Rushing to a bike conclusion

How did bike lanes, of all things, become the lightning rod for community discontent?

How did bike lanes, of all things, become the lightning rod for community discontent?

This one small issue has become a source for as much debate — and outright rancour — as any single issue in Red Deer in years.

Based on the community discussion — over coffee, on the street, over the fence, in letters to the editor and online; in fact, pretty much everywhere — it has even surpassed such mainstays of civic discord as snow removal, the eastward extension of Molly Banister Drive and, more recently, fluoridation of our water.

It may all be the ultimate compliment to city council and its administrators: when a modest (in cost and overall impact) initiative can engender such outcry, surely that suggests that the leadership of this community has managed the big issues well.

If we can’t find reason to complain about major traffic corridor initiatives, the state of our recreation facilities, the quality of any number of services delivered, and the general maintenance of our community, why not gripe about paint on a few streets that has, however minutely, altered traffic patterns?

We must be too happy with the city’s management of the big issues, or too bored with the things that really matter.

Why else would we waste so much time, passion and paper on something as innocuous as bike lanes?

Surely not because people think bicycles are a bad thing.

They are in fact a very good thing: they promote a healthy lifestyle, reduce greenhouse gases that would be otherwise created by cars, require far less space than vehicles, and in general slow down the pace of a too-hectic lifestyle.

Surely not because people think that spending $800,000 to sort out the best way to facilitate bike traffic is extravagant (it is a fraction of the city’s annual budget). Never mind that covering up the newly-painted lanes on 55th Street and 40th Avenue (as a split city council decided to do on Monday) will simply cost more money, pushing the pilot project over budget. How do fiscal hawks like Coun. Chris Stephan rationalize forcing a change to the pilot that will simply ramp up the overcall cost of the project?

Surely not because people are impatient — on the road, and in the face of new ideas — to the point that they won’t let events unfold and evidence be gathered in a rational fashion.

School has been back in session for a scant two-plus weeks, hardly enough time to gauge whether people can adjust to new traffic patterns.

Never mind the fact that snow will soon cover the markings, many cyclists will retreat for the winter, and motorists will simply pretend the bike lanes were never there: out of sight, out of mind.

The whole messy unravelling of the pilot bike lane project shows democracy at its worst: without the patience to thoroughly examine ideas, and without the foresight to imagine a different world, one that accommodates more than one transportation model in this case.

That a certain distaste for the project has raised its head should not be a surprise. We know that some people are in so much of a hurry to get where they’re going in the next half hour that they refuse to see where society is going in the next half decade.

And we know that some of the selected bike lanes would be abandoned or altered at the end of the pilot project. That was the point: to determine the best bike corridors, examining the options and figuring out which don’t work.

But surely we could have given the process, as it was designed, the time and space to prove or disprove itself.

Instead, all we have done is prove the point that bicyclists have always made: most people are in far too much of a hurry.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.

Just Posted

Two men arrested on drug charges in Blackfalds

Blackfalds RCMP say they expect to lay more charges after two men… Continue reading

Edmonton-Red Deer-Calgary bullet train waiting for provincial blessing

A high-speed train project between Edmonton and Calgary, proposed in April 2018,… Continue reading

Home selling and building markets reflecting a tough economy, but hope in sight

Real estate sales and new home builds still lagging 2018

Former Sylvan Lake bank employee sentenced to three years in prison for $1M fraud

Red Deer woman was ordered to pay nearly $830,000 in restitution

All that jazz back at Sylvan Lake

17th annual Jazz at the Lake runs Aug. 16 to 18

VIDEO: Reports say Lashana Lynch is the new 007

Daniel Craig will reprise his role as Bond one last time

Hernandez, Gurriel lead Blue Jays to 10-4 win over Red Sox

Blue Jays 10 Red Sox 4 BOSTON — Teoscar Hernandez hit a… Continue reading

New head coach Nick Nurse preparing Canada for long FIBA World Cup run

TORONTO — Nick Nurse is going to prepare Canada’s men’s basketball team… Continue reading

Court of Appeal dismisses Paradise Shores arguments

A court will not hear arguments; sticks with appeal board’s ruling

Schitt’s Creek’ and its stars among Canadians with Emmy nominations

TORONTO — Eugene Levy thought the highlight of his Tuesday would be… Continue reading

Singh sees Quebec as ‘fertile ground’ for NDP as he hits province for tour

OTTAWA — The province of Quebec offers the federal New Democrats fertile… Continue reading

Airline confirms three dead after float plane crashes in Labrador lake

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Four occupants of a downed float plane remained… Continue reading

New developments in text-messaging controversy involving Manitoba chief

WINNIPEG — The women’s council of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says… Continue reading

N.S. minister holds off comment on wrongful conviction case due to past as Mountie

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s justice minister — a retired Mountie — says… Continue reading

Most Read