In Defence of Bike Lanes

25 10 2014

There’s been a lot of folks in this town hating on bike lanes lately, with a small, vocal minority calling for the removal of lanes already put in. This week, councilor Mike Nickel put the southside bike lanes on 76th Ave and 97th Street in the cross hairs, even offering support for the planned 83rd Ave and 102nd Ave bike boulevards in exchange for support on removing the lanes in question. Amazingly, many members of the E-ville cycling community seemed willing to participate in such a trade, sighting poor design, poor placement, and the inefficacy of paint on the road.
For real? How bad could they be? This required an exploratory mission to the south side via 97th Street.
Perhaps tellingly, I don’t remember taking this route before. If I was going a shorter distance south in the area, I’d take 96th Street, and if I was going deep south, I’d take Mill Creek then 91st Street. I had to look at a map to confirm that, indeed, there was a bike route that ran all the way south from Whyte Ave. Perhaps this route actually was reduntant?
The first thing I noticed as I turned onto 97th was that there wasn’t anything demarking it as a bike route. Upon closer inspection, things started to become clearer.

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The game is spot the sharrow!

The relatively new markings had been paved over as part of road resurfacing. Suddenly, the threat of bike lane removal by a fiscally conservative politician became more real – you can’t call him on being a hypocrite for wanting to spend money removing infrastructure when it was already gone. The timing of this made perfect sense.
Running down a quiet residential street, I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with this route, and I was enjoying riding it far more than I did 96th.
Then, I saw it:

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Roundabout!

A newly constructed roundabout! The ultimate in traffic calming and bike accommodating infrastructure! And I bet someone’s pretty pissed about it.
Further down the road was the bike boulevard piece de resistance, the street had been blocked off to cars but a multiuse trail allowed bikes to continue to pass through. I’ve only rode infrastructure like this in Montreal and Vancouver and was thrilled to see it in my home town. Who knew E-ville was so progressive?
The residential section, however, is not the section that has been generating criticism from cycling allies and enemies alike. As it crosses 63rd Ave southbound, 97th Street enters an industrial area, and the sharrows give way to painted bike lanes.

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That's a bike lane. That's what all the fuss is about.

As I rode, I went over all the criticisms levelled at this route in my head and wondered if the naysayers were talking about the same road. Busy? Nope, not even at rush hour. Going to get squished by a semi? Nope, the car lane is wide and where the bike lane turns to sharrow it becomes 2 full lanes – lots of room. Loss of parking for businesses? Nope, all of the businesses had parking lots in front and there wasn’t street parking to start with. Unused? Nope, I saw several other cyclists. Disconnected, start and stop infrastructure? Ok, maybe a little, but nothing unmanageable, especially by this city’s standards.
The best part was crossing the Whitemud Freeway. The road just went right over – no negotiating the multiple lights and offramps of the 91st Street and 99th Street alternatives.

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There's a freeway beneath my wheels.

I barely noticed I was crossing the busiest freeway in the city. How awesome is that?
The bike route ended at 34th Ave, which is where the 91st Street bike path also terminates and gives you the option of riding a busy arterial or going way outta your way on twisty suburban roads. Since I’d come this far, I decided to venture a little bit further to get some noms at Loma House before heading back. The last leg of the ride was definitely the worst, zigzagging through the industrial area where bikes weren’t even an afterthought, to get my reward. Too bad the lanes don’t go all the way to 23rd Ave.
So, to all the haters out there, I say this bike route is great! It’s useful, safe, direct and well thought out. We need more of this, not less, and we can’t let opponents to progress exploit our duversity of opinions to convince us that we need to be undoing the first steps towards a citywide cycling network. A lot of people also like hating on sharrows, wondering what’s the point of having a road marking that signifies something that’s perfectly safe, legal and normal anyway (namely cycling on the road)? The beauty of sharrows is that jerks in gasburners look especially stupid when they yell “get off the road!” so it happens a whole lot less. And less ignorant screaming makes everybody’s lives better.
Vivent les bike lanes!

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Oh Alberta…

3 05 2012

Alberta: Canada’s Texas; land of cowboys, oil, rednecks, truck balls, and an ultra conservative political climate. It’s not exactly a friendly place to be in if you’re a bike riding environmentally conscious radical activisty type, but still, here I am.

There’s no recession in Alberta. However, in the name of mining the tar sands, more earth has been moved than any other project in human history. To mark this, and to divert attention from the communities protesting the poisoning of their land from mining & pipelines, the city celebrates by displaying oil patch equipment in Churchill Square. I was going to take a picture with my bike in the bucket of the giant bulldozer, but there was a homeless looking dude pissing on it, and I did not want to interrupt his solitary act of protest. Now that I think about it, there was liquid inside this tire… ew.

I often think of this place as the belly of the beast. Many people escape, enriching other places with their energy and creative spark, turning other communities into friendly shores. I sometimes wonder how different it would be if all those collective efforts had been focused here, because if change can happen here, it can happen anywhere. As I read that last sentence, I shake my head and think of the recent election, and how the conservative party that has been governing this province for the last 41 years (fortyfuckingone!) promoted itself as the choice for change in the face of the even more right-wing-looney Wild Rose Party?!? This is a place that chews up and mockingly spits out people working for anything but their most selfish interests.

Click on picture to zoom in on all the juicy details. This election even got the graffiti writers riled up.

Still, there’s something about living in a hostile environment that galvanizes those working towards a more progressive community. I suspect it’s a big part of the reason that E-Ville is home to one of the oldest community bike shops in North America (now with 2 locations), why everybody knows your name when you visit Earth’s General Store, and just ask an Edmontonian about our dump.

The point of all this? Only that this place is more complex and nuanced than the superficial stereotypes, and as a reminder that there is still hope and resistance in the belly of the beast.





Fairweather Bike Lanes

27 11 2011

Since the installation of new bike lanes in E-Ville this year, the question on many all-weather cyclists mind has been “Will the city clear the new bike lanes during the winter, or will they be used as places to dump snow?”

Today, I got an answer on 76 Ave.

And it looks like "dump the snow in the bike lane" is winning.

I can’t say I’m surprised. The counter-flow lanes in Garneau have also been (not) maintained this way in the winter since they’ve been put in, and it’s been my practice to just ignore them once the snow flies. Especially because once the road markings are covered, drivers have no reason to expect to see cyclists coming the wrong way down a one-way street. Still, I’m disappointed.

Even more disappointing, I hear that the city is putting funding for clearing the multi-use pathways (which they do a fairly decent job at) on the chopping block, as well as funding for any new bicycle and active transportation infrastructure. If this seems as counter-productive to you as it does to me, let the mayor and your councilor know before Dec 9th!





A Little Orange Sign and a Little Orange Bike

18 04 2011

It’s federal election time here in Canada, and I’m proud to be living in the only riding in Alberta that didn’t elect a conservative representative last time around. Of course, I’m cheering on NDP incumbent Linda Duncan again.

A little orange bike and a litle orange sign (and yes, it snowed again).

Though I’ve been politically active all my adult life, and have worked on many campaigns (though not this one, I should clarify), this is actually my first lawn sign. Or, I guess I should say was my first lawn sign. Less than 12 hours after this picture was taken, the sign disappeared. I hope it was someone from Linda Duncan’s campaign that took it to put somewhere that there isn’t an orange sign on every second house on the block (I heard that they had already run out of signs), but I have my doubts, especially considering it disappeared overnight/early morning and, coincidentally, there was a conservative flyer stuffed in my mailbox.

S’pose I should be glad they took the sign, and not the bike.