bike safety

City Council Reboots Bike Initiative

Edmonton's planned high-quality bike routes 

After the bike wars of 2012, Edmonton city council has decided to rethink and reboot their strategy. Following the strong leadership of new councillor Michael Walters, YEG has decided to focus resources on building excellent, family-friendly bike infrastructure where cycling rates are already high, the city's core neighbourhoods.

So administration released the above map last week. Except for the 51s Avenue route, which to me doesn't follow the "build it in dense areas where the demand is highest" rule, I love the routes that they've suggested (these routes aren't set in stone, as they are subject to a new, very thorough consultation process that leaves the exact route as an option for the community to decide).

I did see something missing in the Strathcona area though. While there is a really nice grid downtown, there are no north-south routes in Edmonton's busiest cycling neighbourhood. So I attended a meeting of our most responsive level of government yesterday, and I was delighted with the results.

My proposal is to add a north-south route in the counterflow bus lane that travels north, parallel to Calgary Trail. I blogged about the idea here, and these are the simple pictures that I showed the transportation committee:

Proposed two-way cycle track on the 104 Street counterflow bus lane 

Location of the proposed two-way cycle track, the 104 Street counterflow bus lane  

I was very happy when the committee put forward a motion for administration to look into north-south routes in the Strathcona neighbourhood. Overall, the councillors were thoughtful and intelligent (With the exception of the always-hilarious Councillor Catarina. I know that I shouldn't say anything if I don't have anything nice to say, but Catarina's rude, uninformed manner were an insult to his post yesterday). 

What's Next?

Council is on the right track with its idea of only building Holland-quality routes, and putting them where they will be appreciated. So what in in store for the next six months? First of all, these routes are not yet funded. This Fall, council will vote on a four-year capital budget that may or may not fund the routes. It is critical to Edmonton's future as a cycling city that all of the routes (perhaps with the 51 Avenue one being replaced by a north-south Strathcona route) be fully funded. Secondly, these routes need to remain high quality. We, the cycling community, cannot accept any but the most minor concessions to them being high quality routes. No more sharrows! 


There are two consultation processes going on right now, one each for the 83rd Avenue and 102 Avenue routes. Participate in either or both processes (83rd here, and 102 here), and stress the need for safe, comfortable, high quality routes. Also, contact your city councillor about funding these routes in the Fall. They will be under pressure to save money in the budget, but the comparitively (to other traffic infrastructure) modest outlay that they will require needs to be allocated. 

Edmonton's bicycle riders have waited many years to have some infrastructure available to us. We are many years behind cities like Calgary and Vancouver. It's time to get these routes funded, and to build them well. Council didn't disappoint me yesterday, and I expect even more of them when it comes time to finally fund these safe, family-friendly bike routes.

Amsterdamming Neighbourhoods: An Edmonton Bike Infrastructure Strategy

In a city like Amsterdam everyone rides bikes, young or old. 

The City of Edmonton has a growing number of bicycle riders that it wants to support for all kinds of reasons. However, initial attempts to build out a network of bicycle lanes have encountered resistance from some communities. So much so that Ward 10 Councillor Michael Walters made a campaign promise to have a meeting about the newly-installed lanes in his ward within a month of his getting elected.

The thing is, as I argued in a recent post, the painted, on-street bike lanes don't offer much to new bike riders, those not already engaged in the activity. They do increase safety for those on the road by 50% (source). However, most people do not want to share the road with fast-moving vehicles. So the current strategy, in my opinion, will not provide us with the breakthrough in ridership that our city needs to increase livability and offer the high levels of safety provided by large numbers of bike riders on the road.

The city has already decided to prioritize the construction of major bike routes on 102 Avenue and 83 Avenue. This is a step in the right direction, as those routes are high-quality infrastructure (not just lines on the road), and they are located in dense areas where ridership is already high.

However, I would like to propose an even more aggressive strategy. I think that we should "Amsterdam" neighbourhoods, one at a time, to create a critical mass of infrastructure in these dense, bike-friendly areas. These neighbourhoods would become showpieces and destinations. They would fill up with bikes, and their success would be obvious to critics and supporters alike. This strategy would create truly safe biking environments, and it would create space, politically-speaking, for more infrastructure elsewhere.

Strathcona Centre, arguably the cultural heart of the city, has 10,000 inhabitants, 5% of whom bike to work most of the time (with a much higher percentage making bike trips for other reasons).  Furthermore, it is surrounded by the city's other highest percentage biking communities (Belgravia, Mckernan, Ritchie, Park Allen, Queen Alex, Garneau, and of course Strathcona itself are in the top 10). It is the epicentre of cycling in Edmonton, and it should be our pilot project for Amsterdamming neighbourhoods.

As an important bonus, I will propose a way to do it with minimal loss of parking and disruption to drivers.  read more... »

The Future of Bike Infrastructure in Edmonton

I spent the summer cycling with my family in Europe. It was our first time riding in cities that take bikes seriously, and it was a real treat. From Utrecht, Holland to Strasbourg, France to all of Belgium, we had had no idea how transformative it is for a place to be filled with quiet, safe bikes.

And do you know what we never saw? We never saw good infrastructure that wasn't filled with people riding bikes. 

My seven and nine year olds enjoying the streets of Strasbourg, France.  read more... »

How Many People Bike In Edmonton, And Where?

Your author's children, 7 and 9

How many people cycle in Edmonton, and where do they live? 

In the 2012 Edmonton census, the City asked people about their "main mode of transportation from home to work".  It's a terrible question, really, because it ignores the flexibility inherent in the decision to cycle. What if you only ride to work on sunny days? How about if you only ride to work when you don't have meetings? 

The "main mode of transportation from home to work" question misconstrues the number of actual trips. For example, according to this question, only 22% of people in Amsterdam mainly ride to work (wikipedia). However, other statistics show that around 50% of every trip in Amsterdam is taken by bike.

Anyway, using the data that we do have, what do they say about Edmonton?  Well, they say that only 0.7% of Edmontonians mainly cycle to work, which seems very small (see above complaints). For reference, Portland's number is 6%, San Francisco's is 3%, and Vancouver is at about 2% (source). Aside: Edmonton cycling infrastructure is only getting 0.35% of the capital funding for the current capital budget, so even by this underestimating metric, cyclists are not getting their fair share.

More importantly, though, they tell us that we have hotspots that deserve infrastructure, and cold spots that don't. Here are the neighbourhoods that answered above 2%:

Neighbourhood % of people who "mainly ride from home to work"
Mckernan 5.29%
Strathcona 4.89%
Parkallen 4.32%
Grandview Heights 4.26%
Queen Alexandra 3.81%
Belgravia 3.30%
Riverdale 3.12%
Ritchie 2.95%
Lendrum Place 2.92%
Garneau 2.91%
King Edward Park 2.78%
Virginia Park 2.70%
Windsor Park 2.66%
Landsdowne 2.65%
Allendale 2.48%
Laurier Heights 2.38%
North Glenora 2.35%
Crestwood 2.29%
Westmount 2.26%
Hazeldean 2.25%
Brookside 2.24%
Strathearn 2.20%
Avonmore 2.15%
Malmo Plains 2.09%
Glenora 2.05%

I got this data by importing the 2012 Edmonton census numbers into a spreadsheet, then writing a formula to tease out cyclists as a percentage.  read more... »