The City of Red Deer recently won a national award for its commuter bike pilot project, a project that has created much controversy in the community.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) unveiled the winners of its 2013 Sustainable Communities Awards at a ceremony last week during the FCM Sustainable Communities Conference and Trade Show (SCC) in Windsor, Ont. The awards recognize innovation and excellence in municipal sustainable development across Canada in six categories including brownfields, energy, neighbourhood development, transportation, waste and water.
The City won the award in the transportation category.
Red Deer City council approved the $800,000 bike lane pilot project in 2011 – an issue that proved to be controversial with many citizens speaking out against the lanes. Red Deer’s first bike lanes, stretching 4 kms, were installed in 2011. Last year bike lanes were installed along main thoroughfares including 39 St., 40 Ave., 55 St., 48 Ave., Spruce Dr., 59 Ave., 45 St. and 52 St., some of which have since been removed.
Last fall, a City man also launched an online petition to have the bike lanes removed altogether. Ryan Handley, a 30-year resident of Red Deer, said he sent letters to City council because he was concerned of the size of the pilot project and the money they were spending. He also expressed concern that citizens weren’t informed of the pilot project. Other concerns from the public ranged from safety and traffic congestion to parking issues.
After hearing from the community council ended up scaling back on the pilot project.
City Councillor Paul Harris said the award is one that the community should be proud of.
“I think it really highlights our innovation as a community and I think we’re all feeling really good about it,” he said. “This is an initiative that came from the community, it wasn’t that council got up one morning and decided to go out with cans of spray paint.”
Looking ahead, Harris said the jury is out in terms of what will happen this spring regarding bike lanes.
“There’s a whole bunch of changes that may want to be made because it is a pilot project and so that is one of the things I don’t think citizens completely understand. We certainly have learned a lot throughout the winter of what not to do and we have to address all of that,” he said. “One of the things I think that is most important coming out of the conference and also looking at best practices throughout the world is that the best bike lanes are both separated from the traffic and they are inter-connected. So I think we have done the inter-connected part really well but we really have to work on the separated piece and I have been saying that right from the beginning.”
Meanwhile, the Green Municipal FundTM (GMF) is the primary sponsor of the Sustainable Communities Awards. The Government of Canada endowed FCM with $550 million to establish the Fund. “Tonight, we applaud the hard-working municipalities across the country that are setting an example for others,” said Raymond Louie, third vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, chair of the Green Municipal Fund Council, and councillor for the City of Vancouver. “Congratulations to the citizens, councils and city staff of all of our winning communities. Through your leadership and example, you are building Canada a brighter future.”
“The communities we celebrate completely debunk the idea that environmental sustainability and economic development are mutually exclusive,” said Louie. “Tonight’s winners show how municipalities across the country are working with local businesses, labour, community organizations and developers to create and carry out sustainable development practices while developing a greener economy for Canada — one project at a time.”