The bike routes to nowhere

When you’re not in the room when decisions are made, you can only guess at the rationale behind them.

When you’re not in the room when decisions are made, you can only guess at the rationale behind them. Red Deer city council’s decision to pilot a few dedicated bicycle lanes on city streets ought to keep outsiders guessing for quite some time.

It’s telling that one of the groups pushing hardest for safe, efficient bike travel in Red Deer is unhappy with the decision. The Red Deer Association of Bicycling Commuters say this pilot will do little to either gauge our ability to increase the number of commuter trips made by bike, or to introduce drivers to the concept of staying out of bike lanes.

For anyone who wasn’t in the room, the areas selected to pilot the project are downright baffling.

One of routes to have a painted bikes-only dividing line will be Riverside Drive, from 67th Street to the entrance to Three Mile Bend. This decision defies guesswork of good intentions, because the road runs parallel to a dedicated trail for its entire length. Only a fool would take the unpleasant ride and personal risks to travel on Riverside Drive when there’s a perfectly lovely trail to ride on, just a few metres away. Maybe it’s an attempt to train drivers to ignore the lane divider, because no cyclists ever use the route anyway.

The section of Riverview Avenue from 60th Street to 65th Street links one place you don’t want to be on a bike (60th Street), to a place with no destination. Was there a paint quota that they couldn’t extend the route three more blocks and reach the G.H. Dawe Centre and the twin schools there?

Similarly, the section along Cronquist Drive stops just blocks from the entrance to Red Deer College. Was it a policy decision not to have schools linked to dedicated on-street commuter routes?

The section on Kerry Wood Drive does connect residential districts and will make it easier for recreational cyclists in the western end of Oriole Park to access the greater trails network. But it’s doubtful that this one section will become a commuter link to pave the way (so to speak) for a genuinely integrated commuter system.

With the city’s penchant for hiring consultants, someone must have informed council that the majority of Red Deerians live in the south and east quadrants of the city, and that most biking commutes begin and end there.

The most-needed routes to make cycling a safe option for both bike-riding and car-driving taxpayers are along 19th Street, from 40th Avenue to the trail connection at Piper Creek; along Taylor Drive from the end of the trail at Red Deer College to 19th Street; and along the entire lengths of 32nd Street and both 30th and 40th Avenues. That is, unless council made a policy decision that cyclists should use sidewalks instead of their legal right to the road, as stated in provincial law.

Please remember, cyclists pay the same taxes for roads that drivers do. Cyclists also own, drive, insure and register their cars, as law requires.

Everyone complains that cyclists don’t obey traffic regulations. It’s true, many don’t. But likewise, nobody considers cyclists to be legitimate traffic and there’s often no safe way to make a complete commute, and this fosters a tendency for cyclists not to behave like traffic.

In cities where bike lanes have been implemented, they have shown to lessen congestion for drivers in the local areas and to increase the percentage of commuter trips taken by bike — both of which are cheaper for taxpayers.

People aren’t citizens when they drive a car and un-citizens when they ride a bike. Everyone pays for all the services the city provides, including roads. As cities evolve, people exercise their legal right to use more than one way to get around.

Transportation strategies simply need to adapt. So what’s the holdup?

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.