Edmonton drafting new bike transportation blueprint

Edmonton is looking to rewrite its bicycle transportation plan.

A first draft will be drawn up over the next 18 months

The city's bike transportation policy hasn't been updated since 2009. (David Thurton/CBC)

Edmonton is looking to rewrite its bicycle transportation plan.

The city has issued a request for proposals to hire a consultant to develop a new bike transportation blueprint.

Public consultation is expected to begin this summer, with a first draft of the plan expected within 18 months.

The current strategy was last updated with the 2009 Bicycle Transportation Plan, which recommended the creation of a city-wide bicycle network.

'Tumultuous times'

According to the request for proposals, implementing the 2009 plan "proved to be difficult and tumultuous at times, with strong pushback from the public, particularly related to the installation of bike routes on neighbourhood streets."

As a result, work on the plan was stopped before it could be "fully realized," says the document, which was posted in May.

The existing plan, which focused on painted bike lanes, proved unpopular with cyclists and drivers sharing the road. 

"It was clear that maybe we had missed the mark there," said Dallas Karhut, a senior engineer in policy development with the city, whose team is spearheading the policy update.

"But since then we heard more about what Edmontonians expected."

While Edmonton has struggled to deliver on bike infrastructure in the past, attitudes toward cycling have changed, said Karhut.

After the success of two-wheeled friendly infrastructure such as protected bike lanes, Edmontonians are more on board with bikes than they used to be, he said.

"We have the protected bike lanes out there. People can go out and experience them ... and that makes a big difference,"  Karhut said in an interview with CBC News.

"When we start to go down that route again, I think there's at least a level of knowing what these facilities are and how they might look and feel. And that helps us out a lot on going forward.

"I think Edmonton is kind of over that first hurdle and we're ready to build on the successes we've had."

The updated bike plan will evaluate the current network design for safety and accessibility, develop key design principles for the future and improve public consultation around the construction of new routes.

The new plan will include a new bike network map to replace the existing blueprint. It will also find better ways to integrate city cycling routes with other public transportation services, including the LRT. 

It will also look at ways the city can get on board with cycling trends like bike-sharing and electric bikes.

We're not seeing the spandex-clad cyclists.-Olga Messinis

The time is right for an overhaul, said Olga Messinis, project manager for the city's downtown bike network. 

The typical Edmonton cyclist is changing and demand on the network is growing.

For instance, in one day this June, more than 6,500 cyclists were making trips on city routes. 

"We are seeing a lot more people. We're not seeing the spandex-clad cyclists," Messinis said. "We are seeing a lot more families commuting into the downtown with kids in tow.

"That's exactly what we intended to achieve. We intended for the downtown bike network to be an all all ages all abilities facility for people to safely be able to cycle."