Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Bike Lane Angst

Again with the disclaimer:  I am a daily, year-round bike commuter who strongly believes that bikes belong on the road and that there is an incredible lack of understanding and empathy on both the part of drivers and cyclists. These views are my own.

So, I've now ridden the 40th Ave bike lane - northbound and the 55 Street bike lane, westbound. My conclusion is that the Association for Bicycle Commuting in Red Deer is a myopic, single-minded group that doesn't care that their agenda is actively interfering with the majority of Red Deer commuters and that The City of Red Deer consulted only with the commuting association and not with any other cyclists - particularly those who don't support the views of the association. I'm not complaining that I personally wasn't asked, but I am pointing out that there are many bike commuters who don't support or don't belong to the Association for Bicycle Commuting in Red Deer. Our voices are clearly not represented in this project.

Hey if I'm going to offer a critique, might as well come out with a bang, right?

Its not all bad. There are some great additions for cycle commuters.The 39 Street lane seems great. There's lots of room, the road bed is smooth and let's face it, it's not a hugely  busy road, even during the commute.

The Spruce Drive lanes, likewise are great. They appear to be well-designed and again, the road bed is great.

However, I had expressed my doubts about 40th Ave a while ago (you can read those concerns here: ). I take no pleasure in the feeling that I was correct with those concerns.

Now, I have no love for traffic and for maintaining/increasing the number of cars on the road. It's a given that one of the things we need to do to reduce our carbon footprint and to bring about a more sustainable future is to reduce the number of cars on the road. However, in order to put in the 40th Ave and 55 Street bike lanes, The City has removed the entire curb lane and turned it into bike lane and buffer. These are two incredibly congested streets during the school year. Plus, the lanes were painted on, without any improvements to the road surface. Riding these two roads in the curb lane is a daily grind through an obstacle course of holes, cracks, and sand/mud.

Drivers are going to be livid when they discover that they have to squeeze into one lane so that the minority (us cyclists) can have the entire curb lane. Further, the 40th Ave bike lane starts at Eastview school. I have to wonder if anybody on the Association for Bicycle Commuting in Red Deer or in City Engineering has ever stood on that corner during school drop-off time. Cars are entering the front lane of Eastview from the South and exiting it from the North. Busses are lined up at the curb dropping kids off. The bike lanes will be inaccessible during the key commuting period of the morning.

Here's a screen cap from the video of my ride to work, this morning:

Click on the image and then understand that in two weeks, this will be full of cars. Where will the bikes go?

I assume - and I could be wrong -that the northbound Michener Hill lane will be going in soon. I beg cyclists, please do not use that one if it shows up. It's going to be downhill, on the outside of a corner, next to an Armco barrier. On a rainy, slick day with the tendency for cars to be pushed to the outside of the corner...

I just don't understand this 40th Ave route. 43rd Ave would have offered a quieter, safer ride and, with the safe left turn onto Ross, it would have given a direct route into downtown. The impact on car traffic would have been minimal, thereby reducing the frustration of drivers. My explanation is in the link that I gave earlier.

Anyway this whole thing has put me in a supremely bad mood today and I really don't feel like beating a dead horse.  The lanes are what they are, and their success or failure will be determined by their use, their impact on society as a whole, and by the feedback that people give The City; which you can do here:

The City has excellent information about the lanes and about sharing space and respecting each other here:

That's it. I'm spent. I've exhausted my ability to rant and apparently, to affect change. You can surf back through my blog and read all the other things I've had to say about biking, winter commuting, bike lanes and the rest of it.

I encourage everybody to choose their bikes over their cars. It's great exercise, it takes almost no extra time to commute to work on a bike and you'll be doing the planet a favour. Pick your routes carefully and "keep your head on a swivel."

See you on the road.


Anne Marie said...

Thank you for this, Todd. Yours seems to be one of the very few informed voices on this topic.

While I'm not a cyclist, I support the addition of bike lanes in the city. However, like you, I have serious reservations about some of the routes that were chosen, particularly the 40 Ave./55 St. route.

The Eastview corner will be a trouble spot, as you mention. In addition, the 55 St./42 A Ave. corner (at the bottom of Woodlea hill, where all the traffic turns to go to the three schools in Waskasoo - Thurber, Camille, & River Glen) will be troublesome.

But the spot which really makes me wonder is where the 55 St. bike lane (westbound) turns south at the corner of 48 Ave. According to the painted bike lanes, the cyclists are supposed to move from the curb lane into the centre lane to turn - not sure how they'll safely cross the traffic, which will be even busier now that the traffic in that very busy spot is forced into a single lane.

Finally, I agree with your concerns about the road bed on 40 Ave. and 55 St. Both those streets need some major work, and it was a huge mistake to add bike lanes on those bumpy uneven surfaces.

Thanks for voicing your concerns.

Red said...

The downtown bike lanes are far too narrow. Today on 48 Ave a saw four kids and they wee riding side by side...a recipe for disaster.

still learning stuff said...

I am sorry to read that you feel this way Todd. As a fellow bicycle commuter and former supporter of the Red Deer Association for Bicycle Commuting, it is truly disappointing to read your comments.
I have re-read your comments a couple of times in order to try to clarify in my mind what you are saying. If I understand it correctly you like some of the bike lanes but not the ones on 40th Ave and 55th Street, the logic being that those roads are too congested, and therefore our outlook is "myopic".
In fact, it has always been our opinion that bike lanes should be on arterial roads because those are the roads where cyclists need the protection the most. That said, if you look at where bike lanes are located, there are major arterial roads that have been avoided precisely for the reason that they are too congested. Examples include 30th Ave, Gaetz Ave, and Taylor Drive.
40th Ave and 55St are different because they go right pass Eastview, Camille, and Lindsay Thurber. The hope and vision is that students will once again ride their bikes to school.
When I worked at Thurber as a vice-principal, my biggest goal was to get as many kids through high school as possible. There were lots of reasons for students to drop out but usually it was because they skipped too many classes and lost hope of passing courses and graduating. The most common reason for skipping classes is because they were working to pay for their cars and car insurance. When I travelled to our twin schools in France and Japan, their schools were not having the same problem because students were not allowed to drive to school. They had to take the bus, walk, or cycle. I know that bike lanes all by themselves will not solve the high school drop out rate, but at least it is a step in the right direction. Until the arrival of the bike lanes, if Thurber students wanted to cycle to school, they had to go past Kerry Wood Nature Centre.
When I began teaching, I began at Eastview, most of the kids arrived by bicycle. Today, their moms drop them off and pick them up, creating a lot of the congestion you are worried about.
You may not agree with the idea that kids should ride their bikes to school, but I don't think the vision is myopic. It may take time for the vision to be realized, but I believe that it is a vision worth pursuing.
We need your help and support, Todd.
John Johnston