Council passes on lanes
The next Red Deer city council will have its say on the controversial bike lanes.
City council voted 7-2 to keep the existing lanes pending a further review by the next council with future planning documents and to consider standards and policies for bicycle infrastructure with the proposed Transportation and Trail Master Plans next year.
Transportation engineer Michael Williston told council that the city reached its three objectives of expanding Red Deer’s on-street bike facilitates; creating better cycling connections throughout out the city and creating and testing various forms of on-street bicycle facilities. Williston said the city learned from the experience and the changes were implemented in response.
“Safety had greatly improved for cyclists,” said Williston. “To my knowledge over the past two years, there have been no accidents related to the bike pilot.”
City staff will develop a detailed evaluation report on the pilot. Findings from the pilot will be used in future planning documents.
“We definitely got bang for our buck,” said Williston. “For the $800,000 that was approved for this to get 20 km plus or minus infrastructure you couldn’t get that doing anything else. You couldn’t expand a roadway a kilometre for that type of price.”
Calling the Commuter Bike Pilot a disaster, Coun. Chris Stephan voted against the motion. He said the city should admit its mistake, remove the lanes and move on.
Coun. Tara Veer said this council initiated and heard from the public on the public so she could not support deferring the decision making to a future council.
“I think this council needed to accept responsibility and deal with it and land with it where ever it landed,” said Veer. “I think ultimately it needed to be this council deal with manner. The public was informed it was a two-year pilot. Council now owes our public the courtesy of going over what worked and what didn’t work.”
Coun. Paul Harris said the pilot has completed in his mind and there may be further changes or improvements in the future.
“I would hate us at this point to throw away everything we have created and the changes we have made at this point and time,” said Harris. “To me that would be a waste of money that we put forward so far. It would be irresponsible to suggest the structure that we have now with the changes has no value.”
The lanes on 39th Street were given priority for the review as part of the resolution.
Several councillors said they have heard concerns from the community about the congestion and safety on this road.
Coun. Frank Wong unsuccessfully tried to strike the lanes from the network but council ultimately decided to make it a priority during the next review.
Williston said the city looked at the intersection and the number of people who were delayed or not getting through on the first traffic light was about two to three per cent.
“This is not a significant amount,” said Williston. “It made it slightly worse but not to a degree where we would be concerned about.”
In other council news:
l The City of Red Deer will join the second phase of the Alberta Mid-Sized Cities Benchmarking Project. Last year several Alberta municipalities applied for a regional collaboration grant with the goal to establish a set of benchmarks that they could use to measure and compare services. Ten service areas of measure have been developed and another five will be developed. By participating the city will be able to provide its input and expertise in refining the measures for the first 10 areas and help in the development of the final five. The estimated contribution is $10,000 for each participating municipality.
l Bremner Avenue may soon boast a new workout facility. City council approved the use of a fitness centre at 2840 Bremner Avenue, in the building occupied by the Big 105.5 radio station and the Wawanesa Insurance office.
l City council gave first reading to a Land Use Bylaw amendment that would allow the conversion of units in the Travelodge hotel (2807 50th Street) into one-bedroom multiple family residential units. This sets the stage for a public meeting on Sept. 30 for the proposal.
l Terms of reference for the city’s audit committee were adopted by council but not without some concerns. Council voted 6-3 to adopt the new terms with Councillors Buck Buchanan, Chris Stephan and Frank Wong opposed. The new terms give clarity on the purpose, membership, roles, and composition of the committee.
Debate turned heated around the question of adding a public member with financial expertise to the committee. The previous audit committee recommended considering appointing a public member to the committee.
Coun. Cindy Jefferies said the new terms improve the transparency and openness of the audit committee. She said the city’s financial statements are public documents. Jefferies said it was not an easy decision going against the recommendation from the previous committee but there was a lot of work and discussion made into the decision.
“It’s not about being secretive,” said Jefferies. “It’s about council taking ownership of its role in governance with the audit committee.”
Jefferies said in reviewing public statements and looking after the financial health of the organization, it made sense to have a public member there.
“But when we look at best practices in audit committees, we recognize that council actually needs to take a step above where we currently are and go on beyond meeting the minimum requirement,” she said. “When we do that it doesn’t make much sense to have an external member.”
Stephan, a member of the audit committee that made the recommendation, said the city needs objective eyes on its finances.
Buchanan said the city’s financial documents are very complex and he is not convinced council would gain the expertise internally or externally to make decisions.
Among the terms, council will choose an external independent auditor as opposed to administration naming one. Council also opted into the provincial Whistleblower Protection Act.