City’s bike lanes controversy continues

  • Sep. 5, 2012 3:08 p.m.

NEW LANES - Trevor Aslin utilizes the new bike lanes in Red Deer recently.

The City’s new bike lanes are one of those issues that seems to get people, especially drivers, worked up.

But not surprisingly, local cyclists are happy about the new lanes, having lobbied for them for years. John Johnston, a spokesperson for the Central Alberta Bicycle Club, says, “The bike lanes are creating a great deal of controversy right now.”

But he urges club members and all cyclists to ride the bike lanes. “The most common complaint I hear is that people are not using the lanes. Of course, it really helps if you ride them in a safe and predictable manner.

“Take part in the conversation (about bike lanes), both with your friends and in more formal ways and be sure to fill in the City of Red Deer’s survey on bike lanes.

“The more you use them, the better the chance that the program will continue next year.”

He also noted that the club will celebrate the new lanes with their annual ride on Sept. 15, starting at St. Thomas School on 39 St. and riding to the Farmers’ Market.

Meanwhile, City Councillor Tara Veer said she’s getting a lot of mixed reactions about the new bike lanes. “Some are very much in favour, but some members of the public are very frustrated. I’m grateful it’s a pilot project.”

Veer, along with Councillor Chris Stephan, voted against the current project, but not because she’s against biking as part of the city’s transportation plans.

“If a new road had bike lanes built-in, that would be better and a lot of drivers would accept it. I voted against it because I felt the project was too aggressive with the loss of roadways and parking.”

That seems to be why so many people are speaking out against the new lanes.

Local media is buzzing with comments pro and con and local Twitter and facebook accounts have a surprising number of people commenting, and often complaining, about the issue.

Sometimes there are lengthy diatribes against bike lanes, usually involving their effect on traffic, but others talk about how biking in Red Deer is dangerous and bike lanes will improve safety and improve traffic in the long run.

While most comments consist of “hate them” or “waste of money” some people are thinking seriously about the pros and cons of bike lanes.

For example, one comment reads,” Seriously, we live in Alberta, how long is our bike season anyway, three – four months. Our roads cannot handle the volume from our growing city (now) so why are we taking away lanes? I get the green thing, but we have a great path system, enhance that. When they give us more roads to improve traffic, then re-look at it then.”

This comment is from a biker. “It beats getting honked at and being passed too close. Cyclists are out of the way now, that’s what the drivers wanted, is it not?”

Putting a bike lane on 55 St. seems to be one of the most contentious locations. But according to Councillor Paul Harris, a strong supporter of bike lanes, “On 55th Street the city removed one half of one lane for bike lanes.

“It was four narrow lanes before and slightly dangerous, especially in the winter. We replaced the four with three wider lanes, one lane going each direction and a dedicated turn lane in the centre. The remaining space on the shoulder is used for the bike lanes. Regardless of the bike lanes this new configuration should make 55th easier to negotiate and safer. Lots of people think we took away two lanes and that’s not the case. This change should have been done for traffic years ago.”

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