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Red Deer wins national award for bike-lane project

The City of Red Deer has pedalled its way through local controversy to earn a national award for its bike lane pilot project.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities recognized the city for its work in the transportation category of its 2013 Sustainable Communities Awards in Windsor, Ont., on Wednesday.

“I think it’s a little bit ironic that we have some negative reaction in our own community against the bike lanes but at the same time there is some recognition from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, so it is interesting,” said Coun. Dianne Wyntjes, who is at the conference with Councillors Buck Buchanan and Paul Harris.

Wyntjes said the bike lanes are still a pilot project and there is still work to be done once the snow melts. She said council will continue to listen to the community about potential options for the pilot. She noted education for cyclists and pedestrians needs to be a key component of conversations in coming months.

The city received an overwhelming response of some 3,000 surveys, letters, petitions and emails supporting and opposing elements of the two-year pilot.

Following concerns over traffic chaos and safety, council decided to remove the designated bike lanes on 55th Street and 40th Avenue north of 52nd Street; and 59th Avenue north of 70th Street; and revert the roads to their original configurations last September.

The $800,000 pilot was scheduled for a review in the fall of 2013 after receiving the green light in 2011.

Opponents didn’t like the cost of the program and some felt there wasn’t enough public consultation.

Ryan Handley started a petition calling on city council to halt the pilot program, stop spending money on the existing bike lanes and to remove bike lanes on streets with severe traffic issues due to loss of entire lanes and loss of off-street parking in front of residences.

“It’s good that we are being looked at as a city that is being progressive,” said Handley.

“The actual problem I had with the bike lanes was that they moved ahead with such a small representation from the community. Looking at the bike lanes over the winter, driving around town all winter I have seen one person driving on the bike lanes. I still think they weren’t such a good idea with our community.”

Handley said he is baffled about council’s decision-making saying if city council used the same logic that they used for the bike lanes there would be a plebiscite on the fall civic ballot asking citizens if they wanted to move to a ward system.

Raymond Louie, third vice-president of Federation of Canadian Municipalities, congratulated the winners in each of the six categories — brownfields, energy, neighbourhood development, transportation, waste and water.

“The communities we celebrate (Wednesday night) completely debunk the idea that environmental sustainability and economic development are mutually exclusive,” said Louie.

The City of Toronto and Toronto Transit Commission was also recognized under the transportation category for a terminal project.

crhyno@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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