Cycling, Edmonton | No comments yet.
Source: Westworld, By: Lawrence Herzog
With bicycle or by car?
Globally, more people ride to work by bicycle than by automobile. In fact, hundreds of millions of citizens in China, India and a dozen countries in Europe hop on a bike for their daily commute.
Bicycling in Holland is very popular
With 1.4 billion bicycles in use worldwide (compared to 530 million automobiles), perhaps it’s no wonder that 100 million bikes are now manufactured annually – more than double the 42 million cars produced in 2003. Even cities in the world’s cooler climes are experiencing a surge in bicycle use, as health- and eco-savvy urban planners implement bicycle-friendly policies. Since 1990, for example, Portland, Oregon, has expanded its bicycle network fourfold, to more than 240 kilometres, and ridership has tripled. The city is also instituting more end-of-trip facilities and improved integration of bicycle use and public transit, while enhancing safety features on bike routes.
In Alberta cities bicycle riders are still fighting an uphill battle
Bicycling in Alberta: it’s fun on the rural roads
In Alberta bicycle riders are still fighting an uphill battle
In Alberta cities, however, bicycle riders are still fighting an uphill battle, though Edmonton and Calgary are in the midst of plans to encourage cycling and make it safer for cyclists and motorists to share the roads. Calgary is spending $1 million a year for the next five years on cycling routes while Edmonton is revamping its bicycle transportation plan, recommending improvements that will go before city council this summer. “These bike paths will make cycling safer, less stressful and healthier, with cyclists spared the hazards of vehicle traffic and exhaust,” says Jessie Meikle, AMA’s environment project coordinator. Still, the 2005 report “Cycling Trends and Policies in Canadian Cities,” by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler of Rutgers University, notes that if Canadian cities are truly committed to increasing cycling levels, they “will have to further expand cycling infrastructure, curb low-density sprawl and impose more restrictions on car use.”
Alberta road warriors: members of ‘Edmonton Masters Cycling Club’
Group of gals enjoying their ride on Alberta roads
Indeed, change may be in the works in Alberta, but it’s not happening fast enough for the province’s cycling “road warriors,” many of whom packed recent open houses on Edmonton’s new bicycle plan. Since the city’s policy was last modified in 1992, these riders reported, the number of cyclists has nearly doubled. And in the 2006 census, they noted, 195,515 Canadians identified bicycling as their primary mode of transport while commuting, including 19,300 Albertans (7,565 of them in Calgary, 6,235 in Edmonton, 660 in Lethbridge, 600 in Red Deer and 200 in Grande Prairie).
Yet the StatsCan numbers represent only a segment of the actual ridership, says Michael Kalmanovitch, president of Edmonton Bicycle Commuters. In fact, in Edmonton, cycling increased by 150 per cent between 1994 and 2005. “Cycling eliminates noise and emissions, decreases traffic congestion, uses land and road space efficiently, improves health and fitness, costs virtually nothing – and it’s a lot of fun,” says Kalmanovitch. “Our membership has more than doubled in the last couple of years as more people use bikes to get where they need to go.”
Edmonton’s cyclists enjoy riding outside of the city limits
Given that head injuries are the leading cause of death in accidents involving cyclists, since 2002, Alberta cyclists and their passengers younger than 18 have been required to wear an approved bicycle helmet. (Alberta Transportation and Infrastructure notes that cyclists who do not wear helmets are three times more likely to suffer head injuries in a crash and 20 times more likely to die.)
Weekend warriors – Helmets are required in Alberta
In 2006, three cyclists died and 588 were injured in Alberta; 2005 saw 634 casualty collisions involving bicycles, resulting in five deaths; in 2004, six cyclists died and another 606 were injured while riding. While 90 per cent of bike injuries occur when a cyclist falls or runs into something, such as a pothole, post, pedestrian or another bike, collisions between bikes and automobiles have a greater potential for serious injury to the cyclist. Obviously, separating automobile and bicycle traffic is the most effective way to reduce such mishaps. And, as arterial routes in Edmonton are revamped, the city’s design and construction standards now call for the widening of curb lanes to 4.2 metres from the standard 3.7 metres. “Essentially, we create an unmarked bike lane,” says Claire Ellick, sustainable transportation engineer with the City of Edmonton. “As the bike transportation plan is implemented, it’s likely the city will move forward with bike lanes and shared lane markings on its on-road routes.”
Edmonton cyclists enjoy beautiful autumn day on the road
Weekend group rides are very popular in Edmonton and Calgary
How they do it in the City of Calgary
Meanwhile, a City of Calgary survey shows that some 3,500 Calgarians commute daily by bike, though existing bike paths make for a slow and meandering route around pedestrians and joggers, and riding the streets means competing with drivers. In response, Calgary is improving four of its downtown routes a year, some with dedicated cycling lanes, says Derek Heric, a communications specialist with the city’s transportation planning department. “We’re trying to make it easier for people who are now cycling to get to work. But we’re also keen to get Calgarians who don’t normally cycle out on the road. The road network into the downtown core has been saturated for some time, so we’re looking at ways to alleviate traffic congestion. Every resident we can get on a bike means one less vehicle.” Some measures being implemented: signals that allow cyclists to stop traffic, bike-specific lanes and improved access from streets to existing pathways.
Edmonton river valley bike trails cover more than 100 km
The coolest bike trails in the city of Edmonton are in the river valley
The city’s transportation policy also ensures that cyclists’ needs are addressed when the city sets its planning, building and maintenance priorities, says Heric. “Cyclists do prefer their own lane and, where appropriate, we do that, though it’s not always possible.” Cyclists are not simply pedestrians on wheels, he notes; they are vehicles, just like cars. The city’s new streets policy (mandating that cycling infrastructure be included when roadways are rehabilitated) takes this into consideration by looking to cities such as Vancouver, Montreal, Seattle and Zurich for urban planning designs that have been proven to work for bikers. One city that is particularly cycle-friendly, he notes, is Amsterdam.
With more than half a million bicycles on its streets and a network of safe, fast and comfortable bicycle routes, Amsterdam is rightly known as the “City of Bikes.” The flat, compact capital, with its narrow 17th-century streets, is perfectly suited for cycling – in a country where bikes are legally entitled to the right-of-way and where all forms of traffic are extra vigilant. Cities like Amsterdam also offer valuable lessons for both better transportation and urban design in Alberta, says Kalmanovitch. “The knowledge is there, the ingenuity is there. All it takes is the political will to design and build infrastructure that recognizes bicycles as a key part of the solution here.”
135 km of multi-use trails in the North Saskatchewan River valley
A Trail of Two Cities
Edmonton’s cycling network:
• 135 km of multi-use trails in the North Saskatchewan River valley (55 km paved)
• 6 km of on-road contra-flow bike lanes
• More than 100 km of shared-use sidewalks (multi-use trail)
• 6 km bus/taxi/bike lanes
• More than 30 km of trails along utility rights-of-way
Source: City of Edmonton
Calgary’s cycling network
• 635 km of asphalt pathways
• 290 km of street bike routes
As well, four Calgary street routes for cyclists are slated for upgrades this summer:
• 26th Avenue S.W., from Sarcee Trail to 14th Street
• 2nd Street N.W., from Crescent Road to 40th Avenue
• 8th Avenue, from 1st Street N.W. to 19th Street N.E.
• 5th Street S.W., from the Elbow River to Heritage Drive.
The North Saskatchewan River valley bike trails (55 km paved)
For safety tips on motorists and cyclists sharing the road, see http://www.saferoads.com/safety/index.html; also, see the Alberta Driver’s Handbook, available online at http://www.infratrans.gov.ab.ca/733.html or free of charge at any Alberta registry office, including AMA centres