Better Bike Infrastructure Needed: Councillor Ben Henderson

Article received from Councillor Ben Henderson

On August 31, I joined a group of cyclists who gathered to mourn the death of Isaak Kornelsen, the cyclist who was killed recently on Whyte Avenue. I think, as regular cyclists, we could each imagine how easily it could have been us.

Two weeks earlier I had cheerfully opened the new bike corral pilot project in the Whyte Avenue area, designed to improve the parking situation for the area that is so heavily used by bikes. The question is, if we know there are that many cyclists using this area, why is our infrastructure still so poor?

The City has made a commitment in our new transportation master plan to shifting how people travel. We are committed to making it possible for people to commute by public transportation, walking and cycling.

And I know it is possible: I recently spent a few days in Copenhagen. Like most people in Copenhagen I did all of my travel in that city either on foot or by bike. Over the last thirty years the bicycle has become the mode of transport chosen by most in the Danish capital. We assume that it has always been like that. But when they started this change, Copenhagen was very much like us, completely car dependent, and convinced that there was no way anyone would change.

Copenhagen’s solution was to build a parallel bicycle commuting network that safely coexists with both pedestrians and automobiles. Nowadays people in Copenhagen choose to commute by bike because it is faster, more convenient, and significantly cheaper than other options.

After seeing a how well a major city can integrate cycling into its roadways, I called for bike lanes on Whyte Avenue. I also understand that many Edmontonians believe it might make more sense to use 83 Avenue as the bike corridor. I am not sure what the best option is, but it seems clear it is time to do something.

In the past few years, the City of Edmonton has retrofitted bike lanes into existing roadways, but these lanes are sometimes compromised, so as to not impede car traffic and parking.  If we really want to create a system where everyone feels safe and comfortable, then we must engineer our bicycle facilities with the same attention that we have applied to our car infrastructure. Otherwise, instead of having more people choosing to cycle, we will continue to put the Isaaks of our City at risk.

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