on bike lanes

November 30, 2013

I don't know Lorne Gunter at all, and he looks like a pretty nice guy, but I strongly suspect he and I are not kindred spirits. Could I ever be buddy-buddy with someone who writes articles like this? or this?

Well, no problem. He's not exactly banging on my door or tying up my phone begging to be my friend. BUT -- he is writing headlines that state opinions as if they are facts, daring anyone to disagree with him.

I take up the gauntlet, or perhaps the cycling glove.

But, you may ask, what's a resident of Spruce Grove doing spouting off about bike lanes? Is it a surprise to know that bike lanes in Edmonton are valued, not only by its residents, but also by those who live outside the city limits?

My interest in Edmonton bike lanes stems from a few factors: 

1) Monday through Thursday I work in downtown Edmonton. Instead of driving all the way to work, I typically drive into the west end, park my minivan, take my bike out of the back, and ride the rest of the way (about 7.5 - 14 km, depending on where I park and what route I take.) 

I love it that I can ride most of the way on shared pathways (between Callingwood and WEM, between 163 Street and 149 Street on 100 Avenue and through the River Valley) and marked on-road bike routes (76 Avenue, 142 Street and 102 Avenue.) I feel safe and enjoy riding. When I have to share the road with motor vehicles, I find drivers are courteous and respectful and unlike many urban cyclists, I have never been yelled or honked at. I have been doing this regularly, rain or shine, summer or winter, for about three years now. No complaints. 
after work Nov. 13, 2013
BUT -- when I heard that bike lanes had been painted on 95 Avenue, I was curious. Returning from work one day, I rode up out of the valley to 148 Street and instead of going through that sketchy intersection at 100 Avenue and 149 Street as I had always done previously, I rode on quiet, pleasant 148 Street all the way to 95 Avenue and took the bike lane west to 165 Street. That was it: I was an instant convert. Bike lanes rule!

2) My family and I own a house in the city. On 106 Street. Yes, THE 106 Street, home to those oh-so-controversial bike lanes. Right now we are renting the house to another family, but for several years it was home to various combinations of our four older sons and their friends, many of whom rode bikes frequently and were thrilled when the city made the bike lanes. True, the lanes are not all they could be. Sharing a bike lane with people dropping their kids off at school or daycare is not ideal. A bike lane in the door zone of parked cars is not conducive to comfort or safety. Potholes, ruts, gravel, bumpy pavement do not make for a pleasant ride. But, cyclists are generally flexible people, and for me at least, there is something about a designated lane for bikes that eases the mind. I've parked at our 106 Street house many times and ridden to work or to Whyte Avenue or to the Heritage Festival, and each time it has been a pretty good experience. So much so that sometimes I actually dream of a day when Hubby and I might move into the city, fix up that old house and live on a street with bike lanes. And I hate fixing up old houses! (Disclaimer -- our house is north of 51 Avenue and I have never used the bike lanes further south, so I can't comment on those.)

Incidentally, every time I've ridden on 106 Street, I've seen plenty of other cyclists using the bike lanes. In fact, on Nov. 12, a cold snowy day, I counted 10 others.
June 2013

3) Edmonton has more to do than Spruce Grove. More festivals, more shopping, more restaurants, more concerts, more of almost everything. On top of that, three of our sons live in the city. As such, we go into Edmonton fairly often. In nice weather, I like to ride my bike into the city and meet Hubby somewhere. As a result, in addition to the bike lanes already mentioned, I've used the ones on 100 Avenue (downtown), 69 Avenue (Callingwood and Wolf Willow areas), on Fox Drive and Stony Plain Road (bike/bus/taxi lanes), 76 Avenue (University area), 127 Street and north of the Yellowhead on 137 Avenue. Maybe more, but these are the ones that come to mind. I love bike lanes. Before I go anywhere in the city, I look at a map and find out where bike lanes are and plan my route accordingly.

I know that I'm only one person. I know that anywhere there are bike lanes you can see cyclists riding on the sidewalk, ignoring the on-road lanes. I know that some of the bike lanes are poorly designed. But I firmly believe that if we want to encourage people to use active transportation, we have to start somewhere. If we look only at the downsides and conclude dismally, "Edmontonians don't want bike lanes," nothing will change. 

On the other hand, if we forge ahead with bicycle infrastructure, constantly learning from our mistakes and making improvements as needed, diligently educating both motorists and cyclists, maybe one day our children will look back on the time when bike lanes were controversial and shake their heads in amazement.

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