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 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.
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.