By Kayle Van’t Klooster, November 30 2018 —
The introduction of Lime bikes — electric-assisted bicycles rentable through your phone — to Calgary is a great thing for the city. Having more mobility choices is important and bike-share programs are a step in the right direction. Bike-share programs are already used extensively in cities around the world and will hopefully grow in popularity in Calgary as well. They’re an environmentally friendly alternative to cars that will also lower traffic congestion if enough people make the switch. As Calgary grows, we need to stay dedicated to providing smart transportation options for citizens.
However, the fact that Lime bikes are technically illegal is, frankly, ridiculous. The bikes aren’t equipped with mirrors, a horn or brake lights, which power-assisted bicycles require under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act, but the Calgary Police Service has said that they will not be actively enforcing this rule. If they were, all users could receive tickets.
This situation puts both the government and Lime bike in the wrong. Lime has an obligation to follow the jurisdictional laws if they expect to do business here. They shouldn’t be able to simply shrug off this responsibility.
But the crux of this issues lies at the feet of our legislators. The Alberta Traffic Safety Act is out of date — e-bikes were simply not on the minds of those who wrote this particular piece of legislation. E-bikes, such as Lime bikes, are electrically powered, therefore are treated the same as a scooter or motorcycle despite having a top speed of 24 km/h. Most adults can bike that fast under their own power and it’s nowhere near as dangerous as a proper motorcycle.
Riders are also expected to wear a helmet when using one of these bikes, which is a great inconvenience. Although they help protect users and should be encouraged, helmets should not be required when using a vehicle closer to a traditional bicycle, since in Alberta, adult cyclists are not legally required to wear them.
Legislators need to update laws about getting around in the city. The Alberta government has stated that they are discussing Lime’s business with the company, which is a good sign. Bike-share programs have only recently been given the green light by city council and currently operate as a pilot program, so hopefully, we’ll see an increase in the number of active services. As a city, we should embrace this pilot program but also make it clear that we want more options.
Calgary has already invested in cycling infrastructure across the city. Encouraging bike-share programs is the logical next step. It would be wise for anyone living in Calgary to reconsider how they get around the city. Rather than hopping into your car for a quick drive down to the grocery store, consider riding your bike instead. The benefits to both your health and the environment make it a lively choice.
Kayle Van’t Klooster is a fourth-year International Relations Major at the University of Calgary. He writes a column for the Gauntlet about Canadian national and international affairs called “For Your Consideration.”