sidewalks, especially where sidewalks cross streets at every block, there are driveways, building entrances, and parked cars. You're liable to hit or get run into by a pedestrian, get hit by an opening car door on the passenger side, or get hit by a car if you bike through crosswalks (drivers can't see you behind the parked cars, won't expect a fast approaching bicycle, and you'll likely be in their blind spot if they turn right across the crosswalk). A very high percentage of car-bike collisions happen at intersections when the cyclist is coming off the sidewalk. In Calgary, it's illegal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk (unless it's a designated pathway, you are under 14 years old, are delivering newspapers, or are a Peace Officer on duty).
How do you tell if something's a pathway (ok to ride) or a sidewalk that's not a pathway (not ok to ride)? It's not always obvious, but:
Always obey posted signs, speed limits, and again: be very careful at intersections: motorists won't look for you, sometimes won't be able to see you, and you do not automatically have the right of way in crosswalks like pedestrians do.
Intersections are where most collisions happen. The most common types of collisions are the "left cross" and the "right hook". In "right hook" collisions, a cyclist gets hit by a car turning right; in "left cross" collisions by a motorist making a left turn across the cyclist's path. To avoid them:
Cycling on pathways is subject to very much the same rules as regular traffic. You should:
There are numerous resources online to learn about cycling safety, whether you're riding on shared pathways or on the roads.
The regulations governing cycling in Calgary are:
According to these rules and regulations,
A motor vehicle, power bicycle and bicycle must have a horn or bell.
(1) No person who is less than 18 years old shall operate or ride as a passenger on a bicycle unless that person is properly wearing a safety helmet.
(2) A parent or guardian of a person who is less than 18 years old shall not authorize or knowingly permit the person to operate or ride as a passenger on a bicycle unless that person is properly wearing a safety helmet.
(3) No person shall operate a bicycle on which a passenger who is less than 18 years old is riding unless the passenger is properly wearing a safety helmet.
(1) For the purposes of section 111, a safety helmet intended for the use of an operator or a passenger of a bicycle or worn by an operator or a passenger of a bicycle must meet the standards adopted under subsection (2) in effect on the date on which it was manufactured.
(2) The following are adopted and apply to safety helmets in accordance with subsection (1):
(a) Canadian Standards Association Standard CAN/CSA D113.2‑M89 (Cycling Helmets);
(b) Consumer Product Safety Commission, Title 16 Code of U.S. Federal Regulations Part 1203 (Safety Standard for Bicycle Helmets);
(c) Snell Memorial Foundation Standard B‑90 (1990 Standard for Protective Headgear for Use with Bicycles);
(d) Snell Memorial Foundation Standard B‑95 (1995 Standard for Protective Headgear for Use with Bicycles);
(e) Snell Memorial Foundation Standard N‑94 (1994 Standard for Protective Headgear in Non‑motorized Sports);
(f) American Society for Testing and Materials ASTM F1447‑97 (Standard Specification for Protective Headgear Used in Bicycling);
(g) CEN European Standard EN 1078 (Helmets for Pedal Cyclists and for Users of Skateboards and Roller Skates, February 1997);
(h) British Standards Institute BS 6863:1989 (British Standard Specification for Pedal Cyclists Helmets);
(i) Standards Australia/Standards New Zealand 2063‑1996 (Pedal Cycle Helmets);
(j) American National Standards Institute ANSI Z90.4‑1984 (American National Standard for Protective Headgear for Bicyclists).
(3) A safety helmet must have the mark of one of the organizations referred to in subsection (2), or the manufacturer, indicating that the helmet met one or more of the specifications required on its date of manufacture.
(4) A safety helmet must be constructed so that it (a) has a hard, smooth outer shell, and (b) is capable of absorbing energy on impact.
(5) A safety helmet must be designed and equipped so that it is securely attached to a strap that is to be fastened around the chin of the person wearing the safety helmet.
(6) A safety helmet must be free of damage or modification that would reduce its effectiveness.
(7) No person shall buy, sell or offer for sale a safety helmet intended for the use of operators or passengers of bicycles who are less than 18 years old unless it complies with subsections (1) to (6).
(1) A person shall not ride a bicycle at nighttime unless the bicycle has the following:
(a) at least one headlamp but not more than 2 headlamps;
(b) at least one red tail lamp;
(c) at least one red reflector mounted on the rear.
(1)(c) “bicycle” includes any cycle propelled by human muscular power on which a person may ride regardless of the number of wheels that the cycle may have;
(1) At any time on a highway during the period of night time or when, due to insufficient light or unfavourable atmospheric conditions, objects are not clearly discernible on the highway at a distance of at least 150 metres ahead, a person shall not do any of the following:
(b) have a bicycle in motion on the highway unless the lamp or lamps with which the bicycle is required to be equipped are alight;
(f) have a cycle on the highway unless the cycle is equipped with one reflector that is located at the rear of the cycle and that is (i) of a type required by the Vehicle Equipment Regulation, and (ii) affixed as required by the Vehicle Equipment Regulation so as to reflect the lights of any motor vehicle approaching from the rear.
Unless the context otherwise requires, a person who is operating a cycle on a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the duties of a person driving a motor vehicle under Part 1 and this Part and Division 2 of Part 5 of the Act.
(1) A person who is operating a cycle on a highway
(a) shall keep both hands on the handlebars of the cycle, except when making a signal in accordance with this Regulation or shifting the gears of the cycle,
(b) shall keep both feet on the pedals or foot rests of the cycle other than when stopped,
(c) shall not ride other than on or astride a regular seat of the cycle, and
(d) shall not use the cycle to carry more persons at one time than the number for which the cycle is designed and equipped.
(2) A person who is operating a cycle, other than a motor cycle, on a highway shall operate the cycle as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway unless that person is in the process of making a left turn with the cycle.
(3) Notwithstanding subsection (2), a person who is operating a cycle, other than a motor cycle, on a one-way highway in an urban area shall ride as near as practicable to either curb or edge of the roadway unless that person is in the process of crossing from one curb or edge of the roadway to the opposite curb or edge of the roadway.
(4) Notwithstanding subsection (2), a person who is operating a cycle, other than a motorcycle, on a highway that has shoulders
(a) in the case of a highway that has paved shoulders, shall operate the cycle on the right shoulder, and
(b) in the case of a highway that does not have paved shoulders, shall operate the cycle as far to the right of the roadway as practicable, unless that person is in the process of making a left turn.
(5) A person who is riding as a passenger on a cycle
(a) shall not ride other than on a regular seat of the cycle that is designed to be used by a passenger, and
(b) shall keep both feet on the foot rests provided for the use of the passenger riding on the seat.
A person who is operating a cycle on a highway in the same direction in the same traffic lane, except when overtaking and passing another cycle,
(a) shall not operate the cycle adjacent to another cycle travelling in the same direction, and
(b) in the case of a cycle other than a motor cycle, where more than one cycle is travelling in the near vicinity of and in the same direction as another cycle, shall operate the cycle directly in line with and to the rear or front of the other cycle.
(3) Where a vehicle is on a highway, the person driving the vehicle shall not knowingly draw or tow by that vehicle any person riding a sled, toboggan, skis, cycle, skateboard or similar thing.
(4) Where a vehicle is on a highway, a person shall not directly or indirectly become or remain attached to that vehicle by means of a device or any part of that person’s body and (a) be pushed or towed by the vehicle, or (b) ride a sled, toboggan, skis, cycle, skateboard or similar thing that is being pushed or towed by the vehicle.
(1) A person shall not open a door of a vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so.
(2) A person shall not leave a door open on a vehicle where it may constitute a hazard to moving traffic.
(o) "Pathway" means a multi-purpose thoroughfare controlled by The City and set aside for use by pedestrians, Cyclists and Persons using Wheeled Conveyances, which is improved by asphalt, concrete or brick, whether or not it is located in a Park, and includes any bridge or structure with which it is contiguous;
(x) "Wheeled Conveyance" means roller-skates, in-line-skates, roller skis, skateboards, scooters, motorized 3 or 4 wheeled scooters designed for Persons with infirmities, motorized wheelchairs, or other similar devices but excludes Bicycles, Vehicles or any other motorized scooters.
(1) Unless otherwise authorized pursuant to this Bylaw, no Person in a Park shall use or ride:
(a) a Bicycle except on a Pathway, Trail or Park Roadway; or
(b) any Wheeled Conveyance except on a Pathway or Trail.
(2) It shall not be an offence to use or ride any Wheeled Conveyance to cross a Park Roadway where a Pathway or Trail crosses that Park Roadway.
(1) No Person shall ride a Bicycle or use a Wheeled Conveyance or Vehicle on a Park Roadway, Pathway or Trail which is closed, or where such use is prohibited.
Unless otherwise posted no Person shall operate a Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance in a Park at a speed greater than twenty (20) kilometers per hour.
No Person using a Pathway or Trail shall travel at a rate of speed that is unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances, including but not limited to:
(a) the nature, condition and use of the Pathway or Trail;
(b) any conditions, including weather, that may affect visibility; and
(c) the volume and type of traffic on the Pathway or Trail regardless of whether that person is travelling at the applicable speed limit.
When entering onto a Pathway from other than a Park Roadway, Pathway or Trail, all Persons shall yield the right of way to users already on the Pathway.
When approaching an uncontrolled intersection between a Park Roadway, Pathway or Trail a Person using a Park Roadway, Pathway or Trail shall:
(a) when on a Trail, yield the right of way to users on a Pathway or Park Roadway;
(b) when on a Pathway, yield the right of way to users on a Park Roadway;
(c) when on a Pathway, approaching an uncontrolled intersection with another Pathway, yield the right of way to the user on the right; and
(d) when on a Trail, approaching an uncontrolled intersection with another Trail, yield the right of way to the user on the right.
A Person using a Pathway or Trail shall:
(a) exercise due care and attention to avoid colliding with any other user;
(b) exercise reasonable consideration for any other user;
(c) give an audible signal by voice, bell or other signaling device before overtaking another user; and
(d) ensure they are visible to other users.
No Person using a Pathway shall travel left of the Centre Line of a Pathway except:
(a) when overtaking another Person travelling in the same direction;
(b) when the Pathway to the right of the Centre Line is obstructed;
(c) when the Pathway to the right of the Centre Line is closed to Pathway users; or
(d) when turning left off the Pathway.
No Person using a Pathway shall pass or attempt to pass another Person travelling in
the same direction when:
(a) it is unsafe to do so;
(b) on a curve in the Pathway, when that Person’s vision is obstructed;
(c) Pathway lanes are separated by double solid lines; or
(d) passing beneath a bridge or through a tunnel of any kind.
No Person overtaking another Person on a Pathway shall return to the right-side of the Centre Line of a Pathway until it is safe to do so.
No Person shall operate a Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance on a Pathway, Trail or Park Roadway in a manner that is unsafe to that Person or other people in the Park.
No Person riding a Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance on a Park Roadway, Pathway or Trail shall use the Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance to carry more Persons than the number for which it is designed and equipped.
No Person operating or riding as a passenger on a Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance on a Park Roadway, Pathway or Trail shall:
(a) hold onto; or
(b) be attached to;
any other Bicycle, Wheeled Conveyance or Vehicle unless that person is riding in a child or animal trailer designed for such use.
A Bicycle operated on a Pathway, or Trail shall be equipped with:
(a) at least one (1) working brake;
(b) a horn, bell or other signaling device; and
(c) if operated during the period beginning one half hour (1/2) after sunset and ending one half hour (1/2) before sunrise;
(i) at least one (1) functioning headlamp with a lens and bulb which are clear in colour;
(ii) at least one (1) functioning red tail lamp which is capable of emitting a flashing or steady mode; and
(iii) at least one (1) red reflector mounted at the rear.
No Person shall operate a Bicycle or In-line skates on a Pathway or Trail during the period commencing one half hour (1/2) after sunset and ending one half (1/2) hour before sunrise unless:
(a) in the case of a Bicycle, the headlamp, tail-lamp and reflector required pursuant to Section 44 are activated; or
(b) in the case of a person operating in-line skates, a device or devices which emit either a clear or red light, in either a flashing or steady mode, is affixed to the person’s body or clothing and is both activated and visible from both the front and the rear of the Person.
(1) Where an Officer observes a Person using or operating a Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance in contravention of this Bylaw, the Officer may impound the Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance for a period not exceeding 60 days.
(2) Where a Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance has been impounded by an Officer, the owner or operator of such Bicycle shall, aside from any fine or penalty to which the owner may be subject, be liable for all reasonable costs incidental to the impounding.
30. Ride a Bicycle or Wheeled Conveyance off a Pathway or Trail or Park Roadway $ 100.00
31. Ride where closed or prohibited $ 100.00 32. Speed on a Pathway or Trail $ 50.00
33. Unsafe Speed on Pathway or Trail $ 100.00
34. Failure to yield right of way when entering Pathway $ 100.00
35. Failure to yield right of way at uncontrolled intersections $ 100.00
36. Unsafe activities on Pathway $ 100.00
37. Travelling left of Centre Line of Pathway where prohibited $ 100.00
38. Unsafe passing on Pathway $ 100.00
39. Unsafe return to right side of Pathway $ 100.00
40. Cyclist or in-line skater, unsafe operation $ 100.00
41. Use of poles on a Pathway $ 100.00
42. Riding with more passengers than intended (double riding) $ 50.00
43. Towing $ 50.00 44. Improperly equipped Bicycle $ 50.00
45. Operate at night without lights $ 100.00
(1) (q.2) “High Occupancy Vehicle” means a bus (whether or not operated by Calgary Transit), any motor vehicle with two or more occupants (excluding an unborn child), or a bicycle;
(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in this or any Bylaw, a Peace Officer may operate a bicycle while on duty on any mall, sidewalk, footpath, walkway, boulevard, pathway or other public place where the use of bicycles by the general public is prohibited or restricted.
(1) Unless the context otherwise requires, a person operating a bicycle on a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the duties that any vehicle operator has under this Bylaw.
(2) Notwithstanding Subsection (1) of Section 42, a carrier of a newspaper may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, or boulevard: (a) if he is delivering copies of the newspaper at the time; and (b) if the bicycle does not interfere with other persons proceeding by foot on the said sidewalk, footpath or boulevard.
(3) Notwithstanding Subsection (2), the Traffic Engineer may designate those portions of sidewalks, or boulevards where bicycles may be ridden by other persons who are not carriers of newspapers delivering copies thereof.
(4) Where this Bylaw permits a person to ride a bicycle or use in-line skates on any sidewalk, where pedestrians are also allowed, the person shall ride the bicycle or use the in-line skates only in such a way that it will not interfere with a pedestrian lawfully on or using such sidewalk.
(5) No person shall ride a bicycle on Deerfoot Trail, being a highway in the City of Calgary, between 64th Avenue North and Marquis of Lorne Trail (commonly referred to as Highway 22X).
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this Section, a person shall not:
(c) ride a bicycle;
(e) draw, push, propel or ride a wheeled vehicle of any description other than a bicycle on or along a sidewalk, or boulevard.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection (1), a person may draw, push or propel:
(c) a child’s tricycle; or
(d) a child’s bicycle operated by an individual under the age of Fourteen (14) years;
on or along a sidewalk in such a way as to not interfere with the other pedestrians using the sidewalk.
(1) A Peace Officer may seize and impound for a period not exceeding 60 (sixty) days any bicycle, skateboard, or other similar device used or operated in contravention of this Bylaw.
(2) Where a bicycle, skateboard, or other similar device has been seized and impounded by a Peace Officer as provided for in this Bylaw, the owner or operator of such bicycle, skateboard, or other similar device shall, aside from any fine or penalty to which he may be subject, be liable for all reasonable costs incidental to the seizure and impounding of the bicycle, skateboard, or other similar device.
41 Bicycles $25.00
42, 44 Use of Sidewalk or Street $25.00
The Department of Transportation of the Government of Alberta collects statistics on traffic collisions. There are annual reports, as well as a more in-depth report on collisions involving bicycles (2004-2008). The numbers reported there are for all of Alberta; overview statistics for Calgary and Edmonton are included at the end of this post. The following summary is based on the figures reported there.
In the years covered by the bicycle study (2004-2008), a total of 2,174 people died in traffic collisions. 1.4% were bicyclists, 6.9% were motorcyclists, 10.4% were pedestrians, and 76.2% were drivers or passengers. Of the 121,262 people injured in that same timeframe, 2.4% were bicyclists, 3.2% were motorcyclists, 5.2% were pedestrians, and 87.4% were drivers or passengers.
In 2004-2008, most bicycle collisions (almost 40%) occurred during afternoon rush hour (3pm-7pm).
The majority of collisions involving a bicyclist for all severities occur in urban locations. For bicycle involved collisions on rural numbered highways and other rural roads, bicycle involved fatal collisions make up a bigger proportion of the total bicycle involved collisions on those highways and roads compared to the proportion of bicycle involved urban fatal collisions to total bicycle involved urban collisions. In 2004-08, only 2% of all collisions involving bicycles occurred on rural highways and roads, but almost half of the cyclist fatalities.
5.0% of cyclists involved in collisions were found to have been drinking or be alcohol impaired, and 15.4% of cyclists in fatal collisions. The statistics do not include the number of alcohol impaired drivers in collisions involving bicycles. However, for the same period (2004-2008), 5.3% of drivers (excluding bicyclists) in all casualty collisions, and 21.2% of those involved in fatal collisions had been drinking.
For 2004-2008, 59.7% of drivers involved in casualty collisions with bicyclists were recorded as driving properly, compared with 37.4% of cyclists. In fatal collisions, however, only 45.5% of drivers, compared with 61.5% of cyclists, were recorded as driving properly. Moreover, of the 62.6% of bicyclists reported as not driving properly, about one third (26% of the total) were indicated as committing "other" errors, such as riding on the sidewalk or through a crosswalk. 36.0% of cyclists, compared with 36.5% of drivers involved in casualty collisions, were recorded as having committed a driving error specified on the collision report form, such as disobeying a traffic sign, failing to yield, etc. These statistics include children on bicycles: almost a quarter of cyclists involved in collisions were under 16 years of age.
|Severity of Collisions||2005||2006||2007||2008||2009||2010||TOTAL
|Property Damage Collisions||91||83||97||86||75||77||509|
|Total Number of Collisions||294||273||255||265||233||230||1,550|
|Total Casualties in
Collisions Involving Bicycles
|Severity of Collisions||2005||2006||2007||2008||2009||2010||TOTAL
|Property Damage Collisions||63||62||51||57||57||52||342|
|Total Number of Collisions||286||268||240||252||262||219||1,527|
|Total Casualties in Collisions Involving Bicycles||228||207||192||201||208||169||1,205|
* This refers to the total number of people killed and injured in collisions in which a bicycle was involved. It does not refer to only bicycle operators and passengers. However, only bicyclists were fatally injured.
(Source: Alberta Transportation, Office of Traffic Safety, April/August 2011)
The Alberta Bicycle Association Recreation and Transportation Committee has a very useful and detailed guide on what to do in case of an accident:
Briefly, the same rules apply to car/bicycle collisions as to any other collision. You should stop, call the police and/or EMS if necessary, and in any event exchange information as you would in a car collision.
Collisions have to be reported to the Calgary Police Department if anyone is injured, or if the total damage in the collision exceeds $2,000. It is the legal responsibility of the driver of the car to make a report, but cyclists are entitled to file a report as well -- and you should. Police will file the report if they attend the scene; otherwise you'll have to go to a district office.
If you or anyone else are injured, you should call the Police and EMS to the scene. Call 9-1-1 if anyone requires medical attention, or the Police Department non-emergency line if no medical attention is required (403-266-1234).
Alberta Finance has detailed information on what to do in case of a collision.
Always carry with you:
In Alberta, you are entitled to medical insurance coverage regardless of who is at fault for the collision. If you have been injured, see the relevant section of the "What to do in case of an automobile accident" page. If you only have minor injuries and EMS were not at the scene, you should see a physician as soon as possible to obtain documentation of your injuries.
Your immediate medical care will be covered by Alberta Health and/or your extended health plan, if you have one. You will be able to recover other medical expenses from the car insurance of the driver.
As a cyclist injured in a collision with a car, you have coverage for medical and death and disability expenses under the car insurance policy of the driver of the car (section B of the standard automobile insurance policy). Your own car insurance may also cover you, and it may be easier or more convenient to deal with your own insurance company. Talk to your insurance company immediately.
You have 10 days after the collision to file a Notice of Loss and Proof of Claim with the car insurance company for medical expenses for sprains, strains, or whiplash, and 30 days for other medical claims.
If you were involved in a hit-and-run accident or the driver was not insured, you may be able to recover your medical expenses from your own car insurance, if you have one, or through the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims (MVAC) programme.
Contact your home owner's or tenant insurance to see if you have coverage for liability or property damage.
It is a sad fact of cycling in Calgary that you may come in contact with drivers who do not respect your right to cycle on the road as part of traffic. If a driver endangers your safety, intentionally or unintentionally, you should report them to the Calgary Police Department. Such reports are logged, noted in the driver's file, and will be helpful if they are ever in an actual collision with a cyclist. To make a report (by calling the non-emergency line 403-266-1234) you will need:
If the situation is serious enough, e.g., if the driver gets out of their car and wants to fight or if they have a weapon, call 9-1-1.