Cyclists peddling new bike lane strategy

Cycling enthusiasts are not giving up the fight to turn Red Deer into a bike-friendly city.

Cycling enthusiasts are not giving up the fight to turn Red Deer into a bike-friendly city.

The Red Deer Association for Bicycle Commuting plan to pitch a new strategy to city council that would allow cyclists to pedal in direct routes throughout the city.

Last month, council made its last move on the contentious and award-winning Commuter Bike Lane Pilot, deciding to remove the painted lanes on 39th Street, east of 40th. The street will revert to two lanes in each direction, and a three-metre wide asphalt trail between Metcalf and Mitchell Avenue in Morrisroe will be installed.

Bicycle association vice-president John Johnston said the group met this week to discuss the city’s surprise decision and to determine their next move.

Johnston said they are floating around the idea of “cycle tracks” that would eliminate the need to reduce traffic lanes. The dedicated bicycle track would run beside the road and would allow cyclists to enter the intersection the same way as vehicles. The driver and the cyclist would be separated by a curb that would disappear at the intersection so the cyclists become a part of the traffic.

“There are different cycle tracks all over the world,” said Johnston. “This time we are designing it for ourselves in Red Deer.”

The details are being sorted out.

Johnston said members were disappointed to read in the Advocate that the lanes on 39th Street will be scrapped without any advance warning or input. Johnston hopes council will put the brakes on before removing the lanes to listen to their suggestions.

“We want to go back to city council and do what we can do to get them to take a look at doing it at a different way,” said Johnston.

Coun. Paul Harris, who has been openly critical of the planning and the roll-out of the bike lane pilot, voted against the removal. He said 39th Street is an opportunity for the city to add turning lanes for traffic, and to include a cycle path that could allow for two-way cycling on one side of the street.

“I’m not convinced the proposed solution will be less expensive but one thing for sure: it will not serve commuters,” said Harris. “They will not use a trail that forces them to stop at every corner. They will remain on the road in traffic. That’s a shame but they’re allowed, as dangerous for everyone as it is.”

He said council was told that the pilot project was to test the various “topologies” available to see which ones worked best for cyclists and drivers. He said the city received a lot of feedback on the types that were tested but they did not test a topology that was separated and safe.

“From the beginning of the bike lane pilot project, the advice that we were given from experts from other cities was to create a bike network that was ‘safe and separated’ from traffic,” he said. “If elderly and very young cyclists do not feel safe on the lanes then the design is wrong and caters only to a few typically athletic males.”

All other bike lanes will remain in place on an interim basis until the standards and policies for bicycling infrastructure are considered as part of the Transportation and Trail Master plans, expected sometime this year. Work is expected to begin sometime in May or June depending on the weather.

Engineering staff will bring back design options and pricing for a permanent multi-use trail in Morrisroe during the 2015 capital budget deliberations. The 39th Street lanes will be removed sometime this month or early June depending on weather.

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