Edmonton's bike lanes
Bike lanes are a lightning rod in municipal politics, and Edmonton is no exception. As such, it is a topic that needs to be addressed.
Right off the top, I want to be clear that I do not support expanding the bike lane network, nor do I support removing the network that is already in place.
My reason for not supporting their removal is simple: it would be a waste of money. Over the past decade or so, we have seen bike lanes come and go, be painted, be separated from vehicle traffic, etc. For example, in 2015, the city spent close to $1,400,000 to remove some two-year-old bike lanes. We cannot afford to spend any more money to constantly rejig these lanes. Further, I do support the cyclists who use these lanes and I believe that they also deserve a concession on this topic. To that end, I do support better forward planning to ensure new neighbourhoods have built-in bike lanes right at the outset (and the same for transit).
My reasons for not supporting the network expansion require more words.
Ultimately, I believe that at the end of the day, the bike lanes are a downtown solution for a downtown populace. It is more likely that folks in Edmonton’s downtown may not own a vehicle and be more likely to use bicycles to get from point A to point B. They may also own vehicles, but don’t want to drive them such short distances and so find a bicycle the better option. And that’s great. But Edmonton, like every city, is more than its downtown. For the majority of people going downtown from communities like ours in northeast Edmonton, these bike lanes do not work and, in fact, impede our ability to get where we’re going quickly and safely.
Personally, I do enjoy going for a spin here and there in the summer, but I do not cycle to work. I don’t take my bike to work in the summer and you would not be able to convince me to take my bike to work when temperatures drop below zero, whether that’s by five degrees or 35 degrees. I will not even take my bike out for a leisurely ride through my neighbourhood in those temperatures. Quite frankly, you’d be hard pressed to convince me to take my bike out even in the rain, and I know I am not alone. For the majority of the year, bike lanes are used only by an incredibly small percentage of the population.
Bike lanes may be a reasonable option in other cities, but I don’t see a rational argument for an extensive bike lane network in Edmonton. Quite simply, our climate and our city layout just don’t support it.
It is not enough to say that by removing parking, reducing the number of vehicle lanes, or increasing bike lanes, we will ensure more people use transit or jump on their bikes. To date, that has not happened. An audit from 2019 showed that transit ridership per capita declined between 2014 and 2018. Instead, we are seeing more frustration and anger in people driving our roads, increasing the probability that drivers will find new routes through previously quiet side streets.
A CBC Edmonton poll from the beginning of June found strong support for road maintenance and expanding public transit, and weak support for adding more bike lanes. At the end of the day, there are other priorities City Council should focus on.
This is a sensitive topic for many, and I’m happy to hear your opinion.