The question for many in the cycling community following City Council’s decision to remove bike lanes on both 95th and 40th Avenues is: what now?
On the surface, it felt like a step backwards for a city that had made some positive strides in offering residents transportation options other than the four-wheeled variety. Mixed signals were a concern I had during the debate over the removal of these lanes, and it’s a concern I still have. I was also troubled by the costs the City would be incurring – a total of $1.375 million from the road maintenance budget – thinking this money would be much better spent either on paving roads (or planning better lanes) rather than removing bike lanes.
However, all is not lost for cyclists in Edmonton.
The Councillor who promoted the removal motions argued that this isn’t about eliminating bike lanes but about adding more effective ones built to a higher standard.
I will work with these folks and city staff to ensure that Council follows through on this commitment.
In that vein, City Council’s motion on Wednesday included direction to Administration that staff:
…provide to Council through Transportation Committee, a proposed revised bicycle transportation implementation strategy to include plans for a high quality (segregated from traffic) network of cycle infrastructure and neighbourhood (local road) routes informed by the 2015-2018 Bike Lane Infrastructure Plan enhanced public engagement strategies [previously] approved by Council…
Council also voted to create a new Active Transportation Council Initiative to ensure this topic remains forefront in Council’s decision-making going forward. However we go about it, there is a clear need to ensure our Administration and our Council are guided by, and accountsble to, the goals outlined in the Way We Green, the Energy Transition Strategy and our Active Transportation Policy. There should be no confusion about City Council’s direction or priorities going forward.
Wednesday’s motions should raise the expectations of the cycling community, and raise the expectations of Edmontonians in general, that the City is committed to doing better. More importantly, that we will do it sooner rather than later. To say we are lagging behind other cities in our active transportation infrastructure would be an enormous understatement. But on Wednesday, City Council offered a bold commitment to Edmontonians about the standard we should aspire to for cycling infrastructure.
My expectation is that Council’s statements about implementing the next generation of spaces must be quickly followed with action.