Give bike lane project a chance

I’ve seen quite a bit of commentary on the city’s new bike lanes; almost all of it highly critical.

I’ve seen quite a bit of commentary on the city’s new bike lanes; almost all of it highly critical. But I’ve yet to see a letter from a bike lane critic who has looked at data on cycling safety, the benefits of supporting cycling, or the experience with bike lanes in northern European cities with climates similar to Red Deer.

In fact, I’ve yet to hear from a critic who has actually, you know, ridden on the new bike lanes.

Some critics (including one of the Advocate’s crack columnists) find the diamond and bicycle logos baffling and confusing. Apparently, they’ve never visited the city’s bike lane pages, which clearly explain the program. Nor have they visited other cities where theses signs are commonplace.

Some critics complain about the cost. But the entire bike lane project is puny compared to many other capital projects, and much less than one per cent of the city’s new north highway connector.

Nor do these critics consider that motor vehicles, no matter how useful and necessary they are, also impose a cost on all of us. They demand huge outlays in infrastructure. No matter how well we design roadways or police careless drivers, motor vehicle accidents will inevitably contribute to our health costs. And, as Canadians become increasingly dependent on motor vehicles, we’re also becoming increasingly obese, with further implications for our health. Motor vehicles contribute to CO2 emissions and urban noise pollution. Communities designed around automobiles frequently leave little room for non-motorized humans. Streetscapes are imperilled as the front yards in many of our new communities are consumed by oversized driveways and garages — and precious little green space.

None of this is any slur against motorists (I’m an occasional driver too), but we should recognize the full costs of a car-only transportation system before we complain about the supposedly high costs of cycling.

Some object (without any supporting data) that the bike lanes are unsafe, as if cyclists would be safer without bike lanes.

But here’s another view. I’ve cycle commuted, winter and summer, night and day, for a quarter century, without an injury accident, in Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton, and Victoria. Currently I average over 250 days per year on my bike. So, yes, I’m one of the one per cent.

I think I’ve cycled all the bike lanes in Red Deer and, all in all, I think they’re a boon to cyclists. I only encountered a few pickup trucks parked on bike lanes, but that’s to be expected as people come to accept the new alignment. And since 55th Street is on one of my frequent commutes, I paid especial attention to this artery.

While most Red Deer drivers are respectful, there are a very few motorists in this city who will act aggressively and abusively towards on-road cyclists, even trying to force them into the curb. While it’s early days yet, I haven’t encountered this hostility while on the bike lanes and this is a big and welcome change. Even though motorists may not agree with the bike lanes, they do respect my right to use them, and they seem to find it easier to understand where I’m going. My next objective is to help them understand that I need to enter the left hand lane to make a left hand turn.

Another reason to segregate cycle traffic somewhat from motor traffic is the changing nature of motor vehicles. Since 1987, North American vehicles have increased their weight by an average 350 kg. And one study shows that a 400-kg weight increase can drive up fatalities by 47 per cent. In addition, we’ve all noticed that an increasing numbers of vehicles have higher bumpers. Whether or not this additional height is necessary or not, it’s obvious that the higher strike zone will hit pedestrians and cyclist higher and drive them under the vehicle rather than over the hood. Another reason to offer cyclists some protection from oversized vehicles. And maybe this protection will attract more people to cycling.

So what’s a concerned motorist to do? First, remind yourself that cyclists don’t hold up traffic — they’re traffic too! And take a look at all the single occupant motor vehicles around you. They’re the real cause of traffic congestion.

If you really feel that bike lanes are too much of an inconvenience to motorists (and this “inconvenience” is, I think, at the heart of all the opposition), simply adjust your behaviour. Drive a non-bike lane road. After all, bike lanes only account for an insignificant percentage of Red Deer’s total roadways. Try walking. Or cycling. Maybe even suggest your kids walk or ride.

Voice your opposition. But offer an alternative that meets the needs of both motorists and cyclists. I doubt angry demands to “Ban bike lanes!” or “Ban bikes!” will get much of a hearing from City Hall. And do your research.

Finally, be patient. This is, after all, a pilot project subject to revision and tweaking. So keep your hysteria in check.

As Albertans, we’ve seen change before. The metric system, seatbelt laws, workplace smoking bans, same-sex marriage. And we know how we invariable react. Panic, anger, fears that civilization as we know it is about to end. Then resignation and grudging acceptance as we realize the sky isn’t about to fall after all. Later, some of us privately admit that the changes actually were for the good. And finally we’ll convince ourselves that we were in fact always on the side of progress.

And you know what? The bike lanes issue might just wind up like that. One world, one people, two wheels. See you at the next traffic lights!

Guillermo Barron

Red Deer

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

Chopped Canada-winning chef Pete Sok is trying to focus on the future as he reopens Boulevard Restaurant and Lounge in the Holiday Inn on Gasoline Alley during the pandemic. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer’s celebrity chef looks past the pandemic with new restaurant opportunity

Pete Sok is reopening Boulevard Restaurant — and betting on the future

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Pablo Rodriguez rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Gummed-up bills in House of Commons: harbinger of a federal election?

OTTAWA — All federal party leaders maintain they don’t want an election… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

Most Read