Reflections on bike lanes and moving forward

I am very excited about Edmonton’s Bicycle Transportation Plan.  When City Council adopted the plan, the very idea suggested to me that we were thinking like a modern city.

Our Bicycle Transportation Plan says Edmonton needs to “provide an integrated system of roadway, public transit, pedestrian, and bicycle facilities to accommodate the travel needs of citizens, businesses, and visitors.”

I support this vision.

But Edmonton has been a city of automobiles for most of its history. Our neighbourhoods are primarily built around the car as a dominant mode of transportation.

So as we move to modernize our transportation infrastructure, and enable Edmontonians to use other modes of transportation, we must understand the tension this change will bring. We must be willing to listen very closely to those who have moved around our city exclusively in automobiles. When we introduce bike lanes that impact traffic like they have in south Edmonton, we cannot be surprised by, or glib about the confusion, frustration and backlash amongst drivers.

Since being elected, my conversations with Administration have suggested that the main motivation for prioritizing bike lanes in south Edmonton was that it more affordable to put them there.

Most of the costs of installing the bikes lanes are associated with fixing underlying roads.  Although bike lanes in core neighborhoods, like downtown and Old Strathcona, would be readily used, roads in these neighborhoods are in rough shape. Such rough shape, in fact, that an investment in these neighbourhoods would result in far less installed bike lanes than we could achieve by making the same investment in newer neighbourhoods.

This quantity before quality mentality begins with the funding decisions of City Council.

City Council, which is ultimately accountable for these changes must commit to quality over quantity when it comes to policy implementation. This means when we direct our administration to develop a modern Bicycle Transportation Plan we must fund it for success, rather than for failure.

We tried to save money by doing it on the cheap. As a result, communities that were excited about bicycle facilities are still waiting, and communities that were less excited have been forced to frantically adjust to the new infrastructure.

Tomorrow night -  Tuesday, November 26th at 7 p.m. - at the Southside Pentecostal Assembly Gymnasium I am hosting a Bike Lanes Meeting for residents of Ward 10 and anyone committed to the success of our Bicycle Transportation Master Plan.

As we look forward to the 2014 and beyond we have three big challenges in my view:

  1. Ensuring the necessary resources are available to build safe bike lanes that will be well used, encourage more ridership and serve higher density core neighbourhoods year round where car traffic and cycle traffic are most likely to interact.

  2. Correct implementation errors made in south Edmonton that so many residents feel have created confusion, congestion, and safety concerns.

  3. Improve the consultation process with communities where bike lanes will be installed. The community consultation on the overall strategy was excellent, but clearly the consultation at the community level did not succeed in creating an educated and supportive public.

I am hopeful that Tuesday’s meeting will contribute to achieving the long-term success of our Bicycle Transportation Plan.