If you had asked me six months ago what my top ten priorities would be as a City Councillor, I would not have put bike lanes near the top of that list. I was aware of the City’s 10 year goal to get more people using forms of transportation other than the car and the 2009 Bicycle Transportation Plan, and I thought those were good things. Edmonton is a big city, and big cities have bike infrastructure- even winter cities.
During the 2013 election campaign, my top ten priorities list shifted. In September 2013, on-street bike lanes were installed in Ward 10 on 106 Street, Saddleback Road, and 40 Avenue. As I knocked on door after door, it was clear that bike lanes were a major priority for my constituents. Through hundreds of doorstep conversations, it became apparent that finding a solution to the bike lanes issue needed to be at the top of my list.
After the election, my office took time to listen. We held a public meeting, attended by over 350 people. We received hundreds of responses to an online survey, and we fielded hundreds more phone calls and emails. I took the time to meet with representatives from the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, Edmonton Transit drivers, and the City’s Transportation Department. And every conversation we had indicated that the bike lanes that were installed in Ward 10 do not work for those communities, and they aren’t going to encourage new cyclists. This is not a vocal minority. We heard this across the board from everyone we listened to.
That’s not to say that anyone wants them gone completely. There is a small minority of people who don’t bike and never will. And that’s okay. But many people are open to using well-designed bike lanes that make them feel safe. I agree with that. We need to install high-quality bike infrastructure in areas with lots of bike traffic, like Old Strathcona and downtown, and I’ll do everything I can to make that happen. When those lanes are installed, I look forward to cycling there both as a commuter and with my family.
People aren’t opposed to high-quality bike infrastructure in Ward 10 neighbourhoods, either. But they want a meaningful voice in deciding where they go, and they want to be sure that bike lanes actually work for their communities. Those neighbourhoods felt like a plan had been imposed on them, and that the lanes are unsafe and underused. We can do better than that. Based on the substantial public input we received, the report my office has prepared suggests some alternatives.
You can read our report here.