One of Edmonton's best pieces of bike infrastructure, the multi-use trail between 109 and 110 street
Wednesday's (March 13, 2013) Transportation meeting was a success for those who care about cycling in Edmonton. Even though they delayed the lanes on 76 and 121 Avenue, I think we have to take the long view on this one. City council is very conservative, and the bike plan represents a big change (we were way behind the rest of the world in implementing a smoking bylaw, for example, something that now looks totally obvious in hindsight).
I saw some great things at the meeting. For one thing, Tyler Golly from the city, who is in charge of implementing the bicycle transportation plan, is a competent champion for bike lanes. His presentation was excellent. Also, the cycling community showed its muscle. About 60% of the 19 speakers were for the plan (including Dr. Darren Markland!), helping to show that this is not a fringe group.
Change Is Hard
Myles Kitagawa once told me "people want to live in the neighbourhood that they first moved into", and this is especially true in Edmonton. Every high-density development in the city that's not in Old Strathcona or downtown gets protested because of traffic and parking. I had to laugh at one article about the meeting in which a 76 Avenue resident bemoans the fact that "We have lived there for 34 years. I would never have bought a home where I didn’t think we could park on our front street". Really?
The bicycle transportation plan is a pretty significant change to how this city operates. There were perhaps some misteps by the city on what to prioritize, and when, and God knows it's underfunded. This resulted in a pretty big backlash, but the plan stayed on course this week, and for that I'm happy.
On Monday morning a draft letter by physicians supporting bike infrastructure appeared in my inbox. I meant to use it for another initiative, but I suddenly realized that it wasn't too late to present this at the meeting on Wednesday. 48 hours later, I gave the letter to Dr. Markland to present to council with 17 names on it! There is a tremendous amount of support and momentum in this city for bike infrastructure, and to me that letter was the beginning of a broad coalition of businesses, citizens, community leagues and health care providers who want a better, healthier city.
The city has identified a "priority network" of bike infrastructure to be built out during the next capital budget cycle. It will feature routes on 83rd Avenue in Old Strathcona and 102 Avenue downtown, and I think it's a great strategy.
While we need to keep the pressure up for these little skirmishes, the real ramp up of bike advocacy will be the next capital budget decided in early 2015. There are already groups at work making connections and building local support to get funding for a build-out of amazing places to bike. You should join one!
In the meantime, enjoy the new bike boulevard on 97 Street in the Fall. From 64th to 72nd Ave, it will feature one of these guys on 66 Avenue:
to slow cars down and make the intersection more attractive.
Also, get this: they will be closing the north-south right-of-way to cars at 97 Street and 68 Avenue. Bikes will pass through, but not the big speedy person killers! That's what passed on Wednesday. In Edmonton. Closed off to cars.
I'm happy about Wednesday's meeting.