As the towns of Banff and Canmore have prioritized more active modes of transit, a new battle is taking place among some residents and visitors.
Who has priority on the paths and/or trails and is it possible to simply share them and be respectful of one another?
On paper, it should be easy for people to get along when using the path and trail network, but reality always breaks away from the best laid plans.
In the Outlook in the past five weeks, numerous letters to the editor have poured in with people taking their own stance on what has shown to be a divisive issue.
It’s gone from one end of the pendulum of highlighting safety being a priority and reminding cyclists and vehicle drivers to follow rules of the road to suggesting pathways should only be for pedestrians.
The overarching theme is an emphasis on all users respecting one another’s way to travel in the community.
In both Banff and Canmore, people have turned to active transit modes. After both municipalities have increased the infrastructure, people have taken advantage of the old adage of if you build it they will come proving true.
However, the paths can also be packed with not only pedestrians and cyclists, but skateboarders, rollerbladers, runners, e-bikes and many more. The summer weather only makes it more likely people will take advantage of the existing paths.
Though it’s far better than having people sit in an idling car to go a block or two, harmony between all users needs to be found.
On many paths, speed limits or signage has popped up to remind users of the rules and obligations they have to provide a safe environment for people getting from one destination to the next.
With some cyclists and e-bike users able to travel the same pace or better than that of a vehicle – particularly with road speeds now at 30 kilometres an hour throughout Banff and parts of Canmore – the safety concerns aren’t without reason.
Most pedestrians have had the experience of being buzzed by a speedy cyclist, while those on bikes have likely had an experience of a pedestrian who ignores multiple rings of a bell to warn of the incoming pass on the left.
When cycling on municipal infrastructure, particularly when it’s on a busy and well used path, traffic should flow with those who are going the slowest pace on the path. It means giving pedestrians the right of way and it enhances safety.
While North American culture has become used to vehicle traffic laws, as we shift more to the active transit model more education will be needed.
It takes individuals using the paths, local organizations and municipal governments to provincial and nationally run groups to inform themselves on proper etiquette, but more importantly, to just be respectful of one another.
As more people make the shift, particularly with active modes considerably cheaper than owning a vehicle and the extra costs such as repairs, maintenance, gas and insurance, there needs to be a greater educational push to help people understand the rules.
But the ultimate responsibility is on each individual who use the path and trail network.
An overcrowded path is more preferred than an underused one, but it ultimately requires people to be respectful of one another and share the paths.