(photo credit: Chris Chan, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters)
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:
- a separated bike path right on Whyte Avenue
- the "tempting alternative routes" approach: two off-Whyte bike routes to pull cyclists away from the Avenue
- A North-South Connector Along Calgary Trail
A separated bike path on Whyte Avenue (one, bi-directional path)
First off, I have eliminated on-Whyte painted bike lanes as a possibility. There is not a lot of data about whether they actually keep cyclist safe, but I'm going to go ahead and declare them a failure right now. I know that I wouldn't ride in them, especially when they would almost certainly put cyclists squarely in the door zone (the space on the road that an opening car door opens into) like they do on 76th avenue.
I will also not consider two separated bike paths, one on either side of Whyte. Although at first blush it may seem safer to have cyclists on either side of the road I think that the "total intervention" strategy, where every intersection is redesigned with the bike path in mind (rather than just having the bikes integrate at every intersection) would be safer in the end. The more disruptive option would do more to increase motorist awareness. (Plus, virtually every single image that appears when Googling "separated bike lane" is of a two-way bike lane. I think that it's the way the cities are going.)
A bike lane like the one pictured above, with bicycles riding in both directions on one side of the street, would involve a major re-engineering of Whyte Avenue traffic patterns.
This would involve disallowing turning off of Whyte by vehicles in some intersections (where there are no traffic lights), and the changing of some traffic signals to allow bikes to clear the intersection before vehicles turn off of the avenue. Some streets would encounter a dead end at Whyte Avenue, and traffic would likely have to be slowed (to 40 km/h) to increase safety at intersections.
It would go from Mill Creek bridge to 112 street.
There are precedents to this type of bike path (two-way, one side, along a busy street) in other cities. Here's a video describing Vancouver's Dunsmuir bike path:
Obviously, this type of bike path would drastically change Whyte Avenue. Traffic moving through the area would be much slower, making it more pedestrian-friendly (and safer for pedestrians I might add). The effect would be greater on the bike-path side of Whyte, reclaiming a large piece of the Avenue back to the human sphere. It would obviously also make the cycling experience safer and more fun.
Of course, there are disadvantages, the primary one being the howling rage of motorists who want nothing more than to get through Old Strathcona as fast as possible. This type of bike path would make it less convenient to move east-west through the city, and given that the next available option is Argyll Road, there is some validity to this complaint.
Next up: the "tempting alternative routes" approach: two off-Whyte bike routes to pull cyclists away from the Avenue