There is love for bike lanes

Crystal Rhyno’s front-page article of Sept. 18, on city council’s response to the latest report on the bike lane pilot project leaves something to be desired — namely, an objective reporting of facts

Crystal Rhyno’s front-page article of Sept. 18, on city council’s response to the latest report on the bike lane pilot project leaves something to be desired — namely, an objective reporting of facts. I have read the report in question in its 88-page entirety (something I doubt that some of the councillors can say). While Ms. Rhyno accurately repeats some of the report’s findings, she seems to focus only on the “negative” parts — those that suggest that bike lanes are doomed in Red Deer.

The report included the following findings, not mentioned in Ms. Rhyno’s article:

In the 2012 survey:

• 21 per cent of male respondents and 15 per cent of female respondents reported that “the new bike lanes make it easier to get around on my bike.”

• 21 per cent of male respondents and 15 per cent of female respondents reported that “compared to last year, I rode my bike more this year.”

In the 2013 survey:

• 20 per cent of the respondents reported using the onstreet bicycle lanes four times per week or more.

The article also fails to mention the data generated by the pilot project which can now be used by the city in the future, both for development of infrastructure and for planning public communication strategies, including the following:

• Respondent subgroups significantly more likely to use the on-street bicycle routes included males (20 per cent) versus females (13 per cent).

• Respondent subgroups significantly more likely to use the on-street bicycle lanes included males (18 per cent) versus females (13 per cent).

• Respondent subgroups significantly more likely to have been aware of the impending changes [to the bike lanes] before they were implemented included those aged 35 to 44 (51 per cent), 45 to 54 (54 per cent), 55 to 64 (57 per cent), or 65 and older (50 per cent) versus those aged 18 to 24 (38 per cent) or 25 to 34 (42 per cent).

These data suggest questions to be asked when planning for the future, such as “is there something about the existing facilities that makes women feel more uncomfortable using them than men?” and “how do we communicate better with 18-to-24-year-olds about impending infrastructure changes?” These data and the opportunity to learn from them are arguably the most important reason that public entities use pilot projects rather than just forging ahead with what someone in the office thinks will work.

Ms. Rhyno also presents the seemingly negative aspects of the report without the factual counterpoints, many of which can be found in her article on the topic that appeared in the Advocate on Sept. 16. For example, she accurately reports that “major concerns related to traffic congestion, safety, and loss of street parking” without any mention of the comments of the city’s engineer on the project, reported in the earlier article, who said that the city looked at [one of the intersections most complained about for congestion] and empirically determined that the number of people who experienced any delay (defined as “not getting through on the first traffic light”) was about one to three per cent — well within what are considered to be acceptable tolerances. That engineer also commented that “safety had greatly improved for cyclists.”

Finally, the biased headline of the article “No love for bike lanes: survey” is shown to be patently false in the fifth paragraph of the article, which reports that 81 per cent of respondents did not like the on-street bike lanes. The logical corollary to this is that 19 per cent did have some “love” for the bike lanes in the pilot project. Furthermore, some of the 81 per cent, like me, may like some bike lanes but not necessarily the ones installed, for various reasons.

While I recognize that controversy and “wedge” issues in election years sell newspapers, I respectfully encourage the Advocate and its reporters to maintain a balanced approach at all times so that we, as readers, can have a firm grasp of important underlying facts when discussing public matters.

Grant Watson

Red Deer