Amsterdamming Strathcona: 84th and 85th Avenue contra-flow lanes

Strathcona Centre Community, if it were given the Amsterdam treatment. 

Edmonton is attempting to turn itself into a bike-friendly city. There have been a few bumps along the way, as some neighbourhoods fight the change by pushing back against city council. Furthermore, much of the bicycle infrastructure that is costing our councillors this political price is arguably of low quality. It does make things better, especially for existing cyclists, but much of it is not high-quality enough to entice a large number of people onto their bikes.

I believe that our current city council is willing to fund some great infrastructure, and I am proposing a strategy that will minimize the political cost if the funds are there. Along with keeping the high-quality infrastructure that is planned in the current transportation plan (including 83rd, 102, and 105 Avenues), we should make certain neighbourhoods "perfect" for bikes. That is, we should Amsterdam them, make them into places where people automatically bike because there are great spaces for cycling all around. Beginning with Strathcona Centre Community, this strategy would entice a critical mass of people onto their bikes, creating a virtuous cycle where more people on bikes equals more people on bikes. It would help to prove the value of high-quality, high-density cycling infrastructure, and lead the way for more neighbourhoods to get the treatment.

I am writing a multi-piece series on how Edmonton could "Amsterdam" Strathcona Centre neighbourhood at minimal political cost:

  1. Amsterdamming Neighbourhoods: An Edmonton Bike Infrastructure Strategy 
  2. Amsterdamming Strathcona: 84th and 85th Avenue contra-flow lanes


Amsterdamming Strathcona: 84th and 85th Avenue Contraflow Lanes

 This is a contraflow bike lane:

(source

When a one-way street provides an inconvenience to a motor vehicle, a contraflow lane can eliminate it for cyclists. I think that providing someone on a bicycle an exclusive advantage over cars is an important piece of psychology that entices people onto their bikes. In Stratchona Centre Community, we have an opportunity to provide this convenience without losing a single car parking stall, and whilst providing no extra inconvenience to vehicles.

As an aside, I have railed against "just paint on roads" bike lanes before, so why am I in favour of contra-flow bike lanes in some situations? There are two answers. Firstly, if cars go slowly on a street (30 km/h or less), then cyclists can share the road with them safely and comfortably. On 84th and 85th avenues, although the speed limit is a ludicrous 50 km/h, the conditions usually lead to vehicles driving quite slowly on them (I state this from extensive personal experience rather than hard data). Secondly, I consider these contra-flow lanes high-quality infrastructure because they offer people on bikes a special convenience that vehicles don't have (rather than just providing a redundant place for bikes on an already-safe strip of residential road, for example) .

Proposed contraflow bike lanes for 84th and 85th avenues, between Gateway Boulevard and 109 street. 

Some time in Edmonton's past, city planners decided to make 84th and 85 Avenues, just north of Whyte between Gateway Boulevard and 109 Street, one-way streets.  read more... »

Amsterdamming Neighbourhoods: An Edmonton Bike Infrastructure Strategy

In a city like Amsterdam everyone rides bikes, young or old. 

The City of Edmonton has a growing number of bicycle riders that it wants to support for all kinds of reasons. However, initial attempts to build out a network of bicycle lanes have encountered resistance from some communities. So much so that Ward 10 Councillor Michael Walters made a campaign promise to have a meeting about the newly-installed lanes in his ward within a month of his getting elected.

The thing is, as I argued in a recent post, the painted, on-street bike lanes don't offer much to new bike riders, those not already engaged in the activity. They do increase safety for those on the road by 50% (source). However, most people do not want to share the road with fast-moving vehicles. So the current strategy, in my opinion, will not provide us with the breakthrough in ridership that our city needs to increase livability and offer the high levels of safety provided by large numbers of bike riders on the road.

The city has already decided to prioritize the construction of major bike routes on 102 Avenue and 83 Avenue. This is a step in the right direction, as those routes are high-quality infrastructure (not just lines on the road), and they are located in dense areas where ridership is already high.

However, I would like to propose an even more aggressive strategy. I think that we should "Amsterdam" neighbourhoods, one at a time, to create a critical mass of infrastructure in these dense, bike-friendly areas. These neighbourhoods would become showpieces and destinations. They would fill up with bikes, and their success would be obvious to critics and supporters alike. This strategy would create truly safe biking environments, and it would create space, politically-speaking, for more infrastructure elsewhere.

Strathcona Centre, arguably the cultural heart of the city, has 10,000 inhabitants, 5% of whom bike to work most of the time (with a much higher percentage making bike trips for other reasons).  Furthermore, it is surrounded by the city's other highest percentage biking communities (Belgravia, Mckernan, Ritchie, Park Allen, Queen Alex, Garneau, and of course Strathcona itself are in the top 10). It is the epicentre of cycling in Edmonton, and it should be our pilot project for Amsterdamming neighbourhoods.

As an important bonus, I will propose a way to do it with minimal loss of parking and disruption to drivers.  read more... »

The Future of Bike Infrastructure in Edmonton

I spent the summer cycling with my family in Europe. It was our first time riding in cities that take bikes seriously, and it was a real treat. From Utrecht, Holland to Strasbourg, France to all of Belgium, we had had no idea how transformative it is for a place to be filled with quiet, safe bikes.

And do you know what we never saw? We never saw good infrastructure that wasn't filled with people riding bikes. 

My seven and nine year olds enjoying the streets of Strasbourg, France.  read more... »

Passive House in New Brunswick . . . Someday

OK, I know that GreenEdmonton is about living green here - i.e. in Edmonton - but I have something I wanted to share with you.   My wife and I have started the planning process for a Passive-House designed house in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

 read more... »