By Justin Seward
Cypress County council had in front of them an amended resolution on limited bicycle usage for local, hard surfaced county roads after recent fatalities at its July 3 meeting.
Coun. Darcy Geigle put forward the motion with for the county to send the amended resolution to the Foothills-Little Bow Association’s September meeting, which council approved.
The Foothills- Little Bow Association is a part of Rural Municipalities Association (RMA), which is comprised of 69 counties and municipal districts throughout Alberta.
Its focus is to assist rural municipalities achieve strong, effective local government.
The amended resolution is stated “bicycles and their recreational use are an important component to healthy lifestyles and bicycles are a means of transportation in the Alberta Traffic Safety Act and cyclists utilize county local, hard surfaced roads for their recreational pleasure.”
“And county local, hard surfaces roads were originally constructed to serve agriculture and rural transportation needs and lack adequate shoulders to accommodate safe bicycle usage. Industrial and commercial trucks and non-local traffic use local, hard surfaced roads to gain access to provincial highways and urban transportation networks.
“And a number of bicyclists have been injured or killed on local, hard surfaced county roads and the cost of widening the roads is cost prohibitive and a review of the Alberta Highway Traffic Safety Act RSA 2000 Chapter T, Section 13 (n) General Powers of Municipality and Section 16 (b) Restrictions of Powers limit the powers of local authorities to pass a bylaw to restrict use (of) local roads by bicycles.”
Coun. Robin Kurpjuweit asked administration if there was any consultation with the local cycling clubs or individual riders on the issue. Interim CAO Peter Tarnawsky clarified that there is two circumstances where public consultation can occur.
The first option is to wait and see what the province will provide for that latitude to a municipality and to consult prior to applying for any limitation restrictions, said Tarnawsky.
The second option is if the county has the power to implement a restriction.
“We either ask for the power to it or the opportunity to apply to the province to do with what we already have,” said Tarnawsky.
“If that latitude is provided, then I suspect prior to instituting that sort of restriction, whether it’s on Eagle Butte, Township Road 120 or any other road, you would consult at that point.”
Coun. Ernest Mudie had other thoughts on the restrictions.
“I’m totally opposed to this,” said Mudie.
“We’re trying to ban people from a public right of way. We have no idea who is at fault here… Is it a risk riding a bicycle? I would never do it. But I mean we all complain that the government is (embedded) in our lives way too much.”
“ Now we want to give county council the authority to regulate bicycles. So what happens down the road if someone hits a combine? Is this council going to ban farming vehicles from the road.”
The only place that the county is aware of in the province that has limitations on bicycle’s is on Calgary’s Deerfoot Trail.
If the Foothills-Little Bow Association approves the resolution, then it will go for final approval at the RMA conference in November.
In 2015, the council at the time deemed bicycle riders on Township Road 120 unsafe and directed staff to post signage to limit the riders, while making motorists aware of their presence. Signs did not reduce the cyclists on the road nor the injuries or fatalities.