East Strathcona homeowners want bike lanes, but this is ‘overkill’

File: Edmonton bike lane. Global News

More than 200 residents of Strathcona, who live east of 99 Street, have written city council urging them to back off from a major bike infrastructure project that’s scheduled to coincide with neighbourhood renewal next year.

The letter, obtained by Global News, complains about city administration plans to “install ‘Parklets’ and a ‘Sharrow,’ effectively closing 98 Street (the only north-south corridor in East Strathcona) to motor vehicles, and to add a ‘Separated Protected Bicycle Facility’ on 87 Avenue.”

The petition was gathered over four days, the letter said.

“In going door to door, we were astonished by the number of residents who were unaware of the scope of and nature of changes proposed and who expressed their anger and frustration with same,” the letter reads.

The worry is, vehicle traffic would be pushed a block east to 97 Street, which group spokesperson Don Spence said isn’t built for that much use since it is classified as a country lane and doesn’t have enough support below the road bed.

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“It almost feels like they’re trying to make a gated community out of this area where it’s difficult for residents to get around it, except by foot or on a bicycle,” he said in an interview.

The letter, dated Sept. 19, also contains data from a traffic count done by the group. It said 87 Avenue doesn’t need concrete barriers for a separated bike lane because it gets just over two bicycles per hour, while more than 21 vehicles an hour use the road. Spence said it is overkill.

The concern is seniors and others with mobility challenges won’t be able to have vehicles park close to their homes, because the separated bike land would be in the way.

The budget is also a concern.

“Bike infrastructure is being imposed on top of that and the costs are substantially higher by doing so. Up to $500,000 per kilometre.”

The East Strathcona group counters that instead of concrete barriers on 87 Avenue, bike lanes can be marked with paint, allowing cars to also use the road. They counter that another separated bike lane is at 83 Avenue, and a shared-use pathway is being enhanced nearby on Saskatchewan Drive.

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There is also a concern about upkeep for the separated bike lane in the winter. They fear spraying calcium chloride on a regular basis will damage the mature trees leading to Mill Creek Ravine Park.

The letter to the mayor and all of council, as well as other city planners, comes as decision time approaches with this fall’s budget. Council’s Urban Planning Committee approved the bike network for the area on Aug 14. to be implemented as part of the Strathcona and Garneau neighbourhood renewal process.

At the same time, more info was asked for on a controversial separated bike lane for 109 Street. Debate at the committee meeting got mixed reviews after the original report from the administration picked cars over bikes, and proposed the bike lane sit in back of the busy corridor on 110 Street.

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