Bike lanes have been in the news again, largely thanks to Mayor Mandel referring to the plans as a “nightmare” on Wednesday. It’s pretty clear that our poor public consultation practices are part of the problem here, but there’s another issue at play. As a city we’re good at talking the talk, but we too often fail at walking the walk.
From The Way Ahead:
In shifting Edmonton’s transportation modes the City recognizes the importance of mobility shifts to contribute to the achievement of other related goals. To do so suggests the need to transform the mix of transport modes, with emphasis on road use for goods movement and transiting people and transit use for moving people.
From The Way We Move’s Strategic Goals:
Public transportation and active transportation are the preferred choice for more people, making it possible for the transportation system to move more people more efficiently in fewer vehicles.
Active transportation includes any form of human-powered transportation, the most common modes being walking and biking. A key direction of The Way We Move is to develop an integrated and sustainable transportation system in Edmonton to enable citizens to shift to these modes.
And then of course there is the Active Transportation Policy which declares, “the City of Edmonton strives to be pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.”
Our plans and goals and policies all seem to support taking steps to make cycling in Edmonton more common. We know that doing so will help to reduce traffic congestion, preserve our road infrastructure, protect the environment, and make us healthier. Our goal of building 500 km of on-street cycling facilities in the next 10 to 20 years is achievable, and we can be confident it’ll help shift our transportation modes because just as you get more drivers when you add more roads, research suggests you get more cyclists if you add more bike lanes (pdf).
So why does it seem so difficult to make any actual progress?
When the 2012-2014 Capital Budget was being discussed, Active Transportation nearly missed out on funding. After lots of public feedback and discussion, Council amended the budget and did include $20 million. Now we get around to actually spending some of that money on cycling – $2 million or less this year – and we once again seem to be forced into the position of having to fight to move things forward. One step forward, two steps backward.
Without question the way the City does public consultation contributed to this mess – there’s a lot of room for improvement. But “poor public consultation” is also a convenient scapegoat for politicians and citizens opposed to the plans. There’s no conspiracy here. The notion of adding bike lanes to our streets didn’t suddenly appear one day out of thin air. These plans have been in the works for years.
All we need to do now is walk the walk.
Two other thoughts:
- Why wasn’t there any outrage about the loss of parking when the bike parking corrals were put in place over the summer? Was it just because they were temporary?
- Am I the only one annoyed that we’re spending 10 to 30 times more on a “mechanized access” project for the River Valley that has no clear plan than we are on bike lanes?