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Protected bike lane pilot project an ‘eye opener’

WATCH ABOVE: The protected bike lane project in the downtown is halfway through its two-year pilot. Jacqueline Wilson reports.

SASKATOON – It’s been a year since city council approved a recommendation to proceed with the protected bike lane demonstration project in the downtown. The goal of the pilot project is to increase active transportation by improving safety and access to cycling options.

“What we plan to doing is run the bike lane project for a couple of years and then report back to council on the performance of the bike lane and the desirability of it, any issues we had with it and make a recommendation for either continuing and discontinuing use of the bike lanes,” says Allan Wallace, with city planning and development.

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Wallace says this year has been an eye opener with a huge learning curve attached. The city had to terminate the first private contractor they hired last fall because the lanes weren’t being maintained. Now a second contractor has stepped in promising to clear the paths to ‘sidewalk standards.’

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“Right now given the conditions we’re satisfied with the maintenance,” says Wallace.

Looking at the conditions of the lanes this winter you might disagree, but according to Wallace you can only do so much with angled curbs and streets designed for drainage.

“There’s ice all over this city, not just in bike lanes. The big lanes aren’t heated. They’re simply a curb lane-bike lane and as a curb lane the water, because of the melting this winter, simply drains to the curb,” says Wallace.

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Lee Smith, with Saskatoon Cycles, says they’ve been working closely with the city to improve the project.

“I mean this is a learning process, this project was a pilot project from the very beginning so the city is learning, Saskatoon Cycles is learning, the community is learning how these sort of things can be done,” says Smith.

“There are certainly some bumps along the way, in terms of maintenance especially, but it’s a learning process and there’s value in that,” says Smith.

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Residents can also offer their feedback on the city’s website.

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Additional bike lanes along 4th Avenue will open this summer.

City council will review the project next March.

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