There aren’t many times that Red Deerians get truly fired up about much, but every once in a while an issue surfaces that stirs up plenty of reaction.
Months of relative calm and then bang – along comes the bike lane additions to some of our City streets.
Some point out that it’s ridiculous to have narrowed some busy City thoroughfares, especially around schools and in the downtown vicinity. Prior to school starting, motorists were complaining about potential for gridlock along such routes as 40th Ave. and 55th St.
Safety is another concern – what about those turning right abruptly with a bike lane immediately to their right? Along come a cyclist, the car turns right and you have the potential for a collision.
Some citizens are all for the pilot project, pointing out that it’s about time Red Deer provided such routes for cyclists who want another option for transportation.
But the question is – where are these cyclists? The lanes appear to be empty the majority of the time. And this is summer – as we all know, we have about seven months of the year when the weather is not overly conducive to hitting the streets on your bike.
Red Deer just isn’t like Vancouver, Victoria where the weather is more agreeable to year-round use of bike lanes. Or even Toronto, where many people use the lanes and parking, in many cases, makes driving a car even more of a hassle. So biking or use of transit is essential in centres like that. Perhaps Red Deer is trapped in a bit of an identity crisis – we are a small city located in the middle of the Alberta prairies – consistently mild weather which supports lots of outdoor activity isn’t something that people think of immediately when they think of this area.
Also, these lanes, part of a pilot project which will cost in the neighbourhood of $750,000, have also created an unappealing mess on City streets – an increased number of painted lines here and there, bright green bike symbols, faded-out former lane lines – not to mention the confusion that it’s causing some drivers as they adjust to the new system.
Some advocates say we all just have to give it time. We will get used to it eventually. But the ongoing arguments against it don’t seem to be simmering down. Councillors continue to say they are hearing plenty of feedback from the community, and we suspect this will only continue.
And finally, members of City council will surely have their hands full with this issue as they move forward in their decision-making. It’s very clear the community has yet to get behind this initiative. Time will tell.