Today, cycling in our city took an important step forward as Council unanimously approved a minimum-grid cycling network for our downtown core. This 7km network represents an important shift from how we used to plan and develop cycling infrastructure in Edmonton, and can be seen as significant progress moving forward.
So, what is a minimum grid, and why do we need one in our downtown core?
A minimum grid is a network of cycling infrastructure that is separated from traffic, provides a safe mode of travel for cyclists on heavily travelled roads and links popular destinations with one another. These facilities provide space for the exclusive, or primary, use by bicyclists, and are separated from vehicle travel lanes, parking aisles, and sidewalks.
Our downtown is home to the largest concentration of employment in our city and region. Additionally, roughly 13 000 Edmontonians call downtown home, and this number is growing everyday. In fact, if you have visited our downtown recently, I am sure you have noticed that it has changed, and is continuing to evolve as new commercial and residential developments are built. As more people choose to live downtown, and as more companies decide to locate their offices downtown, the demand for alternative modes of transportation increases.
Funding for this project won't affect other cycling infrastructure projects that have already been approved, or are currently being planned, as this minimum grid is being funded through the reallocation of already approved funding sources.
It is no secret that I did not fully support the City’s earlier efforts in the developing a cycling network, especially with regards to the lanes in Ward 10. To me, what those lanes represented was the City attempting to expand our cycling network as much as possible, without actually fully considering the ultimate goal of the network - increasing ridership and making it profoundly safer for those riders.
Today, what Council unanimously passed is a significant shift from our bike lanes of old, and represents an awareness on Council that if we, as a City, are to truly begin increasing ridership in Edmonton, we must focus on creating infrastructure that is of high quality, and locating it where there is a significant demand.
I was very happy to support this plan. If the success of Calgary’s minimum grid pilot project was any indication as to the potential success of our project, I look forward to seeing our plan come to fruition next year (ridership in Calgary’s downtown core increased by 95 percent with over 1 million bicycle trips since its installation in July 2015).
Additionally, I look forward to seeing the planning process for a minimum grid network of cycling infrastructure in the Strathcona, Garneau and University areas unfold in the coming months.
As for Ward 10, there are many opportunities to provide better cycling options such as the new multi use trail coming next year along 43rd avenue connecting many of our high schools and jr. high schools as well as improving existing trails and paths with better signalling, smoother surfaces and more smartly located fire hydrants.