Edmonton’s downtown bike grid would be a well-connected series of protected bike paths in the core. This grid would give people on bikes a safe, comfortable way to get almost anywhere in the downtown core.
This project is similar to Calgary's new bike paths, installed as a grid in its downtown last year. Calgary's grid resulted in a dramatic increase in cycling, with thousands of people every day from all demographics riding on the protected paths.
The protected paths could be installed using relatively-inexpensive materials (concrete barriers, bollards, etc.) that could be adapted quickly as data and feedback are collected on the installations. The first iteration won't be perfect, so flexibility is key.
Stantec, which designed the Calgary network, has submitted a report on the bike grid to city council that will be made public in mid September of 2016. It will then be voted on by the Urban Planning Committee on September 28 and by council on October 11.
Here's a more detailed write up on the history and genesis of the Edmonton downtown protected bike lane grid initiative.
Update! The Stantec report has been released and will be discussed at City Hall on September 28.
frequently asked questions
The Stantec report contains direction on keeping the protected paths clear in winter. During the coldest months of the year, jurisdictions that remove snow from their paths retain about 25% of their summer ridership.
So there will still be a significant number of people using the paths in winter. However, Edmontonians have a history of supporting investment in seasonal infrastructure when they consider it important. City parks are probably the best example. They are used much less in winter, but there is near-unanimous agreement that they are important resources.
This grid of protected bike paths will increase the quality of life of those who choose to use them, with the added benefit that they will reduce collision injuries.
The 7km grid will cost in the $7 million range.
That is a lot of money, but it is a small number when compared to other transportation infrastructure projects. For example, $6 million will build approximately 0.13 kilometres of ring road. Or it will build 0.9 kilometres of arterial road.
Also, a significant portion of that money is to make signalling and other upgrades that would have had to be made anyway. We expect city council to be able to find the money without altering its 2014-2018 capital budget.
Only what are described as "strong and fearless" cyclists will use a road with no bike infrastructure. The wide, fast roads of the downtown core are just too intimidating for most people.
Protected bike paths are the safest type of bike infrastructure (they are 90% safer than open roads), and they have been shown to attract new riders everywhere they've been installed (Calgary being the latest example).
Riding on a wide busy street can be very intimidating for many people, so even if a single well-protected lane brings someone part of the way to their destination, they may still feel intimidated enough by the rest of the ride to leave the bike at home.
By building a whole network at once, like Calgary did, it opens up all of downtown at once. People will know that once they reach the core using relatively quiet residential streets, the river valley or the trail next to the street car track, they will feel safe the rest of the way.
There is no way to predict exactly how many riders the grid will get. However, the neighbourhoods around downtown have unusually low percentages of people who ride to work or school on their bikes, given their central location.
We would expect the percentages to rise to the 4% -5% mark at least (from the current 1%-2%). In Calgary some central neighbourhoods are all-of-a-sudden flirting with 10% of their residents biking to work/school now that the new cycle track grid is installed.
If you feel comfortable riding downtown, you probably belong to the 1% or so of people who classify themselves as "strong and fearless", often younger males who have a high tolerance for risk.
North American cities have found that not adding dedicated facilities for people on bikes has kept the ridership constrained to these strong and fearless riders.
The bike grid is for everyone else. It's for seniors, families, and everyone who doesn't feel comfortable sharing the road with cars (which is most of us).
This grid of protected bike paths will give clarity and certainty to all road users, which is good for everyone, including drivers. In fact, a recently-published paper showed that "most drivers reported greater comfort with more separation from bikes" (source).
People currently ride their bikes on the sidewalk a lot downtown due to the fear of mixing with vehicle traffic. Fortunately, protected bike paths drastically reduce the amount of sidewalk riding, providing a significant benefit to people walking downtown as well.
Finally, each person riding a bike in their own lane is someone who is not taking up space in a car in front of you. Reducing congestion is a significant benefit of increasing the number of people who ride bikes in our city.