Downtown Edmonton could have a protected bike lane by next summer, according to a report going to the Urban Planning Committee next week.
The Stantec report recommends bike lanes that would run as far north as 105 Avenue, as far south as 99 Avenue, as far east as 96 Street and as far west as 110 Street.
Anna Ho, chair for Paths for People, said the plans are encouraging.
“I think what we’re really excited about is the idea of starting the conversation and having the minimum grid put in downtown Edmonton,” she said.
The lanes would be 7.1 km in total and would run in both directions. The total cost would run the city $7.5 million including $625,000 annually to service the bike lanes. The cost includes $700,000 for bicycle detection technology at intersections along with $200,000 for snow clearing equipment.
The report also looked at a one-way cycle track but determined a two-way cycle track would require less room in total to install; whereas a one-way track would require a 3.1 metre width on both sides of the street, a two-way track would require only 4.1 metres in total. A two-way track would also accommodate as much parking as possible, according to the report.
The lane would be separated from traffic with an enhanced approach. The report looked at installing a base, which would separate the bike lanes from street traffic with bollards. It also looked at a winter-friendly approach that would include a raised base. Ultimately it recommends the enhanced approach, which would see the bike lanes separated from traffic by planters.
Chris Chan, the executive director for Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, said the enhanced approach strikes a fine balance.
“It’s a good balance between maintaining that on-street parking that people really value yet still providing safe accommodations for people to get around on bikes,” he said.
The report states the grid could be completed by June or July 2017 at the earliest or spring 2018 at the latest.
Chan, however, has a couple of concerns. He wants to see the network expand beyond downtown and would like the bike lanes to open sooner if possible.
“Over the past few years, council has been removing bike lanes with the promise of building something to replace it, something better. Delaying this longer and longer, I think it doesn’t help Edmonton move towards its goal of being a sustainable attractive city for people to come to and stay,” he said.
The “proposed bike network places a bike route within two blocks of most downtown destinations,” the report reads.
“Edmonton’s core is based on a relatively fine grained grid pattern of roads that is largely designed for motor vehicles, including on-street parking and loading space. As such, Edmonton’s core is an area of both great opportunity and significant challenge for integrating the movements of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.”
Councillor Ben Henderson, who is also on the Urban Planning Committee, said the bikes lanes are a pilot project that would allow the city to adjust and adapt them if necessary.
There has been tension over bike lanes in other parts of the city – painted bike lanes were moved from South Edmonton last August after much debate. Bikes lanes were also removed from West Edmonton last July.
Henderson, however, said this plan is different.
“I think what has been problematic in the past is we’ve done a halfway good job in creating the lanes to begin with – paint lines on the road, which isn’t really good enough infrastructure. Part of what I’ve heard from people in some of those other places is, if you’re going to do this, at least do it right, at least do something that will make it so everybody feels safe using these lanes.”
Henderson said he is “quite hopeful” about the project. He said that, if the matter receives support from the Urban Planning Committee on Wednesday, Sept. 28, it will then go to city council.