Regina city council approved a number of recommendations to the traffic safety bylaw on Wednesday that followed from a report that was requested about a year ago.
In the report, city staff were tasked with looking into the possibility of mandating a minimum passing distance for drivers when driving past cyclists that ended up not being recommended.
City council did recommend passing speed for drivers be limited and the legal passing speed will depend on the posted speed limit. Drivers who break the new bylaws face fines of $180.
As part of the recommendation, drivers cannot pass a cyclist at speeds exceeding 50 km/h or greater than 70 km/h on streets with a posted speed limit of 80 km/h or over.
Fines will also be imposed on drivers who follow cyclists too closely and pass them while still occupying part of their lane or fail to accommodate special hazards when driving near cyclists, like puddles.
Once the city solicitor drafts the amended bylaw, it will be sent to the next scheduled council meeting for final approval. Once it receives final approval, Regina police service said there will be about two months of grace period during which officers will educate violators instead of ticketing them.
A Bike Regina board member was present at city council on Wednesday and said that the group supported a number of the bylaw amendments.
One bylaw amendment that would have seen cyclists prohibited from riding on a 200-metre eastbound stretch of Ring Road between Pasqua Street and Victoria Avenue was removed, with a vote of 6 to 5.
A city report explained that when Ring Road was originally constructed, consideration was not given to design to allow for cyclists using the road.
“The intent of this provision is to protect cyclists and remove conflict points on a 100 km/h expressway. The access points on and off the expressway are free-flowing and present a greater hazard to cyclists, due to the uncertainty of drivers, when compared with high-speed roads with controlled intersections.”
Bike Regina did not support the amendment.
“We understand better than anyone which areas are dangerous and not bike-friendly. We do not feel that strict prohibition is the best way. It sets a precedent for stricter prohibitions in the future. Even if the first prohibition is reasonable, the next may not be,” board member David Bernakevitch said.
A number of amendments require further research and were not recommended at this time or voted on at Wednesday’s meeting.
One of those amendments would see cyclists prohibited from operating on roadways with a speed greater than 50 km/h unless the cyclist is riding in a designated bike lane or upon a paved shoulder of at least two metres.
“The intent of this provision was to ensure cyclists are not encouraged to operate on a roadway which may be unsafe due to the speed differential of vehicular traffic and bicycle traffic and the likelihood of severe injury should a collision occur,” a city report read.
The city report added that during engagement session with cycling groups, concerns were raised that this amendment would impact the ability of cyclists reaching city limits for recreational rides.
Bernakevitch said Bike Regina was against any amendment that would restrict cyclists from roads.
One amendment that was not recommended at this time was voted on. The amendment was defeated 6 to 5 and would have required cyclists to ride at a speed slower than the normal and reasonable flow of car traffic, and to ride as close to the right side of the right through lane as is safe, except when faced with road hazards like fixed objects. Taking a left turn would also be an exception.
Bike Regina’s position is that the safest lane position is in the left-hand wheel track.
“Riding in the right-hand wheel track of a lane actually increases the likelihood of a collision, as motorists pass the cyclists without doing a complete lane change first. This means that cars are passing cyclists far too close to them, which is unsafe,” Angèle Poirier, Bike Regina board member said in a statement to Global News.
Poirier said the fear of this situation leads to people riding their bikes less, something Bike Regina knows from speaking to membership.
— with files from Connor O’Donovan