City to study temporary bike network in downtown and Old Strathcona

With frustration over the timelines for two new high-quality bike lanes reaching a boiling point, city council unanimously approved a study to look into building temporary lanes all over downtown and Old Strathcona.

'It’s now 2016, midway through the construction season, and what do we see? Nada,' says Coun. Scott McKeen

McKeen says the city should build temporary lanes while it constructs separated routes, similar to this one in Calgary. (Bike Calgary)

With frustration over the timelines for two new high-quality bike lanes reaching a boiling point, city council unanimously approved a study to look into building temporary lanes all over downtown and Old Strathcona.

On Tuesday, Coun. Scott McKeen proposed a partnership with Stantec to study the possibility of building a "minimum bike lane grid" — essentially a network of lanes — through downtown.

Council expanded the study to cover the entire core, including Old Strathcona.

Both the city and Stantec will contribute $10,000 to the study.

Jeepers, if it takes five or six years to build one stretch, we're not going to have a good idea of how a bike grid would work for 50 years.- Coun. Scott McKeen

In 2014, council approved two new separated bike lanes, on one 83rd Avenue and another on 102nd Avenue, but construction hasn't started on either.

"It's now 2016, midway through the construction season, and what do we see? Nada," McKeen said.

"Jeepers, if it takes five or six years to build one stretch, we're not going to have a good idea of how a bike grid would work for 50 years."

Coun. Andrew Knack said the newly approved study will go beyond those two lanes, and look at potential bike corridors that go north and south as well.

"I think it's really necessary that we move on this," Knack said. "There's really positive ways to do it, inexpensively that still give us great separated infrastructure."

McKeen envisions temporary lanes around downtown that require less engineering, and could even help the city solicit public feedback.

"It's sometimes hard from looking at a schematic diagram, what the impact will be out in the real world," he said.

Mayor Don Iveson said the similar pilot carried out in Calgary has had great success.

City spending too much time in study, McKeen says

Last month, the city was quick to remove a guerrilla bike lane on Saskatchewan Drive that was installed by a member of the public overnight, citing safety concerns.

At the time, Daniel Vriend, city supervisor for urban transportation, said the city does detailed studies of the safety of potential bike lanes and does extensive consultation before installing a new lane.

The city is considering a temporary lane along the proposed 102nd Avenue route, as the project won't be finished until 2020 at the earliest.

McKeen said the city may be overdoing the safety and public input, to the detriment of projects.

"Frankly, I think that aversion to risk delays projects and drives up the price of projects unreasonably," McKeen said.

He also said the city should take into account the safety issues that come from people cycling without proper bike infrastructure.

McKeen said partnering with Stantec makes sense, as the company already did a study that simply needs to be updated.

He said installing more lanes, even if they're temporary, is in Stantec's interest because it reduces the need for parking in new downtown towers.