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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.

For information from the City of Edmonton, please visit their Cycling in Edmonton page. There, you can also find more information, including maps, regarding the 2013 on-street bike routes.

To contact us with your questions or concerns, please use our contact form.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. Wait for the next light cycle, double-back on 99 St until 77 Ave again and turn right onto 77 Ave.
  3. Ride three blocks east to 96 St, turn right and bike south back to 76 Ave.
  4. Turn left onto 76 Ave. Merge to the right side of 76 Ave.
  5. Ride along 76 Ave until 89 St, merge to the left lane and turn left off 76 Ave.
  6. Turn right onto 77 Ave and ride six blocks until 83 St.
  7. Turn right onto 83 St and bike south back to 76 Ave. Dismount and cross at the lights.
  8. Wait for the next light cycle, double-back again on 83 St to 77 Ave and turn right.
  9. Ride to 79 St and turn right, back to 76 Ave.
  10. 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:

  1. 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.

Q: I have more questions.

E-mail us!

 

11 comments on “Bike Lanes Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Pingback: 2013 On-street Bike Routes | Cycle Edmonton

  2. Pingback: The Charrette » Blog Archive » Adequate Funding Needed to Realize Edmonton’s Cycling Dreams

  3. Leanne [Likely posting from: Canada]

    It is unfortunate that Edmonton has marginalized the effectiveness of very busy roads, to allocate bike lanes-that are never used, and since the tremendous amount of snow that has fallen in November so far-cyclists are using the sidewalks, as the bike lane is not cleared yet. The city of Edmonton sites that it conducted research in which to verify the installment of bike lanes, but from a practicality perspective-they hinder automobile traffic, and are seldom used. I don’t grasp the rationale for 106 Street, in particular, as from your stats, there is greater than 5000 automobiles on the 106 Street on a daily basis, yet, the city decreases the road to 1 lane in either direction. The logic is flawed. I equate the installation of these bike lanes to the cement curbs that were installed about 10 years ago along 106 Street, causing drivers to rally thru them-they were removed because they were probably deemed unsafe, and substantially slowed down traffic. Waiting at the lights at 51 Ave and 106 Street-can be up to 15 minutes in rush hour. Poor planning.

    1. Chris [Likely posting from: Canada] Post author

      Hi Leanne,

      106 St is a neighbourhood collector road for the communities it passes through. The residents requested traffic calming because of the volume of vehicles short-cutting through at high speeds, and curb bulbs and other calming features are now in place north of 51 Ave.

      106 St doesn’t work well for cutting through quickly during rush hour because it is not meant for cutting through quickly. Calgary Trail and 111 St, which are arterial roads and not part of the on-street bicycle network, are the preferred routes for drivers who are not starting from or destined for the neighbourhoods adjacent to 106 St. Unfortunately for residents, it will take some time for non-residents to adjust their travel patterns.

      There were no changes made in the lane counts on 106 St anywhere north of 42 Ave; the delays at 51 Ave are due to the number of cars waiting at the intersection. More people on bikes will mean fewer cars to wait behind.

      Regards,

      Chris

  4. Nathan [Likely posting from: Canada]

    I pulled out of a business onto 40th Ave (between 114 and 116 St) recently, just after the spanky new bike lanes were painted. I carefully checked the bike lane, began to pull out… and I almost hit a bicyclist who was riding down the sidewalk—and the wrong direction too! Really??!! We pay “only” $2 million for these lanes and riders still prefer the sidewalk?

    I wish I could tell you that the rider was some innocent child, but sadly it was a man who appeared to be in his 50s. With almost no traffic on the street, mild weather, and good lighting (it was dusk), I can’t think of a nicer time to take advantage of those sparkly new lanes!

    By the way, does anyone have any idea why the new lanes include a yellow line next to the centre median? There is already a curb there, and 20 feet of grassy median—a line hardly seems useful. Maybe there was some leftover yellow paint… and while we’re using all this white paint we’ll just use this up too?

  5. Joe Nykoluk [Likely posting from: Canada]

    Please let’s use common sense and get along and share the roads like we have for many years. When needed the cars can go around the bikes and give them their space. We only have to worry about it for 6months out of the year. The cost and inconvenience of this project is way too out of line for a very small amount of bike riders versus the need for better roads and please don’t get rid of lanes for cars in favour of bike lanes, That Aren’t Being Used!

    1. Michelle [Likely posting from: Canada]

      Hi Joe,

      I bike to work from north Edmonton to the downtown core everyday and I see a lot of other cyclist doing the same. I am confident that there would be more people using this environmentally friendly commute if they had a safer way of doing so. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need bike lanes because vehicles would move over and give us cyclist the safe space we need. However, from my personal experience this rarely occurs. Riding alongside vehicles can be jaw clenching enough, then add in the ridiculous amount of potholes.

      Until we all think the same way as you this approach just won’t do.

      New bike routes = New roads!

  6. George [Likely posting from: Canada]

    Regarding winter cycling: I start out for work around 7 AM. No matter how cold or snowy it is, I always see at least one or two fresh tracks along my 10 km route. The only thing preventing more people from cycling year-round is the *misconception* that you can’t bike in winter. Ski pants, long johns, ski mitts, a good belaclava, winter tires, and you can ride through anything!

  7. Cycling in Edmonton from the Eyes of a Teen [Likely posting from: Canada]

    People don’t like bike lanes on many streets because they don’t feel safe enough. Don’t equate painted line for subjective safety. The bike lanes also are not continuous at places where you need them most, at intersections and bus stops. They are not as well used because there are so few cycle lanes and paths. They don’t go where people want to go, like Whyte Ave. The frequency of stop signs and red lights means that cyclists expend a lot of energy slowing, stopping and getting back to speed. In a car it is merely switching your foot from one pedal to the other.

    1. Chris [Likely posting from: Canada] Post author

      Hi David,

      There are real-time counts for several bike routes, and the City also does traffic surveys periodically of various routes. Some of those use automated counters and some use human counts. You can contact the City to ask for any data about 127 St; we don’t have any numbers on that route specifically.

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