Bike lanes headed for a green light in downtown Edmonton

Cyclists in downtown Edmonton could be riding in designated bike lanes by next summer after councillors on the urban planning committee recommended the construction of a bike lane network in the city's core.

Council to deliberate $7.5 million project budget Oct. 11

Cyclists in downtown Edmonton could be riding in designated bike lanes, similar to the cycle track network in Calgary, by summer 2017. (Bike Calgary)

Cyclists in downtown Edmonton could be riding in designated bike lanes by next summer.

City councillors on the urban planning committee on Wednesday recommended the construction of a bike lane network downtown.

"I think this is long overdue," Mayor Don Iveson said after the motion passed. "This was a journey for Edmonton."

Council still needs to give the final approval for the 7.1-kilometre bike lane network when it meets on Oct. 11. 

That's when the budget and timeline could be fleshed out further.

The estimated capital cost of the project is $7.5-million, which will likely be redirected from existing transportation and traffic funds. The estimated annual operating cost is $625,000.

Staff warned a timeline to open the bike lane network in June or July of 2017 is aggressive.

'It will take how long it takes'

"It will take how long it takes," said Iveson, when asked if he was worried about the timeline.

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

Ten-year-old Lauren Ybema said she spoke to councillors about the project at that time.

"I still haven't ridden on one," she told the urban planning committee on Wednesday.

The network now being proposed is the result of a study conducted by Stantec and the city over the summer, following a proposal from Coun. Scott McKeen.

The bike lanes will be separated and marked with paint and signs. Car lanes will be re-appropriated to create them. The study from the summer found there is  'adequate capacity' on certain downtown streets to create room for bike lanes without significant disruption to traffic.

Attitudes to bikes changing

Biking and bike lanes have long been contentious in Edmonton. Iveson suggested residents are more concerned about where they're located, than whether they should exist at all.

"I think we've heard people say put it where it's needed the most," Iveson said. "Clearly, the centre of the city is where demand is highest today and where we see the potential for growth and new riders."

The longest stretches of the proposed bike lane network are on 104th, 102nd and 100th Avenues and 106th, 103rd, and 99th streets 

The proposed downtown bike lane network. (Stantec)

Chris Chan, of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, said there's been a shift in attitudes toward cycling.

"It used to be you were a cyclist and the bike was a big part of who you are. Now, it's just another way to get around," he said. "Really, the infrastructure today needs to reflect that fact."

Recreational cyclist Doug Knight wants to know what will happen next.

"How does this spread through the city and in what manner?" he asked.

Ultimately, the plan is to grow the bike lane network.

Staff said the sooner the city starts on the downtown portion of a network, the sooner expanding it across the river becomes possible.

Knight doesn't think all bike lanes need to be separated, like those downtown.

"I think that separated bike lanes are absolutely advantageous to cyclists, but they're not meant for everywhere, so I don't think the city has to adopt separated bike lanes everywhere," he said.

"There are alternative cycling paths for individuals. As a cyclist, I cycle on quite a few of them."

-With files from Laura Osman