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City officials release broad plan for expanding Edmonton’s bike lane system

Click to play video 'City of Edmonton releases new bike plan' City of Edmonton releases new bike plan
WATCH ABOVE: The City of Edmonton released its new bike plan Thursday. – Jun 25, 2020

The City of Edmonton released an updated bike plan this week, meant to lay out the groundwork for how expanding the bike lane system could fit into city planning in the coming years.

It’s the first time in more than ten years the city has updated its plans for bike transportation in the city. The last outline it presented publicly was in 2009.

The new plan makes a series of broad recommendations, including adding new infrastructure, updating current lane systems, as well as increasing all-season options for those who ride their bikes in the colder months (the city says about one in six cyclists ride in the winter).

Read more: ‘Don’t trash it till you try it’: Cycling through Edmonton’s cold snap

“Two of the big areas of the plan are to focus on expanding the bike network and how it wants to grow in the future and then the other are thinking about program areas [like] maintenance, wayfinding,” said Dallas Karhut, a senior engineer for the City of Edmonton.
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The city said over the last two years it consulted more than 12,000 people in Edmonton about biking in the area, including how safe they feel biking on the street.

Click to play video 'Out and About: Bike Trip' Out and About: Bike Trip
Out and About: Bike Trip – Jun 11, 2020

“There’s been a lot of changes since that last plan,” Karhut said. “The biggest one was when we started implementing the 2009 plan, there was a fair bit of pushback from the public.

“That resulted with a very honest discussion with Edmontonians about how biking should look in the city of Edmonton.

“It resulted in a bit of a rethink.”

While the plan has no set dates or specific projects outlined, it says that the implementation of the updated networks could be done either as stand-alone projects or in coordination with capital projects like road construction and LRT expansion.

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A map showing current bike lanes in Edmonton, as well as lanes that have been pinpointed as needing upgrades or expansions.
A map showing current bike lanes in Edmonton, as well as lanes that have been pinpointed as needing upgrades or expansions. Courtesy / City of Edmonton Bike Plan

According to numbers from the city, bike trips have doubled between 2005 and 2015, and now are at about 54,000 per day in Edmonton.

Cyclist Isaiah MacDonald said he uses bike lanes in the city about five days a week in the summer months.

“Having the bike lanes makes things very convenient,” he said. “In terms of the number of them, I’ve always been able to go downtown and … figure out where I want to go pretty easily.”

Read more: Edmonton adjusts roads, pedestrian call buttons to promote physical distancing

Ron Pidskalny, who also cycles in Edmonton using the bike lanes, said that he believes the city is making the right move in looking to expand.

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“I think it’s really positive and I think it’ll be a good thing to expand the cycling network — especially the dedicated ones where you have a physical separation between the vehicles and bicycles,” he said.

It’s something Karhut said the city heard time and time again as it spoke with Edmontonians as it created the plan.

“Something that we heard throughout our engagement, is people want to feel comfortable when they’re riding and that means separating from vehicles,” Karhut said.

Out of the city’s current 1,391 kilometres of designated bike networks, only 15 kilometres consist of separated, protected lanes.

The city’s current bike lane system.
The city’s current bike lane system. Courtesy / City of Edmonton

However, some people believe the city could be spending more money on roadways and other city maintenance before it looks at the bike lanes.

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Read more: Bike safety in Edmonton: the push for new road rules

“Spend the money on fixing the roads that have potholes in it,” said Inge Patton. “We are, at the end of the day, a winter city.

“What about all of us drivers that have to figure out how we’re going to navigate ourselves through the city, because there are more bike lanes?”

Karhut said the city believes bike lanes need to be part of the overall Edmonton transportation plan as it moves forward.

“It’s important for us to recognize that biking is just part of our transportation network,” he said. “It’s how some people get around.”

–With files from Nicole Stillger, Global News

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