A drive through downtown during office hours on any given day of the week might greet you with the frustration of heavy traffic, construction, and jaywalking pedestrians. But for many Calgary drivers, nothing beats the road rage that a cyclist can conjure up.
When asked about cyclists in the downtown core, first year Applied Justice student Christian Tetreault said he was "just freaking out about it" a few days earlier.
"They're all over the place," Tetreault says of the bike riders. "You don't have any idea what they're doing. They should have to obey the same laws of the road as everyone else."
And there are those in bylaw enforcement who agree with Tetreault's plea for safer downtown driving. Jeff Prietz, a bylaw officer with the City of Calgary, specializes in parks and pathways in the city. He is familiar with the rules that cyclists must follow, regardless of whether they're on a bike path or a busy city road. He helps to enforce these rules, and to protect cyclists.
Proper lights, and adherence to posted speed limits are just two of the things that Prietz says bike riders must remember, if they don't want trouble.
"When they're on the roadway, they're a vehicle," says Prietz. "They have all the rights and privileges, and well as restrictions that a vehicle has."
That includes playground zones, where cyclists are not allowed to pass another vehicle, or go more than the posted speed limit, just like a motorized vehicle.
Of course, cyclists have the added advantage of being able to dismount and become a pedestrian, something they must do, by law, to be on the sidewalks.
"You can't ride through a crosswalk, or on a sidewalk," warns Prietz, although a quick drive though downtown will find many people breaking these rules. They switch between sidewalks and roads at will, skip past lineups at traffic lights, and run stop signs. More often than not, people will tell you the offending party is a downtown bike courier in a hurry.
Paul Albert has been a bike courier in Calgary for two and a half years. He agrees that couriers, and other cyclists downtown, have a bad reputation as rule breakers. "It's an unfortunate reputation," he says.
Albert recently got a ticket for not having both hands on the handlebars. He says Calgary's police force is harder on bike couriers than they are on the average non-cyclist.
"Personally, I think it's absolutely not fair," he says. "The guy in the business suit doesn't get targeted like we do."
He says the bike cops are always out to get the couriers, which he estimates can be counted at over 100 strong on an average day. Couriers can be nailed for something as small as not having a bell, a $28 fine, up to $120 fines for not having plates on their bikes.
Albert admits that training to become a bike courier does not include an in-depth review of the city's traffic bylaws. "You go with the company for a day or two to train," says Albert. He says they teach new recruits the addresses and routes, but not the rules for city streets.
"The bylaws are usually posted at the depots," Albert says. "But not everyone knows them."
But what Albert and his fellow bike couriers know is that cyclists don't get the respect they deserve on downtown roads. "We have a right to a lane," he says, adding that drivers have been known to honk, and swear at cyclists, regardless of whether they're in the right or not.
Not everyone is on the case of downtown cyclists. "The only time I ever see them is when I'm going into the parkade," says Donna Martens, who works downtown. "They don't bother me and I don't bother them."