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:
- Amsterdamming Neighbourhoods: An Edmonton Bike Infrastructure Strategy
- Amsterdamming Strathcona: 84th and 85th Avenue contra-flow lanes
Amsterdamming Strathcona: 84th and 85th Avenue Contraflow Lanes
This is a contraflow bike lane:
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. I'm guessing that it was because they are pretty narrow to accommodate two directions of traffic as well as parking (for those of you not from here, on-street parking is more important than sunshine and air to Edmontonians, so they weren't going to give that up).
While there isn't room for two-way vehicular traffic, I believe that there is plenty of room for contraflow bike lanes on both avenues.
85th Avenue Google Streeview, sunny times
This is 85th Avenue, a one-way street heading east. I'm no engineer, but this is way more space than one car needs. On this avenue, for very minimal cost, Edmonton could paint a contra-flow lane to give residents living on this high-density strip the option to head in either direction if they're on their bikes. It would take some extra signage at intersections as well, but overall this is a low-hanging fruit. It would provide a safe way to quickly get to the University/109th area.
84th Avenue Google Streetview
This avenue is only slightly trickier. The cars are parked on the left side (from the point of traffic flow). To install a contraflow bike lane then, the car parking would have to be moved to the other side of the street. Oh I know, you're picturing open houses and screams of "not enough consultation" and "cyclists should be licensed". But there would be no parking lost. Even in Edmonton, I think that we can stand this much change. People who have on-street parking now would have to walk across the street, and everyone else will have gained parking on their side of the street. So again, except for the minimal change to the street of switching parking to the other side of where it currently is, a contraflow lane could be installed with only the cost of paint and some signage of intersections.
Cities in Europe that have very high numbers of cyclists get people on bikes by providing awesome bicycle infrastructure on almost every block. Contraflow bike lanes are a cheap way to give people a convenience advantage if they choose to bike. Contraflow bike lanes are safe (source), and their presence in an "Amsterdammed" Strathcona would make them even safer due to the high number of cyclists in the area. Plus, they're cheap like borscht. I think that they could be an integral, cheap step towards making Strathcona Centre Community an ideal place in which to ride bikes.