Red Deer is years away from earning the moniker “cycle city” but many avid cyclists are tipping their helmets to the city’s efforts in recent years.
A parade of about 100 cyclists rode from the West Park Community Association on 57th Avenue to the Red Deer Farmers’ Market on 43rd Street and 48th Avenue in the third annual Bicycle Parade on Saturday. The ride was to celebrate bicycle culture but also about to step up awareness on bicycle commuting safety and predictability of bicycling behaviours.
“One of the biggest complaints people have about cyclists is sometimes they are all over the road,” said Stephen Merredew, parade organizer and member of the Red Deer Association for Bicycle Commuting.
“A bicycle lane gives them somewhere to go. So as a vehicle driver you know where they are going to be. And as a cyclist you know where you are supposed to be on the road.”
The cyclists rode a small section of the city’s bike lane pilot as part of the parade route on Cronquist Drive. Merredew said the new lanes are a great start but in a way are a “road to nowhere” because they do not connect from residential areas to the downtown, to major employers or even to schools.
Merredew would like to see more connectivity in the city with at least one or two bicycle lanes in the east-west corridors and along the north-south corridors. The first four lanes are a start to the city’s commuter program with more lanes expected to be rolled out in 2012.
The association is working closely with the city. There are lanes at Riverside Drive from 67 Street to the Three Mile Bend access; Riverview Avenue from 60 Street to 65 Street; Kerry Wood Drive from Fir Street to Overland Place; and Cronquist Drive from 54 Avenue to Webster Drive.
“It’s just a shame there’s not more of them,” said Judy McIntyre, 54, who has cycled for about five years on the trail system and on city streets.
McIntyre said more lanes are needed in the major commuting areas such as on Gaetz Avenue or 32nd Steet where there is steady traffic flow and the potential for accidents.
She said the lanes are a great move forward in helping increase the safety on the roads for both cyclists and motorists. While she uses the Red Deer trail system, she often finds them crowded with cyclists, runners and walkers jostling with one another for space.
“With the bike lanes at least you have an idea of where you’re supposed to be and where they are supposed to be,” said McIntyre.
Aspen Ridge father and Central Alberta Bicycling Club racer Kevin Kay slowed down with his two children, Aidan, 10, and Sophie, 7, during the bicycle parade. Kay welcomes the new lanes but is anxiously waiting for the entire project to be completed.
“There’s none up by Aspen Ridge to get downtown so you are usually on the trails or the road,” he said. “And it’s hard for traffic to see you for the most part. You are usually on the street, which is a danger at times. Traffic is not watching for you.”
Kay said the new lanes will bring attention to cyclists on the road and the surveys will get people thinking about where the lanes should be.