Blogs

Bikes and the City

Mayor Stephen Mandel breaking Edmonton's bike laws by riding on the sidewalk. Who can blame him, there's no bike infrastructure! (photo source: Edmonton Sun)

What a month it has been for Edmonton's cycling community. The city started its consultation process for the next phase of on-street bike lanes that will (hopefully) be rolled out this summer. Once residents of Ritchie discovered that they would be losing some on-street parking, they started to complain to the media.

The first consultation meeting at Hazeldean school was tense. Well attended by cyclists and non-cyclists alike, apparently there were some vocal discussions. Councillor Diotte complained that "hard-core cyclists started it" (paraphrase). I wasn't privy to any of the so-called shouting matches, but someone did rudely initiate a "conversation" with me about how cyclists should be licensed. He must have been a hardcore non-cyclist; and yes, he started it.

Of course, the next morning our mayor ludicrously called the bike plan a "nightmare", throwing his employees under the bus for good measure by declaring "seems someone behind [the] scenes out there has just decided we’re going to eliminate all vehicles and only have bikes".

The Pushback

The pushback to this anti-bike lane pushback has been impressive. Over 150 pro-bike lane phone calls were received by the mayor's office the week of his unfortunate comments, and many people defended the bike lane plan on comment boards and on Twitter.

However, I personally found it exhausting reading and responding to the vicious input of a segment of "hard-core motorists" with no empathy for us most-vulnerable of road users. Outbursts like "once you get licensed and insured...", "once you all start following the law...", and "there are only 40 cyclists in Edmonton anyway" are discouraging at best.

PIMBY

We have achieved critical mass. There are enough pro-bike infrastructure Edmontonians that we can make things happen. I suggest that, rather than passively letting the city underfund a watered-down barely useful compromise of a bike plan, we decide where we would most like to see excellent bike infrastructure, and we ask for it.

Please, In My Backyard (PIMBY) groups are really fun to be a part of. I found it refreshing to attend a meeting about getting good bike lanes in Oliver and Downtown after spending the week arguing with jerks on Twitter about why I deserve to exist. A proactive, coalition building group asking for excellent infrastructure is a joy to work with, and has the best chance at making everyone (including residents) happy about new bike lanes.

We have alread formed a group for 83rd Avenue and 104th Street bike lanes called Complete Streets Strathcona. The "west of downtown" group had is inaugural meeting last week. What other areas in Edmonton need high-quality bike infrastructure?

Quality vs. Quantity

I'm repeating myself here, but Edmontonians who cycle need something decent to ride on. The current bike plan will install so-so bike lanes, and often in places where few people bike. Paula Simons wote a nice column about the issue.

I will continue to push the issue forward in Strathcona, and I encourage you to start or support a PIMBY group in your area. As for the 2013 plan? It's better than nothing, and I will be speaking to city council on March 13 (with my bike riding family in tow) to try to save the best parts of it.

Cyclist Town Hall Meeting - Great Success!

Thanks to everyone who showed up at the cyclist town hall meeting on Tuesday. I thought the discussion was excellent, and it was enlightening to hear from Chris Chan and my two favourite city councillors Ben Henderson and Don Iveson.

What did we accomplish?

  • We created political clout. I counted 110+ people in the room at one point. With all the time pressures of modern life, I consider that a very significant showing. No one spoke out against better bicycle infrastructure in the Whyte Avenue area (plus, it was advertised as a "cyclist" town hall meeting), so I feel safe declaring that over 100 cyclists showed their support. That will give our group more weight as we advocate for our ideas.
  • We put bicycle infrastructure in the media. CBC, Global News and Metro News picked up the story. 
  • We heard from our elected representatives. The good councillors enlightened us to some political realities and answered many questions.
  • We shared. Many good ideas and relevant points of view.
  • We formed a working group. Dozens of people signed up to help work on the issue moving forward.

What now?

I will call another, smaller meeting for the people who signed up. I think that the next step is to formulate our "ask", and develop a specific strategy to get it.

Thanks so much to everyone who got involved!

Cyclist Town Hall Meeting - Whyte Avenue Corridor Bike Paths

Bike Paths Along the Whyte Avenue Corridor

Cyclist Town Hall Meeting

Many Edmonton streets are unsafe for cyclists. As Edmonton’s cycling hub, the Whyte Avenue Corridor is in dire need of dedicated infrastructure to increase safety and make cycling more comfortable for cyclists of all abilities.

Agenda:

  1. Edmonton Bicycle Commuters : presentation on bicycle infrastructure
  2. Conrad Nobert: Ideas for Whyte Avenue Bike Infrastructure
  3. Ben Henderson, Edmonton City Councillor
  4. You: open forum/town hall meeting. What bicycle infrastructure do you think would make Whyte Avenue safer and more comfortable for cyclists?

The goal of this meeting is to galvanize public support for Whyte Avenue Bike infrastructure, and then to form a working group to refine a proposal to make to the city. Cyclists should decide what infrastructure would best improve cycling safety and comfort along the Whyte Avenue corridor.

When: September 25, 2012, 7:30pm

Where: Queen Alexandra Community Hall, 10425 University Ave (near Calgary Trail and 76th Avenue)

Facebook Event Link

What Now? Making Whyte Ave Safer for Cyclists (part 3)

The underutilized, one-way transit/bike lane that runs along Calgary Trail

In the wake of the tragedy that took Isaak Kornelsen's life recently, I'm wondering: what now? I'd like to see the cycling community present a vision of a safe, bikable Whyte Avenue corridor to the city.

I am writing a three-part series on approaches to bike infrastructure that the city could take:

  1. a separated bike path right on Whyte Avenue
  2. the "tempting alternative routes" approach: two off-Whyte bike routes to pull cyclists away from the Avenue
  3. A North-South Connector Along Calgary Trail

A North-South Connector Along Calgary Trail

In addition to east-west running bike paths north and south of Whyte Avenue, another piece of the puzzle that could greatly affect the safety and comfort of bikes in the area would be a bike-friendly way to access the businesses along Calgary Trail.

It just so happens that there is a low-hanging fruit: a piece of transportation infrastructure that is underutilized, just waiting to be converted into a two-way separated bike path.

Running parallel to Calgary Trail, from Saskatchewan Drive to 75 Avenue, there is a one-way northbound street. Between 75 Avenue and Whyte Avenue, only bikes, busses and taxis are allowed on it.

My kids and I feel relief every time we start heading north on this street. It's a great resource for cyclists heading northbound.

But how exactly does a cyclist get from north of Whyte to Save-On Foods, United Cycle, or Doan's Vietnamese Restaurant? The options are to ride on the very hairy Calgary Trail, to walk one's bike a couple of blocks on the sidewalk to the (dangerous) Shopper's Drug Mart parking lot, or to ride west an extra block to 104 Street (a congested, narrow street).

I think that a key piece of the Whyte Avenue bike puzzle would be to make this one-way transit/bike street into a two-way dedicated bike path.

The political cost would be minimal. Changes would include:

  1. Removing taxis from the road. I don't think this would be a big deal. Prime time for cabbies is in the dead of night, when the area isn't nearly as congested as during the day.
  2. Removing one bus route from the road. Okay, this one is a bit bigger of a deal. However, there's no reason that the #52 bus can't take Gateway Boulevard instead.
  3. Changing the lights to make cyclist safe from left-turning vehicles at the intersections of 83rd, 82nd, 81st, 80th, 78th and 76th Avenues. This probably wouldn't upset people too much. They may have to wait a few more moments to turn left, but no biggie.
  4. Removing the option to turn left (possibly) at 79th Ave and 77th Ave. The howling-with-rage motorist demographic kicks in a bit stronger here. However, riding through those intersections on a weekly basis for the past few years gives me the impression that they are not that heavily used (79th anyway, I'm not so sure about 77th).

In conjunction with excellent bike routes north and south of Whyte Avenue, I think that this north-south bike resource would entice many more cyclist to the area (more bikes = safer bikes), and make the cycling experience safer and more comfortable for cyclist riding south to the important commercial area that is anchored by Save-On Foods at 78th Avenue and Calgary Trail.