Bike lanes get thumbs up

The City of Red Deer recently won an international award for the commuter bike pilot project, but it probably won’t garner any more praise from some Red Deerians as the project continues to be a controversial issue 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. and the City won the award for the pilot project 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.

The project had hundreds of residents frustrated this fall and a petition was even started by one Red Deerian, as citizens tried to adjust to narrower routes, newly-designated areas for cyclists and slower moving traffic.

Although there were supporters of the bike lanes, it became clear that council would have to do something to satisfy angry motorists who wouldn’t accept the changes. And they did just that.

Eventually, council supported a recommendation that bike lanes on 55th St. and 40th Ave north of 52nd St. revert to the original configuration. Council also opted to remove the lanes on 59th Ave. north of 70th St. after hearing what citizens had to say.

But still, many wondered where the cyclists were after the lanes were installed? They appeared to be empty the majority of the time – and that was in the summer. Now with the winter season some of the lanes are virtually covered in hard-packed snow from the plows that have cleared City streets. Obviously it’s not a safe place for cyclists and there is still a lot to learn about the ins and outs of bike lanes.

Now, with this new award, we’re not sure that citizens will think it is deserved, but regardless of that, motorists will continue to have to adjust as the City continues to grow and change.

City council certainly has had their hands full with this issue and we don’t foresee that changing – especially with a municipal election around the corner. We predict this will become a major election issue and a topic that Red Deerians will continue to talk about for some time to come.

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