Bike Lanes Frequently Asked Questions
The Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society (EBC) is a non-profit society that has been active in the community since 1980. As a stakeholder, we are involved in bike lane consultations, just like residents and other stakeholders.
To contact us with your questions or concerns, please use our contact form.
Q: How were the routes selected? Who chose them?
The routes are part of the 2009 Bicycle Transportation Plan. This was developed over the course of several years preceding 2009, and involved extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders, including EBC. We attended a lot of open houses!
There are two primary types of routes, forming a rough grid: neighbourhood connectors, and the city-wide network, allowing cyclists to ride comfortably within communities and also connect well across the city on higher-speed routes.
Many of these routes are preferred because of their balance between traffic volume and connectivity.
Q: Why is 76 Ave from 78-100 St a bike route? Why not 77 or 75 Ave?
In order to travel from 100 St to 78 St using 77 Ave while minimizing time spent on 76 Ave, you would have to:
- Cycle from 100 St one block east on 77 Ave until 99 St, turn right onto 99 St and ride to 76 Ave. Dismount and cross at the lights.
- Wait for the next light cycle, double-back on 99 St until 77 Ave again and turn right onto 77 Ave.
- Ride three blocks east to 96 St, turn right and bike south back to 76 Ave.
- Turn left onto 76 Ave. Merge to the right side of 76 Ave.
- Ride along 76 Ave until 89 St, merge to the left lane and turn left off 76 Ave.
- Turn right onto 77 Ave and ride six blocks until 83 St.
- Turn right onto 83 St and bike south back to 76 Ave. Dismount and cross at the lights.
- Wait for the next light cycle, double-back again on 83 St to 77 Ave and turn right.
- Ride to 79 St and turn right, back to 76 Ave.
- Turn left onto 76 Ave, ride one block, merge to the right, and turn right onto 78 St.
In order to travel from 100 St to 78 St using 76 Ave, with or without bike lanes:
- Ride east on 76 Ave until 78 St.
The latter route is a 7 minute bike ride, the former much longer, and entails significantly more traffic disruption and risk due to all the left turns, lane changes, and pedestrian crossings.
Q: 76 Ave is too busy!
Average weekday traffic volumes on 76 Ave are around 4500-5000 vehicles per day. This is moderately less than traffic volume along 106 St.
The 2012 traffic volume count found 240 vehicles westbound and 290 vehicles eastbound on 76 Ave at 98 St during peak PM hour traffic. This works out to 4 and 4.8 cars a minute, respectively.
Q: Why does parking have to be removed?
In order to keep cyclists out of the “door zone” of parked vehicles, a minimum of 3.5m is required from the edge of the curb for shared lane markings (“sharrows”), or 3.7m for bike lanes. Without parking, bike lanes can be 1.2m and sharrows 1.5m. Where possible (including along the south side of 76 Ave from 99 St to 95 St, and the north side of 76 Ave between 99 St and 100 St, as well as nearly the entire length of 100 St), on-street parking has been retained. For the 76 Ave plan, additional new parking has been provided, where none existed before, along 97 St, 96 St and 89 St.
Even after removal of some parking, there is still enough capacity to handle the area’s requirements, though it is true that at peak times, some drivers may have to park farther away than before (those distances will still be much shorter than many parking stalls at a supermarket, and then, once again, only when all the nearer stalls are already occupied).
Q: Can’t you turn sidewalks into bike paths?
Sidewalk cyclists are at significant risk of collisions at intersections, by far the most common site of a car-bike collision. The risks for people riding on the sidewalk are much greater than for those using dedicated on-road cycling infrastructure. The above-bank shared-use paths extant in Edmonton, such as along Saskatchewan Dr, do not regularly cross intersections.
Additionally, in order to widen the pathways to be safe for both cyclists and pedestrians (a minimum of 5m including allowances for low-use paths, and 6m or 7m for higher volume pathways) to use
In Europe, the “sidewalks” for cyclists are not shared-use with pedestrians. They are separated cycling infrastructure. We support separated cycling infrastructure, also known as “cycle tracks”. To retrofit “cycle tracks” adjacent to sidewalks is very expensive, and to install it on roadways requires taking more road width than a standard bike lane. So it is only called for on high-volume, higher-speed roadways.
Q: What about sharrows? They don’t seem to help anyone.
Sharrows are not an effective form of bike infrastructure by themselves. They do, however, work well as signage and wayfinding guides to help direct cyclists, on lower-volume, lower-speed roads, as well as to help motorists and cyclists negotiate intersections where bike lanes can’t continue to the stop line.
In previous years, sharrows were used in a number of situations where continued bike lanes would have been preferable: this problem doesn’t appear in the 2013 plans, a design decision which we applaud.
Sharrows are applicable on residential roads where bike lanes wouldn’t make sense, and when combined with traffic calming measures to reduce volume and speed, help to make neighbourhoods more attractive and safe for everyone (and increase property values in the process).
If the City removed all location and wayfinding signage from Calgary Trail, all the roads would still be there and everyone would still be allowed to drive on it, but clearly the roads would be less functional.
Q: Why are we building this? I never see any cyclists.
54% of Edmontonians cycle. 35% cycle at least once every week in the spring, summer and fall. One in five Edmontonians cycle for transportation.
Bike lanes reduce the chance of a collision by about 50%.
Bicycles don’t tend to get stuck in long queues during rush hour, though, so you won’t necessarily see them lining up in the bike lanes.
Q: Cyclists flout laws. Why aren’t they licensed?
You can go to any given intersection in the city and count far more cars running red lights, failing to signal, speeding, rolling through stop signs, texting, eating, etc. than you will ever see happening on bicycles. Additionally, the potential for harm imposed on other road users by law-breaking cyclists is minimal compared to the same behaviour by motorists. Licensing doesn’t stop this behaviour; enforcement does, and licences aren’t needed to enforce laws. Additionally, licensing is financially unsound: it costs more to administer bicycle licences than the revenue it would generate.
The majority of drivers exceed the posted speed limit when driving on Alberta highways. This is against the law: it is illegal. That doesn’t mean that the province shouldn’t build infrastructure that encourages better driving behaviour and increases safety. It is, in fact, a strong argument in favour of better infrastructure.
The easiest way to encourage better behaviour is through better design. If you build infrastructure that ensures that the easiest, safest choice is also legal, preferred choice, improved behaviour will naturally follow, along with fewer collisions, and more clarity for all road users, including drivers. Everyone benefits. Trying to change the choices of individual through perpetual enforcement is much more expensive, without the benefits that proper infrastructure provides.
That said, we don’t condone illegal behaviour, and EBC offers CANBIKE on-road cycling education to teach good cycling skills and etiquette. We believe all road users should be aware, courteous, and safe so that we can share the roads effectively. We all just want to get to our destinations comfortably and safely.
Q: How much does this cost? Why don’t cyclists have to pay with licences and taxes like car drivers?
Municipal roadways are paid for almost exclusively through property taxes, and not motoring fees such as gas tax or licences. All City of Edmonton residents contribute to property taxes.
The total 2013 budget for Active Transportation is $8.375 million. This covers:
- about 350 curb ramps to allow people with mobility issues to remain active members of the community
- constructing about 50 missing sidewalks, curb ramps, and bus pads at bus stops, which helps accessibility for even the able-bodied (think snow clearing)
- constructing sidewalks across the city to fill in some of the 3,670 km of missing sidewalk
- maintaining wooden stairways in the river valley
- building multi-use trails
- bike racks
Of the money that remains for spending on on-road bike routes (about $1-2 million per year, or about 6 tenths of one per cent of the non-LRT transportation budget), it pales in comparison to other road projects, and falls far short of the proportion of taxes paid by people that ride bicycles. For reference, that much money, which is building 23 km of on-road bike routes this year, would build about 18 meters (60 feet) of the 23 Ave interchange (that road being 127800% more expensive). The interchange was expensive to begin with, but all motor vehicle infrastructure is vastly more expensive to build and maintain than cycle infrastructure.
Motorist user fees like fuel taxes and licences don’t pay for municipal roadways, so effectively, cyclists are already subsidizing motorists because they have fewer and far cheaper infrastructure needs, and less impact on roadways.
Most adult cyclists in Edmonton are also automobile drivers, as well, and so pay motoring fees.
Building bike infrastructure provides safe travel options to all citizens.
Q: Edmonton’s a winter city. We have 9 months of winter. You can’t bike in that.
Edmonton’s average max is above 0°C from March through November, and only falls below freezing for December/January/February. Even then, the average highs are -5°C, -7°C and -3°C respectively: not exactly intolerable weather for cycling.
We also receive far less snow and far less rain than cities with much greater investments in cycling infrastructure, and tend to have as many or more sunny, warm days.