The City’s new bike lanes popping up around Red Deer this summer have become a topic of heated discussion for many.
“My mailbox is full,” said City councillor Dianne Wyntjes. “And that’s always good. Some people are not sure we’re doing the right thing. First and foremost, for me, it’s a matter of safety and it’s also about sharing the road. It’s an adjustment but I want to see a two-year trial period. Many cities are developing bike lanes and we have to give it a fair run.”
Councillor Chris Stephan, who voted against the $750,000 project, said, “Most people I’ve talked to believe the bike lanes are a mistake and I agree with them. We have much higher priorities, the cost is too high and I don’t think we have enough people using them to justify the cost.”
He added that many of the complaints he’s received are about losing a lane for car traffic to accommodate bicycles on some of the City’s busiest streets. That seems to be a particular problem on 55 St., reduced to one lane each way from two to accommodate the bike lane.
Councillor Cindy Jefferies says she’s had mixed reactions.
“A few people are concerned, people don’t like change, some say it’s a stupid idea, there’s other people who support it. There are good reasons for it from a health perspective and others. This is a pilot project and we want to try to make it work. Later we’ll see if we’re right or wrong.”
She said a lot of the concerns expressed to her are from drivers who are not sure how to co-exist with bike lanes. And, as more than one councillor suggested, when Red Deer’s trail system was first built there were many complaints about them and the cost, but now many say one of the best things about Red Deer is the trail system.
City transportation engineer Michael Williston said, “For this year’s pilot program, we made sure there were connections across the City and into the downtown. “Connecting to school and trails is also important, so we provide as many options as possible.”
Red Deer’s first bike lanes, stretching four kilometres, went in last year. This year bike lanes are being installed along main thoroughfares including 39 St., 40 Ave., 55 St., 48 Ave., Spruce Dr., 59 Ave., 45 St. and 52 St.
By the end of the summer they should cover 20 km of City streets.
More information about bike lanes is available at www.reddeer.ca/bikelanes. There is also an online user survey and tips for bike riders and car drivers as well.