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LETTER: Walk, run, bike – let's all enjoy the city!

"Know the ‘rules’ and be kind to one another."
A silver lining of COVID-19 has been the opportunity to explore so many beautiful communities in St. Albert. My two sons got bored with the walks around the neighbourhood, and bike riding has given us the freedom to explore from Akinsdale to Erin Ridge, from Kingswood to Lacombe ... we have found so many cool paths, shortcuts and green spaces.

Lately, my older son has been more hesitant to ride alone or with friends because he/we have been told to stay off the sidewalks. Discouragingly, I have had friends report that other walkers will not move aside to allow faster walkers or cyclists pass. Since I can’t change the behavior of others, I wanted to make sure that, at least, we were following ‘the rules’.

I contacted bylaw enforcement about St. Albert’s expectations for cyclists which reinforced the bylaws that I found on the City’s website: 1. Wear a helmet 2. Have a working bike bell 3. Share the trails.

I clarified a few things with bylaw enforcement: Cyclists are allowed to ride on sidewalks. If bikes are ridden on the road, they must follow the rules of motor vehicles. Cyclist do not have to dismount at intersections, although it is advised. Cyclists need to ring their bell to warn others that they wish to pass. Passing on the left is advised – just as you would on the highway. That is all the City advises, and enforcement is incredibly difficult.

My family loves to bike ride – we can travel 10-plus kilometres in one evening ride and see so many different homes, playgrounds, and hidden treasurers ... not to mention, we get a good workout! We do not yell ‘To your left’ because we often are not heard or people turn around to look but then get confused as to their left. Not to mention, we would have a sore throat from yelling so much and ingesting so many bugs. We ring our bells as per bylaw – first from a distance as a warning and closer if needed. I have taught my kids to ring their bell before blind corners and along overgrown trails. We slow down if there is a lot of foot traffic and dismount when needed. We often ride through residential areas when trails are too busy. I have taught them to watch out for small wandering children and dogs on extendable leashes that can cause accidents. In bigger groups, the leader must call out ‘two more’ or ‘five more’ as they pass others. We veer onto the grass if walkers will not fall in behind one another single file. These are not bylaws, these are courtesies so we can all use the outdoor spaces.

From my experience, these rules are followed most of the time which creates a vibrant outdoor community of active, healthy living. I have been called out about riding my bike across a bridge – I did not see the sign to dismount. I apologized and learned to be more mindful. My older son knows that when riding on a roadway, vehicles do not have to treat him like a pedestrian, so he needs to be watchful. St. Albert does not have dedicated bike lanes so not all cyclist are comfortable riding on roads. I will not take my six-year-old on main roads and we cannot get to trails without riding on sidewalks. I have ridden on the roads and drivers do not understand the arm signals or, worse yet, decide to treat you like a pedestrian which is sure to cause an accident. We all play a part and cannot be entitled.

My point to this letter is that we all want to enjoy the beauty of St. Albert and we all need to coexist in outdoor spaces, especially during COVID-19 when so many of us are escaping our homes with an outdoor adventure. A walk or ride outside should soothe the soul, not cause anxiety and angst. Let’s all be responsible and accountable. Know the ‘rules’ and be kind to one another.

Kari DeChamplain-Pipella,

St. Albert